LGBT Activists to present at the 2nd International Congress of Belarusian Studies
Belarusian LGBT activists Viachaslau Bortnik and Natallia Mankouskaya will speak at the 2nd International Congress of Belarusian Studies, held on September 28-30, 2012 in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Around 200 scholars from around the world, engaged in studying Belarus and East-Central Europe region, are expected to participate. The Congress will bring together researches of social sciences and humanities, and offer the discussion of regional development issues, Belarus relations with other countries, and other topical problems.
The topic of Bortnik's presentation is "State Sponsored Homophobia in Belarus".
Although homosexuality has not been a criminal offense in Belarus since 1994, homophobia is widespread and instances of harassment occur in all spheres of society. According to Lambda Belarus, in 2002, 47% of respondents thought that gays should be imprisoned. Homophobic attitudes have not changed significantly since then. The results of the poll conducted by the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) and NOVAK in 2010 showed that 62% of Belarusians believed that homosexuals should be criminally persecuted.
Negative statements about homosexuals by President Lukashenka demonstrate that homophobic attitudes exist at the highest levels of government. In October 2011, Lukashenka apologized for having told German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is gay, “that he had to lead a normal life,” presumably at a closed meeting in November 2010. Lukashenka noted that he regretted his statement but condemned homosexual relations. Earlier, he stated that he did not understand how two men could live together and would exile gay men to collective farms “with great pleasure.”
The direct consequences of the state sponsored homophobia can be seen in the latest developments of the situation of the Belarusian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. In July 2011, an LGBT activist held a picket in Minsk to protest violations of human rights and arbitrary government policies. She was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in jail. In early May 2011, authorities denied the LGBT community 100 applications to hold scores of events to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. In spite of the denial, members of GayBelarus planned to pass out leaflets in downtown Minsk. However, authorities preemptively detained approximately 15 group members, held them for three hours, and subsequently released them without charge. One man was reportedly severely beaten by the police whilst in custody. In December 2011, authorities denied a registration application to a gay rights group, citing minor errors in information on its founders, such as a misspelled name and a wrong birth date. The gay pride parade in October 2011 was marred by homophobic attacks, including painting homophobic graffiti and throwing eggs on walls of an openly gay bar in Minsk.
"It is clear that recent LGBT human rights violations correlate with homophobic statements by the high level government officials. Homophobic attitudes and practices cannot be changed without realization that such kind of statements is not acceptable in democratic society," said Bortnik.
Mankouskaya will speak about discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Belarus.