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Platform “No to Phobia” about the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

May 17, 2019
Platform “No to Phobia” about the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Today is May 17, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). The issue of the human rights of LGBTQI community is becoming particularly urgent on this day. We believe it is important to remind the Government and the society of those challenges, which we have in this direction in our country. 

Freedom of Assembly and Manifestation
The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Since 2004, May 14 has been marked with mass demonstrations in various European countries. In Georgia, LGBTQI community members first tried to mark the IDAHOT on May 17, 2012 that ended up with a clash. On May 17, 2013, the people with homophobic and fundamentalist feelings, under the umbrella of the dominant religious group – Georgian Orthodox Church, organized counter-demonstration with the declared motivation to physically assault sexual minorities and their supporters. Law enforcement bodies failed to properly implement their duties and create safe environment for the demonstrators. Several participants of the demonstration were injured; finally they were not allowed to hold peaceful demonstration. Next year, the controversy between the groups increased after the Georgian Patriarchate announced May 17 to be the Day of Family Purity that intensified homophobic feelings claiming that the IDAHOT contradicted the culture and statehood of the Georgian society. It is important to note that freedom of assembly and manifestation is guaranteed with the Constitution of Georgia, in the frame of which, the State bears positive obligation to take all necessary measures to protect the people, who enjoy this right, among them to use police power against those, who unlawfully act against the peaceful protestants and create threat to their health and lives. Nevertheless, years on, the LGBTQI community members still face similar risks, that deprive them from the possibility to enjoy the freedom of assembly and manifestation. 

Hate-motivated crimes
Recent developments demonstrate the negligence of the law enforcement bodies to defend the rights of the LGBTQI community. Although the Criminal Code of Georgia declares the hate-motivated actions committed against minorities to be aggravating circumstance, for years, the respective bodies refuse to use this norm. It is noteworthy that on September 23, 2015, after two-year examination of the case, the Tbilisi City Court acquitted the defendants for the dispersal of May 17, 2013 demonstration. During the pre-trial session, the criminal prosecution was dropped against the clergyman, who participated in the counter-demonstration; on May 21, 2013, the Tbilisi City Court imposed minimal sanction – 100 GEL fine on the four other defendants in the case. Consequently, nobody was adequately punished for the aggression they demonstrated in 2013. Hate-motivated crimes and their inadequate investigation is still significant challenge in our society. It is noteworthy that the victims, often, fearing the double victimization and because of mistrust to law enforcement bodies, never apply to them and many crimes remain un-responded. Finally, the inactivity and inadequate reaction of the state bodies further encouraged homophobic, non-tolerant feelings in the society.

sexual minorities, as a tool of populism 
With the 2018 constitutional amendments, the ruling party clarified the notion of the marriage as a union of a woman and a man for the purpose of creating a family that is a step back for the integration of the sexual minority members in the society. The decision aimed to gain the hearts of the electorate. It has negative impact not only on the concrete group of people (LGBTQI community in this particular case), but on the entire society. Instead solving the real problems, the government creates an illusion of caring about the society and temporarily satisfies the needs of one part of the society. 

hate speech
Often, politicians, before the elections, make homophobic statements and act in the same way with the aim of populism. For example, on April 30, 2018, the chairwoman of the Human Rights and Civic Integration Committee of the Parliament Sofo Kiladze stated that their committee is not going to mark the IDAHOT (although it was envisaged in the 2017-2020 Action Plan). In addition to that, Members of Parliament and government officials several times used hate speech against LGBT community. For example, the statement of the Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani about the legal acknowledgement of gender. In this light, the State does not admit systemic problems in terms of violation of LGBTQI community and moreover, with their statements, the government representatives encourage the hate between the groups of the society. 
public opinion
Strong homophobic feelings in the society were once again demonstrated when the captain of the Georgian National Football Team Guram Kashia played a match with the armband demonstrating the support to the LGBTQI community. Critics decided it was propaganda of the LGBTQI and requested to sack Guram Kashia from the national team. The members of the parliamentary majority shared the opinion of this part of the society. 

The state of LGBTQI community in the view of the social situation in the country 
Nowadays, the state has many challenges like employment, poverty, low access to public services and more. Considering that and homophobic feelings in the society, the marginalized groups, including LGBTQI community, are double victimized by these problems, like employment, education, access to healthcare services and more. 

Considering the abovementioned, we can conclude that the fight of the Government against homophobia has fragmented character and includes creation of only formal legislative (sometimes practical) guarantees. One of similar guarantees is creation of the Human Rights Department in the MIA that is positive step taken by the State though is not enough to tackle current problems. The Government does not have systemic vision how to ensure inclusion of the LGBTQI people, to defend equality, to prevent violence, to improve the level of their life and raise public awareness.

In this light, we call on the Government of Georgia to elaborate common vision to tackle the systemic problem of homophobia, to ensure equal defense of the LGBTQI people, to enable them to peacefully enjoy public spaces, to prevent violence and adequately respond to homo-transphobic crimes, to support prohibition of the discrimination of LGBTQI people in the fields of education, healthcare and employment. 

Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
Human Rights Center (HRC) 
Institute for Democracy and Safe Development (IDSD) 
Media Development Fund (MDF)
Georgian Reform Association (GRASS) 
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
UN Association of Georgia (UNAG)
Transparency International – Georgia (TI-Georgia)