Sopo Kiladze, head of the Georgian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, is facing calls to resign after backtracking on a commitment to mark International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on 17 May. Members of local queer rights group the Equality Movement and other activists gathered outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi on Tuesday morning.
‘Her activities and values are in conflict with the principles of human rights and equality’, the Equality Movement said in a statement.
The protest was met with a conservative counter-rally, which resulting in three arrests after eggs were thrown at queer rights activists. Activists later moved inside parliament to sitting of the committee, holding posters demanding Kiladze’s resignation. Kiladze, who was forced to temporary halt the hearing, later told journalists that their protest might be an ‘orchestrated process’.
Mariam Kvaratskhelia, a representative of the Equality Movement, told OC Media the demonstration was organised by the group, but that ‘other, non-affiliated activists also joined the protest’. She said the group will continue to push for a reversal of the committee’s decision, and hope to gain wider support from the rest of civil society.
A plan to mark International Day Against Homophobia in Georgia was included in the committee's EU–Georgia Association Agenda adopted for the period 2017–2020, but on Sunday, Kiladze told Liberali the committee no longer intended to mark the day and refused to clarify the reason behind the change of heart.
[Read on OC Media: Georgian parliamentary committee pledges to mark day against homophobia]
The statement from the Equality Movement accused the Committee of supporting ‘anti-human rights initiatives’, including the committee’s initiative to define marriage in Georgia’s constitution as a union between a man and a woman.
According to Kvaratskhelia, activists will maintain their demand to remove Sopo Kiladze from her post and fight for their right to gather and mark IDAHO in Georgia.
The Human Rights Committee came under fire from rights groups last week after setting up a working group to develop legislation against ‘insulting religious feelings’. The bill was introduced by the conservative opposition Alliance of Patriots party and Georgia’s Demographic Society XXI, a non-governmental group known for making homophobic and xenophobic statements.
[Read on OC Media: Georgia’s Rights Committee supports bill against ‘insulting religious feelings’]
OC Media has reached out to Kiladze for comment.
Human rights activists and the queer community in Georgia have had difficulty safely marking 17 May in recent years. In 2014, on the anniversary of a violent homophobic rally against activists in Tbilisi, the Georgian Orthodox Church declared 17 May Day for Family Strength and Respect for Parents, and have since occupied the city’s main Rustaveli Avenue on this day for numerous events.