Europe’s last dictatorship to replicate Russia’s “anti-homosexual propaganda” law, claim anti-discrimination activists in Belarus.

Concerns that Belarus plans to enact an “anti-homosexual propaganda” law, of the type enacted in Russia in 2013, were raised at a meeting convened by the London-based Equal Rights Trust (ERT) in collaboration with the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) last week. A draft of the law has not been released, but work on a bill on protecting children from propaganda of homosexuality has been included in a presidential decree concerning the legislative agenda of parliament.

The meeting, held in Minsk on 22 July brought together leading civil society groups from around the country to discuss equality law reform and agree on guiding principles for a model equality law that would bring Belarus in line with international standards.

Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of Equal Rights Trust, said: ‘While in Minsk I saw signs that Belarus may be starting to distance itself from Moscow in the wake of the annexation of Crimea. Yet, at the same time, we learn that the country plans to replicate Russia’s homophobic law, relying on populist calls to defend children from “propaganda of homosexuality”.

‘Belarus, despite its pariah status, has a good record on promoting equality for women, disabled persons and others. We urge the government to resist the wave of homophobia issuing from Russia and uphold its track record on issues of equality.’

Of particular concern to participants was an alarming rise in homophobic hate speech in Belarusian media. In the past 12 months alone, more than 200 publications have used homophobic language or terminology, inciting violence and discrimination and even equating homosexuality with paedophilia, zoophilia and crime. Some media reports went so far as to call for the LGBT community to be quarantined, while others said that it threatened the territorial integrity of Belarus.

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The Equal Rights Trust has been supporting civil society in Belarus to promote equality law reform since 2011. In November 2013, ERT published “Half an Hour to Spring: Addressing Discrimination and Inequality in Belarus”, the first comprehensive report on the enjoyment of the rights to equality and non-discrimination in the country, which recommended, among other things, the adoption of a comprehensive equality law.

To read a summary of ERT’s report in English click here
To support Equal Rights Trust and its work in Belarus visit www.equalrightstrust.org