MINSK, Belarus – Belarusian lawmakers on Wednesday passed legislation that would crack down on Internet dating and online spouse searches in the latest in a series of stringent government controls backed by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Authorities say the measure, which was passed 101-1 by the subservient lower house of parliament, is intended to help halt human trafficking in the former Soviet republic.
The legislation would place new restrictions on organizations that promote dating or that help match potential suitors with spouses, particularly via the Internet.
The bill also would require Belarusian students seeking to study abroad to receive written permission from the Ministry of Education, if the study is longer than 30 days.
Foreign companies seeking to hire Belarusian students for summer jobs would also be required to get approval from the Education Ministry.
"The measures are directed at improving the mechanisms guaranteeing effective counteraction to human trafficking — one of the most dangerous phenomenon modern society faces in its development," First Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Shurko told parliament.
Lukashenko has made his nation of 10 million people a pariah in the West by stifling dissent, persecuting independent media and opposition parties and prolonging his power through elections that international organizations say were marred by fraud.
Earlier this year, Lukashenko placed new, tight restrictions on Belarusians' foreign adoptions as well as modeling and wedding firms.