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Georgian Dream announces draft law against ‘pseudo-liberal ideology’

1 March 2024
Mamuka Mdinaradze. Screengrab via Facebook.

The ruling Georgian Dream party has announced that it will prepare a draft law to ‘protect’ society from ‘pseudo-liberal ideology’, which appears to be aimed at countering queer rights advocacy.

The chair of the party’s parliamentary faction, Mamuka Mdinaradze, stated at a briefing on Thursday that the ruling team would take two weeks to work on the bill before presenting it to parliament. 

Mdinaradze stated that while human rights in Georgia were ‘protected at a high level, regardless of the way of life of any person’, and Georgia had a notably ‘tolerant’ population, Georgian society could not tolerate ‘pseudo-liberal’ values or ideology. 

He clarified that the phrase referred to ‘propaganda of non-traditional orientation’, and the use of ‘gender-neutral terminology’ including ‘parent 1’ and ‘parent 2’. 

Mdinaradze did not specify what would be included in the bill, but stated that the bill would be drawn up in accordance with the second article of the Georgian constitution, which covers fundamental human rights. 

The parliamentary faction chair went on to call on ‘everyone’ to support the initiative, claiming that the ‘severe consequences’ of pseudo-liberal ideology had been confirmed by international studies. 

Repeating homophobic claims made last year, in the run-up to Tbilisi’s Pride Week, he stated that in countries where ‘pseudo-liberal ideology’ was particularly widespread, more than 20% of 18–25 year-olds had a ‘non-traditional sexual orientation’. 

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Responding to journalists, Mdinaradze stated that ‘obvious propaganda should be prohibited’, but claimed that this was distinct from ‘works of art, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, protection of rights’. 

‘We are not going to interfere in any way’, he stated.

On Friday, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze stated that the government was willing to take part in the bill’s drafting if required.

‘I understand the concerns of the parliamentary majority, there are serious trends in other countries, which are directly reflected in statistics’, he said. ‘It is absolutely understandable that the parliamentary majority wants to protect society from the possible development of such processes in Georgia’.

On the same day, Mdinaradze reportedly claimed that Georgia was at risk of ‘LGBT propaganda’ existing at ‘a large scale’. He stated that it was consequently ‘the right time’ to work on a bill that both ensured protection from ‘pseudo-liberal propaganda’ and did not violate human rights, claiming that it would in fact strengthen the protection of rights. 

Georgian queer rights groups that OC Media contacted declined to comment.

A prior track record of homophobia

Senior figures in the ruling Georgian Dream party have previously made notable homophobic statements, including the party’s former prime minister and current chair, Irakli Gharibashvili, as well as the current prime minister, Irakli Kobakhidze.

[Read more: Georgian Dream ramps up homophobic rhetoric as Pride Week approaches]

While serving as prime minister, Gharibashvili made homophobic statements not only within Georgia but also at international forums.

Speaking in the parliament in 2023, Gharibashvili described an Ipsos survey which found that 22% of the population in France identify as queer as ‘alarming’.

‘We do not interfere in anyone’s private life; that is absolutely unacceptable’, said the then-prime minister. ‘But fringe propaganda that is spread in kindergartens and schools abroad is absolutely unacceptable to me.’

‘Thank God, this will not happen to us’, he added. ‘’We must oppose it because it is unacceptable to promote this topic in schools and kindergartens and among young people’. 

After the 2021 homophobic riots in Tbilisi, during which activists and journalists were attacked and beaten by far-right protesters, Gharibashvili responded by stating that ‘when 95% of the population are against conducting a propagandist parade, we should obey this’.

Current Prime Minister Kobakhidze, then serving as party chair, stated on the day after Lazare Grigoriadis, a protester against the 2023 foreign agent draft law, was arrested that the he had ‘all his orientations messed up’. 

Kobakhidze made similar statements in June 2023 after students at Tbilisi State University threw Russian rouble notes at him. 

‘Their orientation is messed up in every way’, said Kobakhidze. ‘I think that these people should be put on the right track; boys should get wives, girls should get married, reproduce, and so on. All their orientations, starting from the political ones, should be corrected.’

Both the Patriarchate and the ruling party’s satellite groups have in recent years called for an ‘anti-propaganda’ law to be adopted by Georgia’s parliament. 

In 2023, Mdinaradze stated that the party was not considering adopting a law against queer propaganda. Ruling party members have also previously stated their opposition to a ‘queer propaganda’ law, and repeatedly noted that the party was responsible for passing Georgia’s anti-discrimination law in 2014.

A number of commentators suggested that the law was aimed at distracting the public, with Tina Bokuchava, a member of the opposition United National Movement, stating that it was ‘an attempt to divert attention from the most important problems in the country’.

Paata Zakareishvili, a former State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality (2014–2016), stated that the topic was being raised to mobilise rightwing, ultra-rightwing, and conservative votes for the parliamentary elections. 

‘This is done solely […] to get votes, and this is another Russian law’, said Zakareishvili. 

The foreign agent draft law, which was rejected after mass street protests in Tbilisi in March 2023, was referred to as ‘the Russian law’ based on its similarity to legislation that has been used to crack down on government critics in Russia.

Georgia will hold parliamentary elections in October, with Georgian Dream seeking a fourth term in power.

The party’s leaders maintain that they have high approval ratings, particularly following the country being granted EU candidate status late last year, and that they will not be required to form a coalition. 

In order for EU accession negotiations to be opened with Georgia, the country is required to fulfil nine recommendations from the European Commission, one of which stipulates that human rights protection in Georgia be improved. 

It notes that Georgia must ‘launch impartial, effective and timely investigations in cases of threats against safety of vulnerable groups, media professionals and civil society activists, and bring organisers and perpetrators of violence to justice.’