Minsk Authorities Sanctioned Rally of Sexual Minorities on Valentine's Day

Submitted by Volunteers without Borders, Belarus

There were no reported incidents at the officially-approved rally against homophobia in the Belarus capital on 4 February.

A dozen LGBT activists took part in the rally in a park close to the Ministry of Justice, one of the locations that were approved last Friday by both the Minsk City Executive Committee and the police.

It was the first legally permited public action of Belarusian LGBT activists in the last 12 years.

“Earlier, the only officially-approved gay rights rally took place in Minsk in April 1999 and was organized by Lambda Belarus with support from Amnesty International's LGBT Network-Belarus,” said Viachaslau Bortniik, Belarusian human rights defender and pioneering LGBT activist.

There were twice as many journalists on hand to cover the event than those taking part.

“For the first time the only thing that we feared was neither the police nor the homophobe hooligans but the cold,” said Sergey Praded, organiser of the event and co-chair of IDAHO Belarus.

“In the last six months, we have submitted dozens of applications to hold a rally. We appealed to the court. But it seems that the dialogue that we also started to initiate with the authorities paid off.”

Activists held banners reading: “Love who you want”, “Rights for gays and lesbians”, and “Homophobia = fascism”. Participants were shouting “Equal rights without compromise”, and “Belarus without homophobes”.

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