Belarus, a former soviet republic, attained independence in 1991. Belarus’ ties with Russia influence both economic and political direction. President Lukashenko is often dubbed “Europe’s last dictator”. He’s been in power since 1994.

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination

Constitution and government

The Belarus Constitution, Article 33 reads:

“Everyone is guaranteed freedom of thoughts and beliefs and their free expression.
No one shall be forced to express one’s beliefs or to deny them.
No monopolization of the mass media by the State, public associations or individual citizens and no censorship shall be permitted.”

In practice these freedoms are severely restricted by law.


There are few reliable statistics about non-religious or religious affiliation in Belarus. Belarus inherited the atheist stance from the former Soviet Union. There are no known humanist, sceptic or free thinkers groups in Belarus. One survey suggests that 68% of the 9.4 million population is linked to the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC). Other religions have much smaller populations.

Religious discrimination

The government used provisions of the religion law to hinder or prevent activities of groups other than the BOC. A 2003 concordat between the BOC and the government provides the BOC with autonomy in its internal affairs, freedom to perform religious rites and other activities, and a special relationship with the state.

The law requires all religious groups to receive prior governmental approval to import and distribute religious literature. The government harassed members of minority religious groups, denied them permits to obtain places of worship, raided their private residences and, in one case, arrested a religious official. Members of religious groups reportedly continued to be reluctant to report abuses and restrictions, fearing intimidation and retribution.

Education and children’s rights

School administrators may invite BOC priests to lecture to students, organize tours to BOC facilities, and participate in BOC festivities, programs, and humanitarian projects. A program of cooperation between the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the BOC calls for joint projects for the spiritual and moral education of students based on BOC traditions and history.

Family, community and society

The United Nations General Assembly received, in August 2014, a report on the situation of human rights in Belarus:

“The Special Rapporteur identifies the main obstacles hampering the activities of civil society organizations and human rights defenders in the country. Findings indicate that such organizations and individuals continue to endure extreme political pressure

and a restrictive regulatory setting, and that civil activities outside the official framework are criminalized. In breach of the country’s international human rights commitments, these policies have purposefully paralyzed the exercise of citizens right to full and inclusive participation in public life.”

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Belarus has been heavily criticised by rights bodies for suppressing free speech, muzzling the press and denying the opposition access to state media. Reporters Without Borders ranked Belarus 168th out of 179 countries in its 2012 world press freedom index. It said independent journalists try to report “despite harassment and intimidation”. Freedom House says a 2008 media law gives the state “a monopoly over information about political, social, and economic affairs”. TV is the main source of news. The four national channels are state-controlled; their main competitors are Russian networks.


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