Sunday, May 27, 2007

Equal rights?

According to European legislation, all people have equal rights before the law, and are entitled to respect and all that. And the EU does its best to ensure that people enjoy equal rights; nowadays with the right of freedom of movement European Union citizens can freely move around most of Europe (not everywhere, so here we have another set of exceptions).

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me talk about the rights of gays. Of course, legally, they have the same right as everyone else, including the right to marriage in most EU member states. In other countries, however, particularly out East (Poland) their rights might be observed in the violation. But that's nothing to the stroke pulled by Lithuania in the last few weeks.

The EU has sponsored a campaign on tolerance (only 'tolerance', not necessarily 'acceptance' or 'respect', as Daniel Barenboim once discussed with the members of the East West Divan Orchestra). In Lithuania the aim was to place advertisements on two buses, and there is a huge EU truck, with built-in stage and everything, which is currently touring 19 EU member states (out of 27). The bus drivers refused to drive buses with this advertisement, so of course the bus company decided not to have the adverts placed. Then the new mayor of Vilnius, Juozas Imbrazas aged 72, who I am told had been a nobody until he became Mayor this year (rumoured to be Paksas', the disgraced ex-president's, front man - Paksas is now in the city parliament), decided in his wisdom not to allow the truck into Vilnius. I suppose they could have gone to Kaunas instead, but that city is even less known for tolerance.

The ensuing correspondence on website has shown a horrifying degree of ignorance about the whole topic, but even educated people talk about 'people deciding to be gay'; others talk about it as an illness. We sure have a long way to go. Of course Poland is another country where the truck won't be visiting, as is Romania. It just shows the huge cultural gap that exists between the old and new member states. Or are the Lithuanians just more honest about their prejudices?

In passing I notice that the municipality website is really bad these days, with no sign of the webcam from the mayor's meeting room that his inspired and visionary, but alas also mildly dodgy predecessor had installed.


varske said...

Good Lord. What could a 72 year old do as mayor (apart from a lot of harm? What happened to Zuokas? I suppose the President is pretty ancient by now, but at least he spent most of his life in America.

I don't suppose there is an anti-ageist campaign either (tongue in cheek!)