Belarusian Lawmakers To Soon Consider Anti-Lgbtq+ Bill

FILE - Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting of the Union State Supreme Council with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. A bill in Belarus that would outlaw the promotion of homosexuality and other behavior is set to land on lawmakers' desks amid an unwavering crackdown on dissent initiated by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2020. (Pavel Bednyakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a meeting of the Union State Supreme Council with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. A bill in Belarus that would outlaw the promotion of homosexuality and other behavior is set to land on lawmakers' desks amid an unwavering crackdown on dissent initiated by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2020. (Pavel Bednyakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A bill in Belarus that would outlaw the promotion of homosexuality and other behavior is set to land on lawmakers' desks amid an unwavering crackdown on dissent initiated by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2020.

Prosecutor General Andrei Shved said Thursday the proposed legislation establishes administrative liability for anyone promoting “abnormal relationships, pedophilia (and) voluntary refusal to have children.” He didn't elaborate or discuss what the potential punishments would be for breaking the law.

The bill will be submitted to the Belarusian parliament, which is under the strict control of Lukashenko.

“The activities of opponents who are trying to destroy traditional family values, and therefore morality and statehood, are generally aimed at destroying Belarus as a country,” Shved said on Belarusian television, warning that it was necessary to “prevent even discussion” of such topics.

He added that it would be necessary to carry out “broad ideological and explanatory work, including in schools.”

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Belarus in 1994, but the country does not recognize same-sex marriage. However, in the deeply conservative and predominantly Orthodox country, there are no anti-discrimination measures in place to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for the past three decades, is an open critic of homosexuality, and has declared publicly that “it is better to be a dictator than to be gay.”

Human rights organizations in Belarus report pressure on LGBTQ+ people from the KGB state security service, which recruits members of the community by blackmailing them with the threat of making their sexual orientation public.

Activists say LGBTQ+ people in Belarus continue to face stigma in society and note high rates of suicide among the community, in part because professional psychological care is generally unavailable.

In 2023, independent gay rights group ILGA-Europe said Belarus ranked 45th out of 49 countries in its annual survey of the freedoms of LGBTQ+ people in Europe and Central Asia, noting that “pro-government propagandists regularly call for persecution of LGBT activists.”

Since the start of an unrelenting crackdown on dissent in August 2020, after an election the opposition and the West denounced as a sham gave Lukashenko his sixth term in office, LGBTQ+ people have begun leaving Belarus en masse, seeking political asylum in the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia, where a law against “gay propaganda” has been in place since 2013, prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships.

The Russian Supreme Court banned what the government called the LGBTQ+ “movement” in Russia in November 2023, labeling it an extremist organization. The ruling was part of a crackdown on LGBTQ+ people in the increasingly conservative country where “traditional family values” have become a cornerstone of President Vladimir Putin’s 24-year rule.