Tbilisi City Court has fined Georgian condom brand AIISA ₾500 for ‘unethical’ condoms packaging designs. AIISA has been instructed to remove the products from sale and to cease all marketing activity for them. The ban concerns packaging designs for three condoms and one promotional poster.
AIISA’s owner, Anania Gachechiladze, told OC Media that they plan to appeal the ruling, and are already taking the case to the Constitutional Court. She said the ruling ‘violates constitutional rights’ and is an example of ‘stupidity of the court system’ and the ‘incompetence of judge Lasha Tavartkiladze’.
The case began after conservative political party Georgian Idea requested Tbilisi City Hall intervene against AIISA’s condoms, including those depicting medieval Georgian Queen Tamar, who is recognised as a saint by the Georgian Orthodox Church. The City Hall took the case to court arguing that it violated a law on advertisements as designs were ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unethical’.
AIISA controversy has been a part of the earlier wave of attempts to regulate provocative free speech: On 20 March, the Georgian Orthodox Church condemned the condom designs as immoral and called for more unspecified ‘measures [...] to protect the religious feelings of believers’. In the same statement, the Church also referred to a joke by Rustavi 2 TV anchor Giorgi Gabunia about Jesus Christ. In protests against Gabunia, three of the channel’s journalists were assaulted, resulting in 6 arrests.
[Read more about the backstory of the controversies on OC Media: Georgian Church demands protection from journalists and condom company]
Gachechiladze was represented in court by Giorgi Mshvenieradze from the Georgian Democratic Initiative, a Tbilisi-based rights group. Speaking with journalists, Mshvnieradze said the ruling set a ‘dangerous precedent in Georgia’s recent history’ for freedom of expression.
A number of civil society groups have been vocal in their opposition of initiatives to restrict freedom of expression. Earlier attempts to make ‘insulting religious feelings’ punishable by law were put forward by Georgian Dream MP Soso Jachvliani, and later by Alliance of Patriots MP Emzar Kvitsiani. Despite receiving support from members of the Human Rights Committee, these laws have not yet been adopted.