Major LGBT Conference Held In Belarus While Authorities Looked The Other Way

Jim Burroway

October 5th, 2009

The situation for LGBT people in Belarus has always been difficult. While the legal ban on homosexual behavior was lifted in 1994, Belarus law offers no protections for its LGBT citizens and officially-sanction harassment remains rampant in the former Soviet republic. Every attempt to hold Gay Pride marches since 1999 has failed due to official bans. In 2004, a conference by the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network was canceled after authorities threatened the host organizers and threatened to expel participating foreigners. Belarus routinely blocks access to LGBT websites.

Minsk ConferenceAnd so it was quite a surprise to learn that Belarus authorities allowed a large (by Eastern European standards) international LGBT conference to proceed this year undisturbed. (That lack of interference may explain why the conference went largely unnoticed in the West.) On Saturday, September 26, more than 100 participants from ten countries gathered for “Movement and NGOs: Prospects for Cooperation with active civil society to overcome homophobia in Belarus” at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Minsk.

The conference, billed as the largest ever Belarusian LGBT conference, closed with a resolution calling on President Alexander Lukashenko and the government of Belarus to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, provide protections against hate crimes, grant equal rights to same-sex couples, to end the practice of blocking internet access to LGBT web sites, and to support Slavic Pride slated for May 15, 2010.

Russian and Belarusian LGBT activists have been working together for nearly a year on several joint projects, including last May’s Slavic Pride in Moscow. When Moscow riot police broke up the march and arrested most of the participants, the Belarusian Embassy in Moscow refused to provide assistance for their own detainees. Next year’s Slavic Pride will be held in Minsk.

Conference participants came from across Belarus, as well as Poland, Ukraine, France, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, United Kingdom and Russia. Some of the organizations represented include the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Belarusian Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Association of Belarusian Journalists, and activists from the LGBT portal. Observers from the Swedish, French and Hungarian embassies were also in attendance. The Swedish Embassy hosted a reception for conference participants at a Minsk restaurant.


October 6th, 2009

But I thought gay rights were communist/socialist!

You mean to tell me that decades of socialist brainwashing in Eastern Europe didn’t force gay rights down everyone’s throats? [/snark]

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