Tbilisi Marks International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia
Groups of activists rallied together to mark The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia in Tbilisi on May 17th, gathering outside the Ministry of Justice. They were also present to celebrate the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights which declared that the Georgian state is responsible for being unable to protect the rights of citizens who participated in the anti-homophobia demonstrations in 2012. The amount of money demanded for compensation was determined as 33,000 Euros.
Activists called for authorities to simplify the procedures for obtaining identification cards for transgender people. They also called on consideration of the criminal code clause that provides a source of bias often used to deny the issue of ID cards to members of the transgender community. Some of the banners flying at May 17th rally emphasized the fear and insecurity that homosexual people feel in Georgia and asked authorities to take action: ‘LGBT community at Risk’, read one such banner. ‘State authorities must ensure freedom of assembly and speech, and the physical security of all persons who take part in legal demonstrations ,” Read another.
Another group of activists gathered in “Mrgvali Bagi” (Round Garden) in front of the UN office, holding rainbow flags and reading quotes from the European Court’s verdict. Throughout the demonstration a large number of policemen, brought to the location with municipal buses, stood surrounding the garden with the aim of ensuring peaceful proceedings.
Unlike previous rallies, this time the LGBT community and rights-defenders took caution by not announcing the locations and time of events publicly. Furthermore, everyone who joined The International Day against Homophobia on May 17th was required to pre-register and go through a screening process during which journalists working for media sources that have welcomed homophobic views were not included. Extensive secrecy and defensive measures were taken due to the consideration of the events of 2012 and 2013 when a group of people violently attacked activists.
Demonstrators were joined by the Ambassador of Sweden to Georgia, Martina Quick, along with two members of Georgian parliament, Chiora Taktakishvili (UNM party) and Tamar Kordzaia (Republicans faction which is part of the Georgian Dream coalition).
Fortunately, incidents of violence were not recorded and Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said that the absence of disturbances during the demonstrations emphasize that “Georgia is a deserving, distinguished society and a civilized state.”
The same day pro-Russian movement, the King Erekle II Society, held demonstrations outside the EU embassy in Tbilisi with banners calling on Europe to stop propagandizing homosexuals.
On Sunday May 17th, Georgians also celebrated the Day of Family, was introduced by the Georgian Orthodox Church in 2014 which some consider as a clear attempt to counter the LGBT rallies.
Georgian Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, noted that even though the issue is urgent, authorities fail to impose measures that will increase public awareness of human rights and enhance the culture of tolerance in Georgia. According to Nanuashvili, the country still faces the problem of hate-motivated violence which is then rarely investigated in an efficient manner.