from New Generation of Women’s Initiatives, Lithuania
Families are under attack in Lithuania, and we need your help!
May 20, 2008, Vilnius
The Lithuanian Parliament is currently weighing an unprecedented bill that would legally redefine the concept of family and that would establish a government-sanctioned concept of family limited exclusively to the traditional notion of a married man and woman and their children. With the stroke of a pen, this new concept of the Lithuanian family would relegate other family forms-single mothers and fathers raising children, unmarried partners raising children, and grandparents caring for their
grandchildren- to second-class status.
Demographic analysis demonstrates that the structure of the Lithuanian family is changing. In 2005, almost a third of all children were born to unmarried parents living as partners. The same year, the number of divorces per 100 marriages hit 56. This is evidence of the growing number of single parents, who in 98 percent of cases are women. Until recently, high unemployment in Lithuania also encouraged migration, and half of all workers who emigrated in 2005 were married men or women. As a result a new family structure-the long-distance family-emerged. A poll conducted in 2006 showed that all these different family forms are considered as families by a majority of Lithuanians. However, the new concept of family would have practical implications, as it could ostensibly be used to prevent nontraditional families from receiving the same level of government assistance and from benefiting from government programs meant to support and strengthen the family.
This bill, the first of its kind in Europe, has been applauded as a breakthrough by the Catholic Church and conservative politicians. While today this situation is confined to Lithuania, it could only be a matter of time before other European countries become receptive to such simple-minded and seemingly harmless, yet erroneous and discriminatory, attempts to destroy families under the guise of strengthening them.
The situation is critical, and domestic groups are increasingly being sidelined from the discussion. Therefore, we ask you today to urgently communicate with Lithuanian government and Parliament officials to express your concern about the State Family Political Concept bill currently under debate in the Parliament and to remind the government of its commitment-made domestically and internationally- to protect women, children and families in all forms.
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