Religious Voices Against “Gender Ideology” in the Discourse on the Ratification of the Istanbul Convention in Latvian and Lithuanian Media




Religion plays a public role in gender politics in a variety of ways. In public discussions, religious actors often oppose gender as a concept based on social construction and imposed by what they call “gender ideology.” Concerns that this “ideology” could hijack the legal discourse is a common basis of their argumentation in the discussions on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. This paper presents the main results of the analysis of Lithuanian and Latvian secular and religious media coverage of the Istanbul Convention between 2011 and 2021. Both countries have signed but not ratified the Convention. The analysis shows that actors linked to religious organisations entered the mass media discourse by presenting arguments against the ratification of the Convention, which overlap with and support the opinions expressed by conservative political actors. These arguments are based on the idea that the Istanbul Convention is a threat to the future legal support of the natural rights of men and women, their natural roles and traditional and Christian values. The media discourse and the arguments used are similar in both countries, but the discursive strategies of religious and political actors differ. In Lithuania, where the Catholic Church is supported by tradition, religious actors are more often and more directly involved in the public debate than in Latvia. Nevertheless, in both countries, the religious voices analysed contributed to the rise of antigenderist discourse in the post-secular public sphere and to the politicisation of religion.