Since 1994, Belarus has been ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has claimed that that the country does not want a woman president. Amnesty has accused the government of targeting woman involved in politics in "gender-specific ways".

People line up outside the Belarusian election commission to file their complaints after the commission refused to register Viktor Babariko and Valery Tsepkalo as candidates for the upcoming presidential election, in Minsk, Belarus on July 15, 2020.
People line up outside the Belarusian election commission to file their complaints after the commission refused to register Viktor Babariko and Valery Tsepkalo as candidates for the upcoming presidential election, in Minsk, Belarus on July 15, 2020. (Reuters)

Belarus has been accused of targeting female activists with misogyny and discriminatory tactics, as women in opposition have teamed up to contest President Alexander Lukashenko in an election next month.

Amnesty International on Friday said authorities have been targeting woman involved in politics in "gender-specific ways".

The ex-Soviet state has been ruled since 1994 by Lukashenko, a former collective farm director who has claimed that the country does not want a woman president. The 65-year-old is running for a sixth term in the August 9 poll.

The authorities have cracked down on the opposition, barring and detaining would-be candidates and detaining more than 250 people at protests this week.

Practices 'smack of Misogyny'

"The Belarusian authorities are wheeling out practices that smack of misogyny," said Marie Struthers, the group's Eastern Europe and Central Asia director.

Amnesty gave testimony from activists who said they faced threats of sexual violence and of their children being taken into care.

The election will be contested by Lukashenko and another four candidates including a woman opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

Tikhanovskaya put herself forward after her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, a popular vlogger, was detained and barred from standing. She was allowed to run after gathering the necessary signatures.

On Thursday she announced an alliance with the campaign teams of two popular opposition figures who have been barred from standing, Viktor Babaryko and Valery Tsepkalo.

Babaryko, an ex-banker, has been detained over suspected financial crimes. Amnesty has recognised him as a prisoner of conscience along with Tikhanovskya's husband.

To promote their joint campaign, Tikhanovskaya, 37, posed punching a fist with Babaryko's female campaign chief and Tsepkalo's wife.

Tikhanovskaya said last month she received an anonymous phone call threatening to jail her and put her children in care. She said she considered withdrawing from the poll.

Amnesty accused Lukashenko of "tokenistic" appointments of loyal women politicians and said he "routinely makes sexist statements".

Society 'has not matured enough'

Lukashenko claimed in May that Belarusian society "has not yet matured enough to vote for a woman".

He said this was "because according to the constitution, our president has strong powers".

The president does not appear in public with any woman partner.

In his electoral declaration, he said he is still married but his wife, whom he wed in 1975, is never seen with him in public.

He is has a teenage son, Nikolai, who accompanies him to public engagements.
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Source: AFP