We state that the initiative of the Prosecutor General's Office is an unjustified interference of the state in the personal life of citizens. It contradicts the international obligations of the Republic of Belarus in the sphere of human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights, as well as poses a threat to various vulnerable groups (including, but not limited to the LGBTQ community, teenagers, women).
The initiative contradicts a number of basic human rights:
- The right not to be subjected to prohibition and unlawful interference with privacy and family life (Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, hereinafter "the Covenant")
- The right to freedom of expression (Article 19 of the Covenant)
- The right to protection against discrimination (Article 26 of the Covenant)
We should also like to emphasise the manipulative nature of the arguments used to justify such initiatives:
1) The deliberate identification of mental disorders or crimes against the sexual integrity of minors with lifestyles or personality traits is a manipulation of public opinion, an example of hate speech and a stigmatisation of social groups. This is why the initiative is particularly worrying with regard to the safety of the LGBTQ community, whose representatives will certainly face consequences such as:
- an increase in stigma;
- an increased risk of hate-motivated violence.
We are reminded that issues of sexual identity, gender identity and reproductive choice belong to the private sphere and should not be regulated by state institutions. A lack of consistency in the moral attitudes of citizens is not sufficient ground for prosecuting or criminalising lifestyles.
2) Lack of access to information on sexual orientation and gender identity increases the likelihood of violence and risky behaviour.
3) Women's right to exercise independent and autonomous reproductive choice should not be equated with crimes against the sexual integrity of minors. This is a dangerous manipulation and unfair comparison that contributes to harmful stereotyping and provokes increased intolerance and violence in society.
We also note that in accordance with the international human rights obligation of the Republic of Belarus, punishment, regardless of the gravity of the offence, must not violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel and inhuman punishment degrading to human dignity, which includes forced chemical castration. Belarus is a state party to the UN Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The prohibition of torture is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.
We are also concerned that the potential targets of these legislative initiatives will be deprived of the minimum guarantees of legal protection in a situation of deep legal crisis in which the most important state institutions, including courts and the bar, find themselves.
On the basis of the above, we urge the Belarusian authorities:
- to reject the proposed initiative of the Prosecutor General's Office, as it violates fundamental civil rights;
- to refuse any legislative changes and initiatives that would lead to greater discrimination against LGBTI individuals and intensify intolerance and violence in the country;
- to adhere to international human rights obligations by harmonising legislation and practice.
We urge international organisations to publicly condemn the initiative of the Belarusian authorities and join the demands to abandon the discriminatory legislative plans that violate the inviolability of private life, the right to freedom from torture and discrimination.
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Respect - Protect - Fulfill
Human Rights Initiative
Belarusian National Youth Council “RADA”
Femgroup of the Coordinating Council