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Rights of Sexual Minorities in Georgia

April 2, 2009

Irina Machurishvili,Tbilisi

On March 30, the non-governmental organization “Human Rights Center” organized the fifth media club in the “New Art Café” with the support of the Swiss Embassy in Georgia. Foreign diplomats, representatives of international organizations and Georgian journalists took part in the media club. The topic of the meeting was the rights of sexual minorities in Georgia and media coverage of their issues. The speakers at the media club were Paata Sabelashvili, president of the Fund “Inclusive” and Eka Aghdgomelashvili, project manager.

Fund “Inclusive” was founded in 2006 with the support of the Government of the Netherlands. Paata Sabelashvili stated that a very important issue in respect of the rights of sexual minorities in Georgia is the development of democracy in Georgia. Protection of the rights of sexual minorities is one of the indicators of that development.  Sexual minorities should be integrated in the Georgian society.

“We try our utmost to assist these people,” said he and added that there are plenty of problems in regard to the protection of the rights of sexual minorities in Georgia.

The president of “Inclusive” considered that stigma is the main problem in this field. This problem becomes evident soon after they try to get information about the human rights violation against sexual minorities. Paata Sabelashvili pointed out that none of the estimated violations have been pursued by law enforcement bodies.

“In 2006 we carried out research to discover those people who were victims of discrimination. Only six out of an estimated 120 victims appealed to the court. The experience of the judiciary system in Georgia is so poor in this field that it is very difficult to persuade the court to take up any of these cases. “We cannot assure the victims that their conditions will be improved. There are plenty of reasons for me to make this statemet. There is no protection mechanism and law enforcers have an homophobic attitude towards sexual minorities.”

“Lack of information about their rights among sexual minorities is another problem as well. Also the state cannot protect the sexual minorities while it succeeds in the protection of other minorities.”

Eka Aghdgomelashvili, who has been monitoring media coverage of sexual minorities in Georgia since 2006,  spoke about current problems. She said, after the Rose Revolution the general picture has changed--negative assessments of the issue have increased. If in the past negative assessments about sexual minorities were reinforced by invited experts, now it is being reinforced by Orthodox traditions. It must be pointed out that number of neutral assessments has been reduced. According to Aghdgomelashvili,the main actors in the establishment of public opinion are the state, the church and the media. Past homophobia has turned into xenophobia now. The context of homosexuality has changed and now it is discussed as a moral problem and not as a crime. Television is the leading actor in the formation of public opinion which has been interested in the topic recently. The issues in regard to sexual minorities are covered mostly in a negative context and very often these people are laughed at.

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Georgia, Onno Elderenbosch, assessed the situation in Georgia. He said the media plays a leading role in the protection of sexual minorities.

“The Media is highly responsible in this field. If Georgian society wants to integrate into European Structures it should protect human rights. Neither European Union nor OSCE demands Georgia to acknowledge marriage of sexual minorities; the main point is to cease discrimination,” he said.