An independent UN human rights expert, Anaïs Marin, says women in Belarus are denied rights and freedoms, and female political activists are subjected to enforced disappearances, torture, ill-treatment, and exile.
On Tuesday, Ms Marin told the General Assembly that the government’s efforts to promote women’s rights at a policy level were rarely translated into concrete advancement of women’s rights in law and practice.
Ms Marin, the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus, said flaws in legislation had for decades led to inequalities, discrimination, and protection gaps in cases of gender-based violence and abuses.
In presenting her report on the human rights of women and girls in Belarus, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, and intersex persons, Ms Marin cited long-standing societal gender stereotypes.
She cited long-standing societal gender stereotypes “that reach to the very top of the state” and pointed out that women are generally “discouraged from participating in public life as proactive citizens.”
Millions in Belarus took to the streets in protest against the authoritarian government following the disputed presidential election of August 2020.
President Alexander Lukashenko has been in office since July 1994, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The UN expert observed that “some women became victims of enforced disappearances, torture, ill-treatment, and other forms of physical and psychological pressure, including the threat of seizure of their children” by agencies supposed to be offering social protection.
“Others have been forced into exile for fear of repression and retaliation,” she noted.
The special rapporteur described a pattern in which the Belarus government suppresses civil society, curtailing women’s civic and political rights – most notably their freedom of assembly, association, and expression.
Meanwhile, some 800 people in Belarus have been imprisoned on political grounds, and more than 270 civil society organisations and independent media have been liquidated.
“Media freedoms were further restricted by legal, administrative, and practical obstacles that undermined the work of independent journalists and bloggers,” she said. “Academics and human rights defenders were forced into exile on a huge scale, while perpetrators of grave human rights violations continue acting boldly without fear of facing justice for their crimes.”
Ms Marin called on the Belarusian authorities to view peaceful public activism not as a threat but as an opportunity for improving the protection of rights for the entire population.
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council appointed Ms Marin and all special rapporteurs to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation.