Country Conditions: The Persecution Of LGBT Members In Georgia
Georgia (or the Republic of Georgia)- not to be mistaken for the State of Georgia in the US- is a transcontinental country in Europe and Asia. The country was a member of the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR or Soviet Union). The Republic of Georgia practices a unitary parliamentary system of government.
Georgian laws portray high regard for basic human rights and encourage respect for persons of all creeds. The country has been severally called out for its mishandling of certain persons. Perhaps, many of its seeming violations of human rights could be as an effect of core conventional and religious values which have been long existent in the region. Because of this, cases of human rights infringements, such as on LGBT people are mostly from citizens, rather than the government.
Why are members of the LGBT community persecuted in Georgia? Who champions the persecution? What is the stand of the Georgian government? What steps has the Georgian government taken to ensure fair treatment of all citizens?
These are some questions this article aims to answer.
LGBT Rights In Georgia
Historical precedence opines that LGBT-oriented persons have often met with hostile opposition and confrontation in Georgia. The Georgian Orthodox Church has always frowned at it. Most Georgian citizens consider homosexual acts as forbidden, and LGBT persons to be morally wrong. Hence if citizens should have their way, LGBT rights will never be granted. Members of LGBT are the most hated and socially victimized group in Georgian society.
Since 2000 the Republic of Georgia has legalized LGBT rights and given room for a change of legal gender through reassignment of gender surgery. Nonetheless, same-sex marriages or unions are banned in Georgia. Marriage in Georgia is recognized as a joining of a man and a woman to found a family. Hence, same-sex marriages annul this natural course. Nonetheless, it is against the law to discriminate amongst persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The legalization of LGBT rights in Georgia is mostly borne out of the ambition to be in a pact with the West. Invariably, their more liberal reforms are to satisfy the criteria of the European Union as entrenched in the European Convention on Human Rights. This also goes to solidify their desire to be part of NATO. The obvious Western-inclined outlook has left them hands-tied to be more liberal.
LGBT Members Versus The Georgian Society
According to a 2009 survey on social attitudes, most of the questionnaire respondents chose an alcoholic over a homosexual. This same survey showed that more than 90% of Georgians acknowledge that homosexuality is not acceptable.
Georgian society has perpetually displayed an aversion to LGBT motives. The anti-homosexual campaigns are mostly led by the Georgian Orthodox Church, the most trusted organization in Georgia, and its Patriarch Ilia II. The country has been rocked by several clashes involving supporters of homosexuality and those against it.
The LGBT freedom of expression has been greatly limited by the homophobic populace of Georgia. The earliest occurrence of such public opposition dates to 2012. In 2012, Identoba, a Georgian LGBT organization, sought to observe the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia with a peaceful procession. This was to be the first of its kind in Georgia. The demonstration wasn't successful because they were reportedly assaulted by homophobic and religious counter-protestors. Police operatives who came to quell the struggle reportedly arrested some LGBT members instead of the homophobic attackers.
In 2013, members of the LGBT community also came together to hold a march to commemorate the same event of the previous year. Like in the previous year, they were met with harsh homophobic campaigners led by priests of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Following the clash which ensued, several anti-homophobic protestors were injured. Despite the mediation of the police, observers accused them of aiding the homophobic protestors.
The government of Georgia was blamed for not doing enough to protect the rights of its citizens. Hence allowing for the abuse of some by others and hindering freedom of expression.
A scheduled Pride Week march for 2019 was also canceled due to threats from far-right groups to only allow such over their dead bodies. The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs rather advised LGBT members to subscribe to a closed-door celebration such as at stadiums and clubs for security reasons. Whereas, a large number of Georgian priests, churchgoers, and far-right associations held an anti-sodomy rally. Some also came out to commemorate "Family Purity Day," a holiday of the Georgian Orthodox Church created in 2014, a year after priests led the counter-protest against LGBTs.
The Georgian government had severally warned against the abuse of human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The government even threatens to punish by law, such perpetrators. Despite this, the majority of Georgians and the Church still don't agree with the legality of LGBT which is deemed a grave sin and abuse of nature.