Is it possible that politicians, who publicly and loudly defend human rights, apply democracy only to a narrow group of like-minded people, and discriminate against people and organizations whose values or worldview differ from theirs and do not provide equal opportunities to participate in tenders for projects financed from the budget?
This is exactly the situation that the Free Society Institute (hereinafter LVI) faced in order to obtain funding for its activities.
The Free Society Institute participated in the Non-Governmental Organizations Fund 2023 organized by the Ministry of Social Security and Labor of the Republic of Lithuania (SADM) led by Minister Monika Navickienė. in the competition for the selection of non-governmental organizations’ institutional strengthening projects, but the experts did not even evaluate the applications, because they claim that LVI’s activities “unreasonably restrict other people’s rights and freedoms related to persons of a different sexual orientation”, “consistently and tendentially discriminate against persons living in Lithuania due to their sexual orientation” , “does not encourage democratic dialogue and discussion on issues of sexual orientation rights”, therefore the project presented by LVI, which scored 0 points, is said to be unvaluable and unfinanceable. The Council of the Foundation of Non-Governmental Organizations under the supervision of the Ministry, which performs the functions of the commission for this tender, approved such an evaluation by the experts, the chancellor of SADM in 2023. June 22 by decree no. A3-92 1.3, also supported such a decision.
Such “discriminatory” activities of the LVI are allegedly reflected in the statements regarding the so-called Istanbul Convention, Civil Union or Partnership Law drafts. LVI has been regularly participating in competitions organized by state institutions for many years, but until now it has not received any accusations of “discrimination” and has successfully received funding for its activities. The situation has fundamentally changed in 2022.
SADM finances only organizations that support the views of Minister M. Navickienė?
When LVI was asked to provide detailed evaluations by SADM experts, their conclusions showed even more – SADM possibly does not support and would not support not only LVI, but also other organizations representing the approach to the family enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania. “Issues of gender identity and sexual orientation can and/or must have different dimensions of attitude, and the position expressed by the institution’s activities is not condemned, but the institution must look for alternative funding funds that operate in the dimension of the institution’s approach. The “Regulations for the organization of the 2023 non-governmental organization institutional strengthening project selection contest of the Non-Governmental Organizations Fund” approved by the Ministry of Social Security and Labor of the Republic of Lithuania contains the position that no activity of institutions and projects can incite discrimination, restrict the rights and freedoms of other people”, the experts’ assessment reads. Therefore, conservative organizations that are guided by the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Lithuania must look for funds that “operate in the dimension of the institution’s approach”, while the ministry actively finances organizations that advocate for family forms and social gender that are not provided for in the laws of the Republic of Lithuania from the budget made up of the taxes of all Lithuanian residents?
When reading the comments of the experts, it can be seen that the ideology of the organization requesting support is looked at first, and not the criteria described in the regulations. The project regulations state: “The purpose of the competition is to strengthen the NGO sector through financing […] projects aimed at: […] to create favorable conditions for NGOs to carry out effective and high-quality advocacy activities and to engage in public policy processes.” This is exactly what LVI has been doing consistently for 10 years, whose activities include monitoring the current affairs and legislative processes of Lithuania and foreign countries, analyzing scientific data, the international environment and the situation of various countries , initiation of civil, legal and political initiatives, submission of proposals for improvement of legal acts, etc. Numerous scientists, publicists, and practitioners from different fields actively participate in these activities directly and indirectly. LVI conferences, seminars and events attract a lot of attention not only from various groups of society, but also from Lithuanian politicians.
However, the conclusion of SADM experts regarding LVI’s activities states: “The current activities of the applicant, which he publicly presents on his website, can be seen as corresponding to the activities identified in Clause 19.3 of the Tender Regulations, which cannot be financed with the funds of this tender: “in any form, methods and ways discriminates or incites direct and indirect discrimination…”. Consistent, continuous, direct and indirect manifestations of discrimination against various groups of people can be found in the applicant’s publicly announced positions on various issues, from pre-school education to the ratification of the Istanbul Convention or the legal regulation of civil partnerships.” NGOs to carry out effective and high-quality advocacy activities and to engage in public policy processes” only for those organizations that advocate for the non-ratified Istanbul Convention of Lithuania and the controversial draft law on Civil Union.
