Civil Society Stakeholders Agree Concept for New Comprehensive Equality Law

London, 28 July 2014
Last week, the Equal Rights Trust (ERT) and its partner, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC), convened a roundtable meeting on equality law reform in Minsk, Belarus. Leading civil society representatives discussed and agreed the recommendations made in a concept paper setting out the key substantive and procedural elements of a future national equality law, in line with established international law and best practice.

ERT has been supporting civil society in Belarus to promote equality law reform since 2011. In November 2013, ERT published Half an Hour to Spring: Addressing Discrimination and Inequality in Belarus, the first comprehensive report on the enjoyment of the rights to equality and non-discrimination in the country, which recommended, among other things, the adoption of a comprehensive equality law. A working group of experts has produced and presented their suggested Concept for a law of the basis of the report’s recommendations. The Concept will be finalised over the next months, incorporating the feedback provided by roundtable participants, and will then be advocated to government stakeholders.

Of particular concern to participants of the meeting was an alarming rise in homophobic hate speech in Belarus in the last 12 months. BHC reported that more than 200 publications had made homophobic statements, ranging from incitement to violence and discrimination to persistent attempts to equate homosexuality with paedophilia, zoophilia and crime. At present, the legal framework of Belarus does not contain effective protection to address this form of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. ERT has also learned that there are currently plans for Belarus to introduce an “anti-homosexual propaganda” law, of the type enacted in Russia in 2013.

Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Trust, said: “While in Minsk, I saw some signs that Belarus may be starting to distance itself from Moscow in the wake of the annexation of Crimea. Yet at the same time, LGBTI activists have learned that the country plans to replicate Russia’s homophobic law, based on the populist call to protect children from “propaganda of homosexuality”. Belarus, despite its pariah status, has a good record on promoting equality for women, disabled persons and others. We urge the government to resist the wave of homophobia issuing from Russia and uphold and strengthen its legal framework related to equality, in which discrimination based on sexual orientation is currently not addressed at all.”

To read the report (in Russian), click here.

To read the Executive Summary (in English), click here.