May 17: Memory and Perspectives – Panel Discussion to Reassess Past Experiences and Set Future Perspectives

On the occasion of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Tbilisi Pride, with the support of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), organised a panel discussion – May 17: Memory and Perspectives.

The panel discussion brought together members of the LGBTQ community, representatives of local and international civil society organisations, activists, the diplomatic corps, media representatives and politicians. To discuss with the speakers the challenges facing Georgian queer people, infringements on the freedom of speech and assembly, years of experience with violence and LGBTQ achievements in the direction of human rights.

Tbilisi Pride live broadcast

MP Tariel Nakaidze delivered a speech about the situation of minorities, common oppression and mutual solidarity. According to Nakaidze, building a democratic country and a free environment without solidarity is difficult to imagine, which is especially important at a time when the state does not allow it.

“If we want to have a bright future, to live in a democratic country, in a free environment, first of all, we must be in solidarity with the people, regardless of their orientation or any distinctive sign. Unfortunately, we do not see any good treatment of any minority by our current government, it is difficult to find any hope, it is difficult to find a positive context, so different social groups should be even more in solidarity with each other at this time. The main value is the human being and we must have a clear, open and explicit position on the rights of the individual. It is necessary for more and more activists to be involved in the parliamentary processes, and I am personally ready to be the voice of the minorities, because it is necessary to start actively talking about taboo topics. It is difficult to say how much progress can be made in these conditions, but I think that the struggle always has a result and we must all stand together – politicians, society. The changes that have been achieved in the direction of citizens’ attitudes should be continued and everyone should play their role in this, including us, the parliamentarians, “Tariel Nakaidze said while talking to us.

MP Khatuna Samnidze believes that the main problem in politics is the fear of talking about LGBTQ issues, which makes it difficult to make progress.

“First of all, the fear of talking, discussing and relating to the community should be overcome in politics. LGBTQ issues are not part of politics, parliamentary work and I think this is the main problem. Politicians avoid working on similar topics and interacting with the community, which needs to change. Gaining equality is a long, tedious process that requires patience from the community and their supporters, and the state does not recognise the problem, which makes it difficult to make progress. Public sentiment is changing, as evidenced by opinion polls, and even if they aren’t accepting, many condemn the violence. However, more work is needed now to see the progress clearly, “- said Khatuna Samnidze.

Tbilisi Pride live broadcast

The Deputy Public Defender of Georgia, Ekaterine Skhiladze, spoke about the legal status of LGBTQ people and the attitudes of the society. Speaking to us, Skhiladze assessed the challenges facing the LGBTQ community and noted that the main problem is that LGBTQ issues are not part of state policy.

“The biggest challenge for the LGBTQ community today is that issues that are important to them are not part of state policy. Inconsistent state policies fail to address cases of discrimination or other important human rights issues. However, it is important to note that the celebration of May 17 was linked to violations of the right to assembly and expression. For years, community members and their supporters have not been able to celebrate this day in a free, safe space due to lack of state will.

Tbilisi Pride live broadcast

Journalist Khatia Ghoghoberidze, a member of the Council of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics, presented a report on the role of the media in overcoming homophobia and transphobia. She said the media should understand the role it plays in educating the public and try to provide information to the audience so that people can draw conclusions in favor of love and kindness.

“Representatives of the media provide information to the audience and we must work in such a way that the society draws conclusions not in favor of hatred and evil, but in favor of love and kindness, realising that people do not deserve hatred and exclusion. The media also has the role of educating the public, and if we follow the current trajectory of our society, we will not get the result we want our country, our future. Even the oppression of one person is the responsibility of any citizen who worries about the fate of the country. The role of the media is to increase the self-awareness of citizens, to directly call abusers abusers and not to refer to them as human rights defenders, which we have seen happen. People chasing people on the street were referred to by the media as human rights defenders. It is important to separate from each other and call everything by its name, it will definitely bring results. We have a small achievement, but it is necessary to go even further and, in addition to the information space, to better understand the background of hatred and stigma when working on comedy or entertainment programs, ”said Khatia Ghoghoberidze, speaking about the role of the media.

Among the speakers of the panel discussion was also a gender and human rights researcher, activist, Levan Berianidze, who spoke about the history of May 17, the achievements and challenges in the field of visibility policy. Nino Bolkvadze, Director of Equality 17, spoke about the importance of freedom of assembly and expression, as well as the decisions of the European Court.

During the panel discussion, the Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, the Deputy Director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) Office in Georgia, Teona Kufunia, and the Permanent Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to Georgia, Nick Beresford addressed the audience.

The concluding part of the panel discussion was in a question-and-answer format, during which the speakers discussed with the audience the challenges that the LGBTQ community has today and the plans for progress towards equality.

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