The LGBTQ community has a long history of fighting for equal rights and acceptance all over the world, including Georgia. To admit the importance of a society that respects and protects the rights of LGBTQI individuals, three main aspects should be considered: freedom of expression and assembly, freedom from psychological and physical violence, and employment opportunities. In the article, we will discuss what the situation has been in Georgia over the years in terms of the legal status of the LGBTQI community.
Freedom of expression and assembly
Freedom of expression and assembly plays a crucial role in the development of LGBTQI rights in Georgia. All individuals should have the freedom to openly express their sexual orientation and gender identity without discrimination or fear. By providing LGBTQ people with safe spaces for assembly, such as Prides, protest rallies, and public events, Georgia can promote visibility and encourage dialogue on LGBTQ issues. Protecting the rights of expression and assembly means that LGBTQI voices are heard and respected, which leads to increased awareness, understanding, and social progress.
The use of the right to assembly and expression is still a significant problem for LGBTQ people in Georgia, which is related to certain groups’ attempts to privatize public space. The dominant religious, as well as ultra-conservative violent, groups have limited the LGBTQ community in enjoying the freedom of assembly, and any appearance of LGBTQ people in the public space is “perceived as propaganda of homosexuality”.
Events of 2019
Year after year, May 17th (IDAHOT), the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia in Georgia, has become a day for manifesting homophobic attitudes existing in institutions and society. Noteworthy, despite numerous public calls for violence from these groups, no appropriate and adequate response from law enforcement agencies has been made. For example, in June 2019, a number of public calls for violence were made by an ultra-conservative and violent group related to the “March of Dignity” as part of the “Tbilisi Pride Week”. They announced the creation of “People’s Legions” and patrolling the streets, however, even though the Ministry of Internal Affairs formally launched an investigation into this fact, it has not yet resulted in any decisions
We should also mention the events that took place at the premiere of the movie “And We Danced” on November 8, 2019, in Tbilisi. Violent groups gathered near the cinema openly confronted both the audience which came to see the movie and the police officers. 27 violations of administrative law were registered right there, concerning which the investigation was started, especially about the attack on the policemen and the damage to the police car. However, it should be noted that the state was careless before the premiere of the film regarding the statements of the leaders of violent groups, who issued public threats and called on supporters to disrupt the screening.
In June 2019, within the “March of Dignity” during the “Tbilisi Pride Week”, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia refused to ensure the safety of the participants of the event, at the same time, the Patriarchate of Georgia issued an official statement calling on the Georgian government not to allow the “March of Dignity” organized by “Tbilisi Pride” to be held. In response, on June 14, supporters of “Tbilisi Pride” held a rally in front of the Government Chancellery, demanding the state to guarantee their right to assembly. Some of the organizers and activists of the rally were confronted by ultra-conservative political and clerical groups, whose leaders and members openly expressed violent intentions.
Events of July 5-6, 2021
During the week of July 1-5, LGBT+ groups and their supporters, the civil movement “Tbilisi Pride”, as well as the “Shame Movement” and other civil activists organized Pride events. July 5th was supposed to be the culmination of these events, ending at 6:00 PM with the “March of Dignity” in the central district of Tbilisi. Radical, far-right, conservative, and violent groups in Georgia started mobilizing through social networks immediately after the event’s announcement and publicly expressing hate speech against Tbilisi Pride and calling for violence, including through television (“Alt-Info” TV channel).
According to the Law of Georgia on Assemblies and Demonstrations, the law enforcement authorities were obliged to take appropriate measures for the immediate termination of the assembly or demonstration before the situation became critical. However, despite the hate speech and public calls for violence at the counter-demonstration, law enforcement bodies did not take appropriate measures to stop the demonstration.
Violent actions also took place on July 6th, when citizens gathered near the Georgian Parliament building in support of LGBT+ human rights and journalists. This peaceful gathering once more became the target of a violent counter-demonstration, and the number of law enforcement agencies presented was still critically small.
Freedom from psychological and physical violence
Freedom from psychological and physical violence is a fundamental human right that must be protected for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQI people in Georgia often face various kinds of discrimination, harassment, and violence because of society.