LVI complies with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and currently valid legal acts
Yes, LVI does not support the Law on Civil Union, because it believes that the legal regulation proposed by the CSĮ project does not meet the goals declared to the Seimas and the public by the drafters. Presenting the project, Seimas member Jurgita Sejonienė asserted that “the draft law, I want to emphasize, is without any allusion to the juxtaposition of civil union with marriage”. However, the content of the CSĮ draft clearly shows that the content of the relationship between persons who have entered into a civil union would essentially correspond to the relationship typical of family relationships. The latter fact is also confirmed by CSĮ expert Prof. D. Žalim’s evaluation, which clearly states that the civil union law in Lithuania would legalize homosexual families as well. Therefore, the drafters of the law misled the members of the Seimas and the public about the real goals of this project when presenting the project and later conducting an active advertising campaign for the CSĮ.
LVI also does not support the “Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence” (hereinafter referred to as the Istanbul Convention), which would require the establishment of the concept of “social gender” in Lithuanian law, non-discrimination based on “gender identity”, mandatory teaching of children about “non-stereotypical gender roles” and others. In LVI’s opinion, “The Istanbul Convention is based on Marxist ideology, which is easily recognizable in Lithuania that experienced Soviet occupation, and the problem of violence is assessed through the expression of power relations between exploiters (men) and oppressed (women). The Istanbul Convention states that a man commits violence against a woman because of her sex, that is, because she is a woman. Such an assumption is not based on any scientific research. Meanwhile, systemic violence-promoting phenomena (alcoholism, unemployment, poverty, etc.) remain in the background. This leads to the fact that the Istanbul Convention offers flawed measures to prevent and combat violence. We do not agree with the ideology of the Istanbul Convention, which pits men and women against each other. Effective prevention of violence should lead in the opposite direction – to mutual respect between men and women, reconciliation, restoration of harmony in family relations. To that end, legal acts must treat all people equally, protect everyone’s inherent dignity and equal rights. The Lithuanian legal system is based on the principle of equality of all persons. The laws of our country establish the same rights for women as men, prohibit discrimination and provide provisions necessary to combat violence against persons of both sexes.”
The experts’ conclusion also states that in the activities of the Free Society Institute, “there is a trend towards discrimination in relation to sexual orientation, when a unidirectional position regarding the rights of homosexuals in society is expressed in the public space. The activity of the institution is one-sided, does not encourage democratic dialogue and discussion on the rights of sexual orientation”. Such a manipulative assertion is in no way compatible with reality and facts, because the Institute has never denied the need to regulate the cohabitation of same-sex persons and has itself made proposals that can help in the legal regulation of their relationships, for example, it has supported and made proposals for Close Relationships, Cohabitation Agreements projects, analyzed and evaluated the projects submitted by the other side, such as the draft Law on Partnership, later the draft Law on Civil Union. LVI never avoided the discussion – on the contrary, it always supported, participated and encouraged it, because in a democratic country there must be more than one opinion.
Budget funds for the support of one interest group?
Seeing the practices created by SADM, the question arises, will you not be excluded a priori from the competitions organized by SADM under the supervision of M. Navickienė, if you have a different opinion than that promoted by the representatives of LGBT organizations? Does the NGO fund established by the Ministry of Social Security and Labor of the Republic of Lithuania support and promote only the activities of organizations with progressive and neutral views, while conservative organizations based on a Christian worldview and expressing the views of the absolute majority of the Lithuanian population will be immediately eliminated from the tenders prepared by the ministry? What then about the democratic discussion, which LVI is accused of not promoting? How can such a democratic discussion survive when the ministry’s NGO foundation intentionally creates discriminatory conditions?
At the same time, the NGO Foundation and SADM generously allocated large amounts of funds to the Lithuanian Human Rights Center, which speaks exclusively on topics that meet the interests of LGBT organizations, and to the Charity and Support Fund “Frida”, which maintains close ties with the “Tolerant Youth Association” or “Vilnius Women’s House” and announces the campaign “Let’s stop violence against women!” Let’s ratify the Istanbul Convention!”. However, funding is not allocated to dissenters. LVI is accused of representing only one position, but the Ministry is happy to finance organizations with progressive views, whose activities are more focused on demanding than promoting democratic debate.
The Free Society Institute is convinced that such discriminatory practices created by the Ministry of Social Security and Labor headed by Ms. Navickienė contradict the principles of a free society and do not promote democracy. Therefore, LVI appealed to the Vilnius District Administrative Court with a corresponding complaint, in order to defend their rights, prevent discrimination, and defend a free society in Lithuania.
Audrius Globys, Chairman of the Board of the Free Society Institute