Concerns have been raised that Europe’s last dictatorship, Belarus, is set to to replicate Russia’s infamous ‘anti-homosexual propaganda’ law.

The country, which has so far been impressing Western leaders for distancing itself from Moscow in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, is nevertheless ‘relying on populist calls to defend children from “propaganda of homosexuality”,’ according to Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of Equal Rights Trust.

The concerns were raised last week at a meeting convened by the London-based Equal Rights Trust (ERT) in collaboration with the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC). A draft of the law has not been released, but work on a bill for ‘protecting children from propaganda of homosexuality’ has been included in a presidential decree concerning the legislative agenda of parliament.

In the past 12 months alone, more than 200 publications have used homophobic language or terminology, inciting violence and discrimination and even equating homosexuality with paedophilia, zoophilia and crime. Some media reports went so far as to call for the LGBT community to be quarantined, while others said that it threatened the territorial integrity of Belarus.

The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has been supporting civil society in Belarus to promote equality law reform since 2011. In November 2013, ERT published the first comprehensive report on the enjoyment of the rights to equality and non-discrimination in the country, which recommended, among other things, the adoption of a comprehensive equality law.

The meeting, held in Minsk on 22 July, brought together leading civil society groups from around the country to discuss equality law reform and agree on guiding principles for a model equality law that would bring Belarus in line with international standards.