The study from 2020 by the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), shows that:
- 52% of the respondents have been victims of violence at least once in their life, fully or partly because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- Among the interviewed respondents, the experience of violence is highest among gay (65.5%) and transgender (61.8%) respondents.
- Experience of violence is high among respondents living in Tbilisi (57%), Adjara (53.3%), and Imereti (43.8%).
- Respondents were most often subjected to verbal abuse (91%) and psychological violence (81%).
- For one-third of the respondents, there were threats of physical violence (75%) and bullying (physical or online) (73%).
- Noteworthy, a stranger (40) and a person from the group of acquaintances (39) were most often named as the aggressors. Cases, where violence was committed by members of radical, neoconservative groups in the survey totaled 13. Respondents named a family member/guardian (10 cases) or a partner (9 cases) as the perpetrator with almost equal frequency.
In recent years, the policy against crimes committed based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Georgia has improved significantly. The state agencies took important steps to improve the quality of response to crimes, as well as to produce unified statistics between law enforcement agencies and courts, however, it should be noted that the state’s response to homo/transphobic crimes still does not meet the standards of efficiency, timeliness and impartiality. To date, the state has not created a unified strategy to combat hate crimes, which would ensure the detection of the negative social effect of such crimes, which may pose a significant threat to the establishment of the principle of pluralism and equality in society, as well as the creation of a democratic and safe environment.
Right of employment
Ensuring equal employment opportunities is crucial for the representatives of the LGBTQI community to live a fulfilling life and contribute to the socioeconomic structure of Georgia. Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity can limit career prospects, reinforce economic inequality, and hinder personal growth. It is vital to implement strong legislation that prohibits discrimination in the workplace and protects LGBTQ people from unfair treatment.
A study conducted in 2018 (Aghdgomelashvili E., From Prejudice to Equality: LGBT People in Georgia) shows that 28.2% of lesbian and bisexual women were subjected to discrimination at the workplace due to their sexual orientation and gender expression, and in most cases, discrimination occurred when hiring – 21.4 %, while 11.2% and 6.5% were subjected to inequality of opportunities and discrimination in the promotion process. According to the research, lesbian and bisexual women who look gender non-conforming/non-binary face discrimination in the labor market more often. Overall, discriminatory experiences in the private sector (32.6%) are substantially higher than unequal treatment practices in the public sector.
According to the research conducted in 2020 (Jalaghania L. A Study on Social Exclusion of the LGBTQ group in Georgia), 93.1% of LGBTQ respondents agree with the opinion – “LGBTQ people, compared to others, have less access to employment”. That not only indicates the objectively existing discriminatory practices at the workplaces, but also shows the expectation of discrimination, which may create significant barriers for the job-seeker members of LGBTQI groups and they may still agree to a job with a more accepting environment, but without social benefits and adequate compensation. This is also confirmed by the distribution of the respondents of the study according to the employment sector, where the largest part comes from employment in the arts, entertainment, recreation (32.7%) and accommodation, catering services (19.20%) sectors.
In the study from 2020 by the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), we can read that:
- In the case of 60.5% of the respondents, the average salary of LGBTQ persons does not exceed 1000 GEL.
- More than a fifth of the employed respondents (22.3%) are employed in two jobs at the same time, the reason for which in the case of 9% of the respondents was the lack of salary.
- 5% of respondents indicate that they work full-time for an average of 47.4 hours per week. 20.9% of the respondents work with a free schedule, and their working time is 28.9 hours per week on average, less than a fifth of the respondents (18.6%) are employed part-time, which means an average workload of 25.1 hours per week.
- 2% of the respondents are employed without a contract, and half of the respondents (50%) work with a fixed-term contract. 16.8% is the share of those who are employed with a lifetime contract.
Recognition and protection of LGBTQI people’s rights in Georgia are necessary to create an inclusive, fair, and progressive society. By ensuring the right to expression and assembly, freedom from psychological and physical violence, and equal employment opportunities, Georgia can create an environment where all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, can live authentically and without fear. In the article, only a small list of the problems are seen that Georgia faces today in terms of protecting the rights of the LGBTQI community.