European Push to Help Belarus Gays

STOCKHOLM, September 28 - Concerns are growing over human rights of gays in Belarus, dubbed by activists as "Europe's last dictatorship".

There are reports of armed militia storming meetings of LGBT groups, threats or arrests of organisers and even borders being closed to homosexuals.

Last weekend a "solidarity" event was held in the Swedish capital and next month a similar event is being mounted in London.

"Our Nordic-supported events in Minsk have earlier been attacked and harassed by police and threatened by both the regime and neo Nazis - so a 'happening in exile' seemed to be the only possibility," said Bill Schiller, secretary general of the ILGCN (International Lesbian & Gay Cultural Network) Information Secretariat in Stockholm.

Relatively little has emerged from the former Soviet republic of Belarus, though the problems in neighbouring Estonia and Latvia are well known.

While homosexuality between consenting adults is legal in Belarus, the state refuses to officially recognise LGBT organisations and there is no provision for combating discrimination on sexual orientation grounds in law.

"The difficult situation for all NGO human rights groups in Belarus is getting worse," Slava Bortnik, the head of Amnesty International's Belarus LGBT group, maintains.

Last weekend's Stockholm event - 'Moonbow in Exile' - included discussions and arts events. And this will be repeated in London on the weekend of October 7-9.

"Hard-pressed lesbians and gay men in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus have asked us to hold a 'Cultural Festival in Exile' for them," explained organiser Ian Stewart.

"[They] dream of the day when they'll be able to hold their own public celebrations of lesbian and gay culture without armed militia storming their meetings, participants from abroad being turned back at the border, and death threats to organisers.

The London 'Moonbow in Exile' weekend will be held in the Soho Community Safety Office, 24 Peter Street, London W1 and other venues. Full details of all events and locations can be found on the ILGCN website at

While the focus of 'Moonbow in Exile' is on Belarus, the problems in Estonia and Latvia are also considered.

"The Latvian movement is still plagued by an enormous fear of coming out in a situation where neo Nazis and other homophobes - especially from the large Russian minority - join forces against lesbians and gays" says Swedish veteran activist, Kjell Rindar, who has been teaching at Latvian universities.

In a talk organised by Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA), Bill Schiller, a GALHA member in Sweden and co-founder of the Scandinavian-based International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network, will be talking about homophobia in Eastern Europe based on his extensive involvement in campaigns for gay rights in the region.

This will be held at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1. (Tube: Holborn) at 7.30pm.


Belarus Lambda League website (there is one English language page, with the rest in Russian.