The Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of Georgia’s Parliament has pledged to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The committee's 2017–2018 Action Plan was unveiled on 1 September by the head of the committee, Sopho Kiladze, alongside representatives from the EU delegation to Georgia and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The document promises to draw public attention to homophobia every year on 17 May, which is internationally recognised as a day for combating homophobia and transphobia.
‘Marking human rights days will contribute to solidarity with people whose rights have been violated and to raising awareness regarding these issues’, the document says.
The committee also promised to host hearings on queer rights as well as the efficiency of investigations into hate crimes.
The Head of the Human Rights Committee did not mention queer rights in her presentation speech and did not directly respond when asked why the committee never discusses homophobic and transphobic crimes. When asked how defining marriage as between a man and a woman in the constitution would help eliminate homophobia, as the government claims, she says these are two separate issues. Kiladze told OC Media that this will not harm queer people, adding that ‘this is a topic the majority of our society agrees on’.
‘It was our pre-election promise which we have fulfilled. We see marriage as a union between a man and a woman and I think there is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, persecution of persons on various grounds is a different issue. It doesn’t matter what the grounds are, being members of the LGBT community, religious or ethnic minorities — people should not be persecuted for these. This is not part of our religion or culture’, Kiladze said.
Same sex marriage has never been legal in the country, and the amendment has been widely condemned by rights groups as homophobic, while authorities have claimed it will put an end to ‘Russian rhetoric that West is imposing gay marriage on Georgia’.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgia’s parliamentary speaker says marriage definition to ‘reduce homophobia’]
‘Elimination of all kinds of discrimination’
The committee’s 2017–2020 strategy says that vulnerable groups will be prioritised in the forthcoming years. It also emphasised the importance of upholding social and economic rights and on strengthening mechanisms for protecting these rights.
‘Protection of Human Rights shall not be dependent of the goodwill of the authorities’, the document says. The vision of the committee is to prioritise ‘issues challenging for society’, to contribute to elimination of all kinds of discrimination, and protection of vulnerable groups, including minorities.
Shombi Sharp, Deputy Head of UNDP Georgia, praised the plan, telling OC Media that there is ‘even more emphasis now than previously on very specific groups’, but that serious challenges still remain.
Criticism of the government
The authorities’ response to challenges faced by queer people has come under fire from a number of activists and local and international rights groups. A statement from a number of NGOs released on August 26 states that ‘crimes motivated by homo/bi/transphobia frequently remain without due attention and investigation from the police and the victims of such violations of human rights become subject to repeat victimisation, due to homophobic policies and police culture’.
The statement came after two prominent queer rights activists from the Equality Movement, Levan Berianidze and Tornike Kusiani, were assaulted allegedly on homophobic grounds. They say that instead of protecting them, police acted violently arresting them while they asked for help.
‘Police insulted us verbally, called us fags and laughed at us. They said they wouldn’t protect “people like us”. We did not show any resistance… When we called for help, they came and beat us’, Berianidze told Liberali magazine.
Batumi Court convicted the pair for ‘hooliganism’ and disobeying police, fining them ₾300 each.
The 2017 International Day Against Homophobia was marked peacefully on 17 May in front the Government Chancellery. The gathering of several dozen activists was under heavy police guard, while in other parts of the city priests and revellers roamed the streets freely celebrating Family Purity Day, a celebration created by the Georgian Church after a violent attack on queer activists on 17 May 2013.