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Lesbian couple ‘attacked outside their home’ in Tbilisi

22 April 2021
Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Queer rights activists in Georgia have reported that a lesbian couple were spat at, threatened with a knife, and subjected to homophobic slurs near their home in the centre of Tbilisi.

According to Tbilisi Pride, the couple were attacked by a male neighbour man in Tbilisi on Tuesday. 

According to the group, the couple were returning to their home in the city’s Saburtalo District when a man living in their neighbourhood, about 35 and ‘presumably inebriated’, starting shouting homophobic slurs at them. 

‘Get out of here, lesbies’, ‘get out of this house, this is not your place!’, ‘you won’t be able to park your car here anymore!’, the man was quoted by Tbilisi Pride as shouting. 

The couple was reportedly with a minor at the time and had to leave the child in the car out of safety concerns. 

‘After that, the perpetrator approached one of them and spat at her… later he retrieved a folding knife, unfolded it and threatened the couple’, Tbilisi Pride reported, adding that several neighbours were watching but failed to intervene. 

According to the group’s statement, the attacker attempted to destroy one of the victim’s phones after she began filming the incident, but the footage was eventually retrieved from the device. 

The group said that the perpetrator spat at one of the victims again even after police arrived on the scene, and that more police had to be summoned to eventually detain him.

Temur Sabelashvili, the lawyer representing the couple, confirmed that the footage, which they have chosen not to make public out of privacy concerns, is currently among the case files of the investigation.

Sabelashvili asked the media to respect the privacy of the couple and the minor. 

The Interior Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Hate and hate crimes in Georgia

According to the couple’s lawyer, their attacker faces a number of criminal charges, including hooliganism, coercion, threatening someone, and ‘unauthorised access’ of a phone. 

In their 21 April statement, Tbilisi Pride urged law enforcement agencies to investigate the attack in a timely and effective manner and also to ‘identify signs of a hate-motivated crime’ under the oversight of the Interior Ministry’s Human Rights Department. 

Temur Sabelashvili, who works at another Georgian queer rights group, Equality Georgia, confirmed to OC Media that the Interior Ministry were already treating the attack as a hate-motivated crime.

Both Tbilisi Pride and the couple’s lawyer confirmed that the man had on several prior occasions harassed the couple after learning that one of them was working for Tbilisi Pride. 

Last summer, Tbilisi Pride was targetted by a hate group who protested outside their offices in Tbilisi and threw black paint at the building. 

The group’s director, Giorgi Tabagari, told OC Media on Thursday that after two months of protests and occasional attacks at their office last year, they eventually stopped. But he added that May and June were ‘usually more challenging months’.

According to a 2019 survey by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), 24% of those surveyed said that they would least like a homosexual as a neighbour among the groups asked about.

From the CRRC’s 2019 Caucasus Barometer survey.

[Read more on OC Media: Analysis | How widespread is homophobia in Georgia?]

In a study by Tbilisi-based rights group the Social Justice Centre published in 2020, 68% of lesbians surveyed in Georgia said they were not open about their sexual orientation with any neighbour. 

According to the same study, 66% of queer respondents surveyd did not trust the Interior Ministry or police, and 74% said they did not trust the Prosecutor’s Office.

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