After months of wrangling over words and issues, the parliament of Lithuania is now prepared to pass legislation which will take a dramatic stand on prejudice and discrimination in the nation. The new law will prohibit discrimination of people over gender, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, beliefs or creed, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity or religion. The legislature did agree to exempt religious institutions which are dedicated to propogating certain values from being compelled to violate the basis of their institutional beliefs.
The legislation finally places Lithuania in accordance with the European Union Law on equal rights. The work of the Lithuania legislature is remarkable and goes a long way to protect the rights of all members of the community against hate and discrimination.
There is increasing evidence racist attacks are growing in many areas in Lithuania. The Indian singer, Bemeen, who works in the area has encountered examples of people using expressions such as “nigger” in order to describe him or his colleagues. This week, a gang assualted Bemeen, who is black, resulting in a beating that sent her to the hospital. The singer who performs in Lithuania and on local TV notes: “You cannot escape such people because they are everywhere. I worked hard in nine months and I do not plan to run from somebody calling me a ‘nigger.’ This was the first attack of such in my life. I have forgotten things like this. I kow this happens in all parts of the world, not only in Lithuania, but also London, South Africa, America. But it is totally different when it happens in a small country like this.”
Official figures indicate there has been a rise in such attacks, but they still number fewer than fifty nationwide. Obviously, one such incident is one too many, but until the numbers of black skinned people rise in the Baltic nations, these attacks will remain local in nature.
The people live in rural areas in a rather colder part of the world. Sometimes, the cold is so severe that ice forms on the inside walls. It is common for men to arise early in the mornng, reach for a bottle of liquor and use it as a way of trying to cope with the unrelenting poverty and lack of jobs in their environemnt. Although its economy has experienced a boom since joining the European Union in 2004, poverty is still an important component of rural life. The people of Lithuania have been ranked by the World Health Orlganization as number one in the world for the highest amount off recorded suicides last year at 42 for every 100,000 inhabitants.
A significant portion of those resorting to suicide comes from elderly members of society who have witnessed dramatic changes in their lives as a result of ceasing to be part of the Soviet Union and now belonging to the European Union which has sparked economic advances in urban areas. The nation most probably lacks social services and sufficient mental health personnel who have training working with suicide prevention as well as dealing with needs of the elderly.