Feminists and transphobic protesters face off in Tbilisi

9 March 2018
Protest for the rights of transgender women. (Mari Nikuradze /OC Media)

Feminist group the Georgian Women’s Movement marked International Women’s Day on 8 March protesting for the rights of transgender women. They were met by a homophobic counter rally who threw eggs and chanted ‘shame’.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in front of Tbilisi’s public service hall demanding that transgender people be allowed to more easily change the sex indicated on official identity documents.

Currently, transgender people can only change the sex marker on their ID documents if they undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Baia Pataria, a member of the Women’s Movement and head of women’s rights group Sapari, told OC Media they had gathered ‘in solidarity with transgender women who are not allowed to change their sex markers in their IDs’. She said that sex reassignment surgery is ‘a very expensive procedure, which causes sterilisation and is not performed in Georgia’. Pataria said the authorities should make the procedure of changing the sex indicated in transgender people’s documents ‘more humane, because now it requires forced sterilisation of people’.

Transgender woman Miranda Paghava told journalists at the rally that the Ministry of Justice must change the ‘hideous practice which requires documentation of sex reassignment surgery’.

‘They request sterilisation, which is inhumane. Transgender people have filed and won many relevant cases in the European Court of Human Rights. Considering this, the minister of justice should consider our request’, Paghava said.

Homophobic counter-rally

A homophobic counter-rally was held outside the Public Service Hall with demonstrators protesting against what they called ‘filthy LGBT propaganda’. Demonstrators threw eggs at the women’s protest, after which one man was arrested for hooliganism.  

The demonstrators chanted ‘shame!’, and asked police to disperse the feminist rally.

A homophobic counter-rally outside the Public Service Hall(Mari Nikuradze /OC Media)
A homophobic counter-rally outside the Public Service Hall (Mari Nikuradze /OC Media)

‘Be ashamed in front of your friends, of your neighbourhood, of your ancestors. Be ashamed, descendants of David and Tamar’, one of the demonstrators said.

In October 2017, a transgender woman appealed to Tbilisi City Court to have her gender changed in official documents without undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

Three transgender people from Georgia had previously appealed in court on similar grounds. The claims of two transgender people were rejected by all three instances of the judiciary, and have been filed to the European Court of Human Rights. An appeal by a third transgender person was also rejected by the Tbilisi Court of Appeals.

[Read more about transgender people’s appeals on OC Media: Transgender woman appeals to Tbilisi Court to recognise her gender]

Feminist tour

In a separate demonstration to mark 8 March, the Independent Feminists Group organised a ‘feminist tour’, covering five historically important locations in Tbilisi where women read out feminist writings.

‘The fight for women’s rights intensified at the end of the 19th century. Feminist activities of the following years were based on this. Women’s groups grew even stronger in the years of first republic, but their history was largely forgotten after sovietisation’, the organisers said.

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