Calling children’s books that depict families with same-sex parents “harmful” is a violation of freedom of expression. This was established by a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, the international tribunal that deals with enforcing the European Convention on Human Rights.
This is the first ruling of its kind, and it concerns a case that broke out in Lithuania ten years ago, in 2013: a children’s book, Amber heart (“Heart of Amber”) with two parents of the same sex in the plot, first withdrawn from the market and then readmitted but only for adolescents over 14 years old. The author, Neringa Macate, had appealed and the case ended up in the European Court. The book is an anthology of stories that takes fairy tale models and adapts them to current issues such as bullying and homophobic discrimination. Element, the latter, that had annoyed someone.
Shortly after its publication, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture had in fact received a complaint according to which the book “encouraged perversions” and eight parliamentarians had protested in writing against its publication: in the letter they had sent to the publishing house they wrote: “The book inculcates children the idea that same-sex marriage is a desirable option.
Criticism was particularly attracted by a passage, considered sexually explicit, in which a princess and a shoemaker’s daughter fall asleep in an embrace after getting married. From there a long legal process had started for which judges at home had found her wrong, arguing that homosexual stories went against the idea of family, until Macate decided to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Now the latter court proves her right, albeit posthumously: the author died of cancer in 2020, at the age of 45.