MINSK, September 25, 2009 – Almost 100 participants are expected to take part in a gay human rights conference in the Belarus capital tomorrow (September 25).
Over 30 NGOs and LGBT groups have registered to speak at the one-day event. And this has caused a problem for the organisers in finding a room large enough.
“It is challenging, but not impossible, to organize a human rights conference in Belarus,” one of the organisers commented. “But, when it turns to be a LGBT rights conference, then, no one is ready to rent you a place anymore.”
For months, the organisers attempted to book different venues. But their requests were always turned down. Finally, they managed to find a venue, but are not yet disclosing where – even to the delegates.
Sergey Androsenko, a conference co-organiser and leader of the local advocacy group GayBelarus, said that many do not really know what are the demands and the challenges face by the LGBT community.
“We cannot let them think any longer that gays are boys dressed like girls just because they saw one singer in woman’s clothes on TV. We have to be visible, so that people hear us and see us as we are really.”
Thirty years ago, Harvey Milk expressed the same view:“We are coming out to fight the lies”.
Tomorrow’s event has been made possible as a joint project, funded and supported by the LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru.
It will be held under the patronage of the IDAHO Committee – the Committee of the International Day Against Homophobia.
This is not the first event held by the IDAHO in Eastern Europe. In May 2006, the IDAHO Committee supported the First Moscow Pride Festival, an event that marked a breakthrough after 12 years of silence of the LGBT community in Russia.
Louis-Georges Tin, the President of the IDAHO Committee sees in the conference as “a step that will help local activists to raise awareness for their struggle”.
“It is our duty to help and support activists especially when they ask for our help. It is a unique chance for LGBT activists to discuss and express their demands,” said Mr Tin.
The conference will show reports from different activists and the plan is to strengthen discussion between the LGBT movements and other Human Rights NGOs. This is why the subject of the conference is LGBT Movement and NGOs: Prospect for Cooperation to Overcome Homophobia in Belarus.
The conference is also supported by Hamburg Pride and the Swedish Embassy.
Attending will be mainly Belarus people, but activists from Russia, Germany, France, Switzerland and Sweden are travelling to Minsk to show their support – and share their experiences.
“We are here to facilitate the dialogue between human rights groups and the LGBT movement,” said Alekseev of GayRussia and chief organiser of the Moscow Pride. “We are happy to bring our support and knowledge in organizing such large scale event.
“In less than a year during which we were actively working with our Belarusian colleagues, we have helped them to get more visibility at the international level,” Mr Alekseev added.
Russian and Belarusian LGBT movements ‘twined’ last November and associated their efforts in their joint struggle. The conference is one more step after the first Slavic Pride that they organised last May in Moscow – and the next one that is planned in Minsk in 2010.
The Embassies of three European Union countries – Sweden, Hungary and France – as well as the European Commission’s delegation in Minsk have said they will participate.
The presence of the EU diplomacy is seen as key by the organisers. “Firstly, we want them to monitor any attempt to disrupt the event, and secondly, we want to ensure that LGBT rights will not be forgotten in the human rights dialogue that the EU holds with Belarus,” said Mr Androsenko.
“The LGBT movement in Belarus is just being built. We want to show that we exist and we want to have our place in the human rights discussions in the country.
“For too long, we have been left aside. This is now going to be past,” he added.
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