New Lessons for Belarusian LGBT Community

Published: April 5, 2011

In February 2011, at a conference on family planning a high-profile lecturer of the Belarusian Medical Academy Sviatlana Kunickaja said in the presence of many journalists that homosexuals are ill people and should be treated medically. Dealing with such statements within Belarusian medical, political or media state framework would be impossible. Kunickaja is a member of a commission of the Ministry of Education in charge of preparing an official agreement with the Orthodox Church. She has long history of religiously motivated work in the Medical Academy promoting “Christian morality” which had never been challenged. Also, the Belarusian Medical Academy remained silent when in 2009 another of its lecturers, Ihar Rybin, publicly said that “homosexuality makes people animals”.

This time, however, the LGBT activists threatened to appeal to the Academy’s EU partners, calling on them to freeze their contacts with the Academy in view of repeated homophobic intolerance, disregard of fundamental human rights and non-scientific approaches to medical practice and teaching. Two weeks after the letter was published on gay websites, the head of the Medical Academy replied that the homophobic incidents had been discussed by the governing body of the Academy and that the views of the two named lecturers were not shared by the rest on the teachers of that institution. Kunickaja and Rybin were ordered not make any offensive and non-scientific public statements contradicting the norms of medical ethics.

While same-sex relationships are not illegal in Belarus, homosexuality is only barely tolerated by a large part of Belarusian society and the Belarusian authorities in particular. There is no single law protecting sexual minorities from discrimination and violent homophobic behaviour is not regarded as hate-based crime. In this social climate public figures, such as politicians, celebrities and high-profile doctors often make homophobic speeches and their views have rarely been challenged in any meaningful way. The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Belarus is learning lessons of living in a country of declarative equality, while gradually exploiting imaginative ways of dealing with homophobic attitudes.

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