Belarus gays challenge ban on demonstration against homophobia
An event designed to raise public awareness about homophobia and discrimination against LGBT people in Belarus has been banned by government officials.
The Right To Love, which organisers characterised as a peaceful gathering, was planned for February 12th.
Gomel City Administration refused permission for the event.
For the first time in Belarus LGBT rights activists have appealed to the courts to defend their constitutional right to freedom of assembly.
On February, 17th Belarusian activist Roman Mandrykin filed a complaint in the Court of the Central Borough of Gomel.
The event was to take place in the city’s Central Square and was to include the distribution of educational materials on the subjects of homophobia and discrimination.
As part of the application, the organisers agreed to be responsible for public order and safety, to ensure onsite access to medical services and to clean the area after the event.
After the submission of this request Mr Mandrykin was pressured to remove his name from the application by the administration of his school, Gomel State University, but he refused.
The organisers said denial of permission is part of a pattern of infringement on the rights to assembly and they are concerned that homophobia may be a significant factor in the refusals.
A similar application was submitted to the authorities in Minsk was also denied.
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“It was important for us to get an official decision of the authorities to understand the current attitude towards LGBT rights,” said activist said Viachaslau Bortnik.
“Some are calling this time period “Belarusian Warming” under the belief that the government is becoming more open to individual rights but these decisions don’t support that belief.
“From the very beginning we did not have much hope to receive a positive answer but the decisions of the Gomel and Minsk City Administrations proved that it is too early to talk about any kind of democratisation in the country.”
Although homosexuality is not a criminal offence in Belarus, homophobia is widespread and instances of harassment occur in all spheres of society.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Belarus in 1994. In December several MEPs asked questions about the situation for LGBT people in the country, often desrcibed as Europe’s last dictatorship.