Annual Review 2011
In May, leaders of Christian denominations, politicians and some NGOs representatives, asked the Latvian Prime Minister and the Minister for Education and Science “to immediately ban” a school textbook on social sciences for 9th Form students which had been previously approved by the Ministry. The school textbook contained an interview with a psychologist who says that nowadays homosexuality is not a disease and is instead regarded as a fully acceptable sexual orientation by the medical profession. She also said that 8-10% of society is homosexual. Those calling for a ban claimed that such a portrayal of homosexuality is contradictory to the Constitution (which defines marriage as a union of a woman and a man). They also claimed that such a portrayal of homosexuality is detrimental to the development of physical and moral potential of young people. They additionally asked that if the book remained unchanged, their alternative view on homosexuality should also be included as well. In spite of the call, the Ministry of Education and Science decided not to amend the textbook as its content corresponded with the UN and UNESCO recommendations on sexual education for young people.
Equality and non-discrimination
In 2011, Latvia was reviewed during the UN Universal Periodic Review process. It accepted recommendations to increase eff orts to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and to provide general information about anti-discrimination and reform the curriculum in schools to put regularly emphasis on information about gender equality, LGBT and ethnic minorities. At the same time, Latvia rejected recommendations to adopt legislation that recognises homophobic and transphobic motivation as an aggravating circumstance in criminal law. Latvia argued in the Human Rights Council that no cases of violence have actually been reported. It also rejected a recommendation to recognise the diversity of family forms.
- Mozaīka, drafted a proposal for a same-sex registered partnership law and submitted it to the Parliament in May. They met with politicians and other stakeholders, including the Ombudsman, exchanged views and arguments with the President of Latvia, published articles in the media, and letters were sent to the Parliament, President and Ombudsman by a variety of organisations to encourage them to support the proposal in line with European legal standards. A number of statements were made by party leaders, none of them declaring support for the bill (although several politicians did support it), but only a few rejecting the concept outright.
- In July, a referendum forced extraordinary Parliamentary elections. However, shortly before the referendum, the Committee on Human Rights and Social Affairs of the Parliament referred the proposed bill to the Ombudsman’s Offi ce for review. The Ombudsman formed a working group consisting of several NGOs, individuals and the Head of the State Police. The NGOs represented included those which actively oppose rights of LGBT people (including a demand for the disbanding of Mozaīka, the prohibition of freedom of assembly and association and any appearance of LGBT people in public, as well as any legal protection of LGBT people in any other sphere of life, including family law). The fi rst meeting of the working group was held in public and was attended by a variety of opponents of LGBT people including the person who was convicted for throwing explosives at participants of Friendship Days (Rīga Pride) 2007, a former Head of the Committee on Human Rights and Social Aff airs of the Parliament Jānis Šmits (currently Chairman of No Pride) and Cardinal Jānis Pujāts. Booklets were distributed at the meeting containing ungrounded, stereotypical information about gay men, and representatives of Mozaīka were personally insulted without intervention by the representatives of the Ombudsman’s Offi ce and/or the Head of the State Police. The second and final meeting was closed to the public. However, that did not change the homophobic rhetoric of some of the members of the working group. At the end of November, the Ombudsman organised a public discussion regarding the necessity of introducing any kind of partnership or cohabitation regulation (both for different-sex and same-sex couples). At the end of 2011, the Ombudsman had not come up with any conclusions on the issue.
Freedom of assembly
In May, Mozaīka organised an IDAHO flashmob at the Monument of Freedom in the centre of Rīga. It took place peacefully and was widely covered in the media.
Participation in public/political life
During the campaigning period before the extraordinary Parliamentary elections, some parties referred to same-sex partnership rights in their electoral manifesto. For the fi rst time in Latvia, two openly gay and lesbian politicians ran for election. Although they were not elected, their standing for elections meant that there was coverage of LGBT issues in the pre-election debates in the media and on Internet.
Police and law enforcement
In May, a young man was returning home from a night out when he was stopped by police offi cers passing in a car. They asked him to get in the car; when he asked why, the police told him they suspected he had been using illegal drugs. He stated that he had not been taking drugs and was happy to submit to expert examination to prove it. One of the officers then took his phone and started reading his messages which included a number of personal ones from his partner. The officer then started to make homophobic comments to the young man, called him a “faggot,” laughed at him, threatened him and expressed the desire to punch him in the face. After this humiliating treatment he was allowed to leave. Following a complaint by the young man, the State Police Internal Investigation Department opened an investigation, but subsequently closed it without further action claiming the officers said the young man was drunk and they wanted to make sure he knew how to get home. The victim did not appeal, despite support from Mozaīka, but left the country two months later citing the incident as one the main reasons for his decision.
According to figures from a poll conducted by marketing and public opinion research centre SKDS, Latvian society remains largely hostile towards LGBT people and legal recognition of partnerships for same-sex couples. Over half of those surveyed condemned “homosexual relations,” 28% also condemned “homosexual individuals.”