Euro MPs Get Tough Over Lack of Gay Rights in Belarus

Submitted by Svyatoslav Sementsov, TEMA,

Three MEPs from the ALDE (Liberal Democrat) group have tabled questions to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso asking about the lack of gay rights in Belarus - and they are demanding answers.

The MEPs, Sophie In ’t Veld (Netherlads), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Netherlands) and Marco Cappato (Italy), point out in the two seperate questions that there is a lack of rights in Belarus and ask what the European Commission is doing about this in their high-level talks with the two non-EU member countrie.

The question on Belarus came as a direct result of last month’s meeting in Minsk between Russian and Belarus gay activists and the decision to stage a rotating Slavic Gay Pride in the two capitals.

On Belarus, the three MEPs remind the Commission that homosexuality was decriminalised in Belarus in 1994

But, they point out, over the last 17 years the situation of sexual minorities in the country has been difficult. Freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of speech are only myths despite the end of the Soviet era.

Apart from an annual march for the remembrance of Chernobyl disaster every year in April, no public demonstrations are allowed by the authorities. For example, on May 10, a group of gay activists asked permission to hold a picket next to a monument in the centre of Minsk.

On October 27, the same group asked permission to hold a protest in support of gay rights near the Russian Embassy in Minsk. Both events were not authorised. Because the country is currently not a member of the Council of Europe, Belarusians are not protected by the European Convention for Human Rights.

Last month, the EU decided to lift the travel ban of high ranking officials of Belarus. In November, Belarusian LGBT activists decided to organise with Russian LGBT activists a Slavic Pride in support of Equality for sexual minorities in Moscow. The march is planed to alternate between Moscow and Minsk every year. The LGBT Belarus activists have written to the President of the Commission in November 2008.

They ask the Commission three questions:

1. Does the Commission plan to include specifically LGBT Rights on the agenda of its discussions with the Belarusian government?

2. Does the Commission plan to remind the Belarusian government that it cannot ban a peaceful public event?

3. Will the Commission exert pressure on the Belarus authorities to facilitate the Slavic Pride, and the participation of Belarusian and Russian gay activists in this event?

Mr. Barroso has, under European Parliamentary rules, up to three months to answer both sets of questions.

Svyatoslav Sementsov

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