Youth organizations concerned by rise in hostility against minorities

Reflection of a pride flag. Photo is illustrative.
Reflection of a pride flag. Photo is illustrative. Source: AFP/Scanpix

In a public statement, youth organizations in Estonia have expressed concern over the disappearance of human and caring values disappearing from society and said that threats being made against the Estonian LGBT Association have crossed the line.

A discussion event on diversity aimed at LGBT+ youth and other interested people was scheduled to take place at Lille Maja, a youth center in Tartu, on Friday. The event sparked a reaction on social media as a result of which a demonstration has been organized to take place in front of the center that same evening.

"The aversion and threats have really crossed the line by now," the statement read. "According to media reports, one participant in the demonstration has even promised to set the youth center on fire. Is this youth center, which should be a safe environment for all young people, going to be come a feared place due to some adults' bullying — a place where children and their parents alike must now be concerned for their lives and safety?"

A similar incident occurred in Pärnu recently, where adults showed up at an LGBT+ event to corner and verbally assault young people, the statement noted. In addition to other hostile actions, local youth workers have been threatened since the youth event in Tartu was announced, and negative articles have been published online accompanied by photos of said youth workers.

Youth workers are guided in their profession by the ethics of youth work, which promotes tolerance and respect toward diversity and seeks to encourage young people to be mutually respectful, understanding, and empathetic, the statement described. Youth workers do not act in a demeaning way toward any young person due to their age, gender, nationality, religion, capability, personal qualities or any other characteristics. These values are also part of Estonia's legal environment and social agreement.

A survey conducted in 2018 by the Estonian LGBT Association andGLSEN, a U.S.-based education organization, indicated that of the 561 young LGBT+ people in Estonia who participated in the poll, 68 percent had fallen victim to psychological harassment due to their sexual or gender identity in school as well. It is for that reason that it is important that youth workers address this topic, the statement reads.

Politicians, education officials passively complicit

"We have regretfully observed that at the initiative of adults and the silent, passive complicity of politicians and education officials, events are being organized, statements published and threats made against young people based on the color of their skin, their sexual orientation or their worldview," the youth organizations said. "The bullying has also reached the professionals working with young people — youth workers, psychologists, and teachers."

They acknowledged that these negative reactions may be rooted in the fact that it is frightening for some that young people want to discuss processes in society in a safe environment with neutral adults who treat them with respect.

"Perhaps it would be easier if young people were simply told what to think and how to feel about the world," the statement reads. "That is indeed the society from which we came, bu why would we want to return there?"

Among organizations to sign the statement are the Estonian Association of Youth Workers, the Association of Estonian Open Youth Centres, the Estonian Association of Youth Organizations, the Federation of Estonian Student Unions, the Estonian Association of Student Representative Boards, and the Archimedes Youth Agency.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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