NGOs call on Georgia’s Human Rights Committee head to resign after queer activists’ protest

4 May 2018
Sopo Kiladze (parliament.ge)

A group of 31 Georgian non-governmental organisations are demanding the resignation of Parliament’s Human Rights Committee chair, Sopo Kiladze. The groups include Transparency International Georgia, the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMC), and Open Society Georgia Foundation.

Queer rights group the Equality Movement organised a demonstration outside Tbilisi’s parliament building on Tuesday after Kiladze told Liberali that the committee will not mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, 17 May. A pledge to do so was included in the committee’s 2017–2020 action plan.

[Read more about queer activists’ protest at the parliament on OC Media: Human rights committee under fire in Georgia over U-turn on queer rights]

‘It is important that any citizen living in Georgia has the feeling that the chairperson of the Human Rights Committee is their advocate for rights’, the joint statement said, arguing that Kiladze’s comments, language, and her initiatives regarding minority and vulnerable groups contradict Georgia’s declared positions to uphold human rights.

During the protest, several activists entered a sitting of the Human Rights Committee, where they demanded Kiladze explain why the committee changed its mind about marking International Day Against Homophobia. In an emotional plea, one activist, Tamaz Sozashvili, told MPs of the ‘privileges’ heterosexual decision makers have.

‘I was bullied at school for 12 years. I still hate to visit the place, because every day it was terrifying, each day meant facing death. Today I cannot visit my parents in Kakheti [East Georgia], because it is dangerous. This is the difference between me and you. You will never, never understand this, you will never understand what it costs me to stand here and say this, because it will cause problems for me’ Sozashvili, a member of the Equality Movement said.

Kiladze has so far refused to clarify to either to activists or the media why  International Day Against Homophobia will not be marked in parliament. ‘We will not mark it, it’s up to us to decide’, she told Liberali, giving no further explanation.

OC Media reached out to Kiladze for a comment.

The joint statement was followed by another call on Friday, from the Coalition for Equality, a platform uniting several major Georgian anti-discrimination watchdogs.

The coalition said that the committee’s reversal on marking International Day Against Homophobia was ‘a continuation of the failure of the Georgian Parliament to recognise the rights of LGBT people’. The statement accused parliament of continuously expressing openly homophobic attitudes and anti-human rights positions. It cited MPs’ comments blaming queer activists for ‘provoking’ a violent response to a queer rights rally on 17 May 2013, homophobic attitudes voiced during discussions of anti-discrimination legislation, and the committee’s 2014 initiative to amend the Georgian constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The coalition’s statement also criticised parliament’s Gender Equality Council for pursuing a ‘narrow, limited approach to gender policies’ which they said neglects the needs and grievances of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women and those from ethnic and religious minorities.

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