International LGBT conference is to take place in Minsk

Submitted by Svyatoslav Sementsov, TEMA

International Conference “PERSPECTIVES FOR LGBT MOVEMENTS IN REPRESSIVE POLITICAL REGIMES” is to take place in Minsk on 11 November 2006. It is jointly organized by Amnesty International Belarus, TEMA - information center and International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network.

"Although homosexuality is not a criminal offense in Belarus since 1994, homophobia is widespread and instances of harassment occur in all spheres of society. There is still no public debate on LGBT issues in Belarusian society. Since 1999, all international LGBT events have been banned by the Belarusian government and attacked by police. And, nevertheless, we are not going to continue to remain in the closet," Viachaslau Bortnik, Chair of Amnesty International Belarus declared.

The conference is addressed to the experts in the field, local and international LGBT activists, representatives of the political parties and civil society organizations, media, the world of culture, and to those interested in LGBT problems. We have invited leaders of Belarusian LGBT organizations, known experts and LGBT activists from abroad to take part in discussion panels and workshops.
"I remember how the militia switched off the light and then threw out us on the street together with other participants of the opening ceremony of Minsk Pride in 2000. Then the authorities did not allow us to enter the building and use the venue where the conference was supposed to take place in. We have been forced to run workshops on the benches in the park", - Bill Schiller, international coordinator for International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network said.

Last attempt to hold international LGBT conference in Belarus has been undertaken in August 2004. It was cancelled after the dictatorial regime threatened to expel any visiting queer foreigners and Belarusian neo-Nazis promised to wipe out homosexuality itself from the country.

"I have no empty hope that this time everything will pass smoothly. As far as it is possible, we shall try to prevent undesirable collisions with authorities and to provide safety to our participants", - one of organizers of conference Svyatoslav Sementsov has declared.

The following discussion panels will be conducted within the conference program: "Advocating LGBT rights in repressive political regimes", "Using culture as a powerful weapon against homophobia and discrimination", "International cooperation and solidarity actions".

Because of safety reasons organizers keep venue of the conference in a secret.

The conference is organized in cooperation with Belarusian LGBT Group VOLUNTEERS WITHOUT BORDERS and Young Belarusian Social Democrats. Patrons of the conference: Volker Beck, Member of the Bundestag (Germany), Tomasz Bączkowski, Equality Foundation (Poland), Peter Tatchell, Outrage! (UK), Maris Sants, Open Evangelical Congregation (Latvia).

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