Attack on women’s and LGBTQI+ rights in Belarus: new legislative proposals

EL*C note: this is the message from our colleagues from Belarus, unedited and unmodified.

Dear colleagues,

On behalf of Belarusian LGBTQI+ communities and coalition of Belarusian LGBTQI+ activists, groups and initiatives, we are reaching out to you to inform you about recent rapid negative developments in Belarus in relation to safety of LGBTQI+ people, and state sexual and reproductive rights in the country. With this letter, we ask for your solidarity and support in raising awareness among funders, international CSOs and your respective Ministries of International Affairs in relation to the situation in Belarus.

On June 19th 2023, the General Prosecution Office of Belarus has informed about new legislative initiatives supported by the ex-president of Belarus, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, which will be developed on the following matters: increase of parental responsibilities in relation to sexual crimes committed to children; defining the administrative punishment for “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations, sex change, pedophilia, and child-free”, and integration of obligatory sex education course into the school curriculum.

Within the Belarusian LGBTQI+ movement, we share grave concern for this news. While the Belarusian pro-state political actors have been forcing adoption of the Russian law on “LGBTQ+ propaganda” many time, this is the first time when the endorsement of the law has been expressed by the ex-president and first time when the General Prosecution Office has publicly announced that they were tasked to develop the administrative punishment for “the propaganda”. Taking into account the recent deterioration of the legal and justice systems in Belarus and creation of several legal initiatives in Russia attacking of freedoms and rights of LGBTQI+ people (specifically, full-ban and increased prosecution for “LGBTQ+ propaganda” and ban of gender affirmative health care), we project that once the law is drafted, it will be quickly adopted. It will heavily affect already vulnerable LGBTQI+ people in the country and will open new ground for political persecutions of activists. We also foresee that the design and integration of the obligatory sex education course will translate into pro-life conservative actors gaining access to children and youth, promoting damaging perspectives on SHRR, and seeking for international funding to GONGOs who will maintain the facade of “progressive sex education” in school.

To prepare for the potential crisis, we ask for your solidarity and support in raising awareness about these developments and preparing for the rapid deterioration of the situation in Belarus. Specifically, we ask you:

▶ 1. Reach out to your respective Ministries of International Affairs or ally politicians and request them to ask questions on the high political level about these developments both to the pro-state authorities in Belarus and Belarusian opposition in exile, specifically Sviatlana Tsikanouskaya office, in case your country maintains diplomatic relations with Belarus.

▶ 2. Reach out to your current partners in Belarus and engage in a meaningful discussion about reallocation of resources which are needed now for advocacy efforts and community mobilization.

▶ 3. Share news about these developments with ally funders and international organizations. For the sake of security, we DO NOT ask for high publicity of this issue yet, and, thus, are not asking for support with media visibility.

▶ 4. Start allocating emergency resources for the new wave of LGBTQI+ relocation from Belarus. This could include assistance with visas and accommodation, rehabilitation and psychological support programmes, and direct evacuation.

▶ 5. Support Belarusian LGBTQI+ movements with expertise on counter-acting such legislative developments. We are actively seeking for working solutions on how to address these developments – in case you have capacity to support us with learning sessions, we would appreciate it.

We thank you in advance for your support of Belarusian LGBTQI+ communities. In case you need more information about the country’s context, you are welcome to reach out to us via