In a recent groundbreaking judgment, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that labelling a book of fairy tales as harmful to children solely because of LGBTI content is unjustifiable and is in breach with the European Convention.
According to the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (Ilga-Europe, the book in question, ‘Gintarinė širdis’ (Amber heart), was written by the late lesbian writer Neringa Dangvyde Macate and published in 2013 by the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences.
The organisation said the book has six traditional fairy tales aimed at 9-to-10-year-olds and has characters from different ethnic groups or with intellectual disabilities.
“The book addresses issues such as stigmatisation, bullying, divorced families and emigration, and two of the six fairy tales have storylines about relationships and marriages between persons of the same sex,” said the organisation.
After the book was published, eight members of the Lithuanian Parliament sent a letter to the university, relaying to it concerns expressed by associations representing families about literature which “sought to instil in children the idea that marriage between persons of the same sex was a welcome phenomenon
The letter also mentioned two fairy tales that depicted same-s.e.x. couples, saying this did not comply with a provision in Lithuania’s minors protection act and the information expressed contempt for family values
The inspectorate recommended that the book be labelled with a warning that it might be harmful to children under 14 years of age.”
Following this, in March 2014, the university’s publishing house suspended the distribution of the book. In 2015, distribution was resumed, with the book bearing a warning label, in line with the Inspectorate’s recommendation.
The writer then lodged civil proceedings against the university, arguing that depiction of same-sex relationships could not be considered harmful for children of any age.
In 2020, Macate passed away and her mother continued proceedings on her behalf, taking the case to the European Court.
On January 23, the European Court held that measures against Macate’s book had intended to limit children’s access to information depicting same-sex relationships as essentially equivalent to different-sex relationships.
Ilga-Europe said the court held that the fairy tales advocated respect for and acceptance of all members of society in a fundamental aspect of their lives.
“As a result, it concluded that restricting children’s access to such information had not pursued any aims that it could accept as legitimate.
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