Salihorsk authorities reject proposals for improving language equality

2013 2013-04-17T16:22:15+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Salihorsk office of the Belarusian Language Society received a reply to its statement urging the officials to bring the names of local executive bodies in compliance with the Constitution and the Law “On Languages.” Among other things, the BSL demanded to translate the signs on the buildings of Salihorsk district executive committee and the district council of deputies into the Belarusian language, the entrances to which are still decorated with signs only in Russian.

In its response, the authorities refer to Article 17 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “the state languages in Belarus are Belarusian and Russian.” Considering this, the officials concluded that “the activities of local authorities do not contradict the current legislation.”

Mikalai Sharavar, leader of the BSL’s Salihorsk office, strongly disagrees with this interpretation of the constitutional provision. Defender of the Belarusian language cites Article 31 of the Law “On Languages,” according to which “the names of government agencies and other organizations are given in the Belarusian and (or) the Russian language.”

“Unfortunately, the officials very often hide behind this very “or” in the Law “On Languages,” says Mikalai Sharavar. “And thus they justify the legitimacy of the de facto discrimination of Belarusian-speaking citizens of our country.”

The Belarusian Language Society activist finds it unacceptable to apply this approach to the Belarusian-speaking residents and visitors to the district. Certain gaps in the law, according to Mikalai Sharavar, are not a reason for discrimination.