Fact finding mission to Belarus
In mid-October a Fact Finding Mission to Belarus has been undertaken by ILGA-Europe. LGBTI movement in a this country remains rather invisible, resulting in poor reporting to international organisations and thus limited pressure brought to national governments to improve the human rights situation. The main goals of the mission were to strengthen the links with the local human rights organisations, to identify opportunities to strengthen national LGBTI movement, and to gather information that can provide a way for advocacy work at the international level.
The visit lasted 3 days, during which the meetings with 7 different organisations took place. Among them are the LGBTI NGOs with a long history of activism as well as recently created initiative groups. Besides, meetings with the mainstream organizations were held, too. Most of the LGBTI organizations do not have their own premises due to various reasons and the meetings were held in public places.
The mission allowed identifying the main existing trends in the LGBTI movement:
- There are no officially registered LGBT NGOs in Belarus despite big number of active initiative groups and organisations. State authorities refuse to register not only LGBT organisations but any human rights organisations. Moreover, state authorities work intensively to prevent and interrupt activities of the LGBTI initiatives. Beginning with 2013 this work of state authorities resulted into the situation when LGBT activities had to be cancelled, suspended, and postponed.
- The very high level of homophobia and intolerance towards LGBT community among general population, among different groups of professionals and even among human rights defenders (some of the mainstream NGOs exclude LGBT rights from their agenda). In these circumstances, in opinion of the human rights activists, educational and informational activities for professionals are a crucial element to change public opinion and to eliminate existing stereotypes.
- Fast deterioration of the situation with different freedoms: strong limitation of freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. At present it is not possible to register any new NGO. Though, this constantly worsening of human rights situation in Belarus, particularly situation with the LGBT rights is not covered by the international organizations (if compare it to Russia).
- Currently there is a joint NGOs’ initiative to develop the draft of the anti-discrimination law in Belarus that would help to deal with inequality in the society. This initiative is supported by different mainstream and LGBT organisations, though some of them are sceptical about the chance for such law to be adopted in Belarus.
The visit help us to identify the priority areas for the work with the local organisations in different directions and to better understand the circumstances in which local LGBTI activists work. One of the priority directions is to elaborate a strategy on coordination of work between local LGBTI organisations that would give more power to the movement and invest in the capacity building of the existing organisations. This will contribute to the strengthening and improving our advocacy work and will help to raise human rights violations in Belarus on the international level.