The Government of Georgia submitted the 2022-2030 National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights to the Parliament, in which LGBTQI rights were omitted. Parliament will probably discuss the document from February.
The National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights is a document that creates a unified framework for strengthening the national system of basic human rights and freedoms and institutional democracy in the country. It is according to this document that further action steps are planned and it is necessary that the challenges and needs of different social groups are reflected there. LGBTQ people as a separate social group are not even mentioned in the new strategy.
“The human rights strategy serves the fulfillment of the state’s obligations to society under the constitution and the international community, as well as the unwavering protection of universally recognized human rights and freedoms,” the 2022-2030 strategy states. It follows the first national strategy (2014-2020 2012) and is its logical continuation and aims to further strengthen the systematic guarantees of protection of human rights and freedoms.
However, it should be noted that despite the reservation about the logical continuation of the tasks outlined in the previous document, the new strategy, which was approved by the government and sent to the parliament for consideration, does not mentioned the visions in the direction of LGBTQI rights protection. Moreover, the document does not mention the goals of combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which was mentioned in the previous strategy. The challenges and needs of the LGBTQI community have been neglected in the 2022-2030 national strategy.
Non-governmental organizations, activists and some politicians consider the approval of the strategy document in the mentioned form unjustified, and talk about the need to correct it.
Mariam Guliashvili, project manager of the Equality Movement, notes that the process of working on the document was opaque, and it did not take into account the involvement of community organizations. according to her, there was no response to the attempts of LGBTQI community organizations to contact the government representatives after the document was made public.
“After the publication of the document, LGBTQI community organizations even sent a letter to Niko Tatulashvili, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights Protection, but we did not receive any feedback from him. I would like to emphasize that the process of developing documents of similar importance in Georgia is quite far from the principle of inclusiveness. In order to reach civil consensus on such issues, it is not enough to collect only the proposals and comments related to the document from the organizations. The process should be supported through public discussions, workshops and in-depth discussions,” says Mariam Guliashvili.
According to the co-director of Tbilisi Pride, Anna Subeliani, it cannot be assumed that human rights are not universal, because this may cause irreversible damage in the direction of rights protection.
“It is very important for all of us to understand that if, say, today this issue is related to LGBTQI people, tomorrow it can affect any other vulnerable group. Today, simply persecuting and ignoring this group seems more favorable to the government, but if we accept that human rights are not universal, do not apply to everyone, and exclude the LGBTQI group, this can lead to an irreversible process. Again, equality is really what we all need and will only benefit everyone. Therefore, taking such steps as an obstacle to equality will have very serious consequences for the functioning of our society as a whole”, – says Ana Subeliani.
According to the lawyer of the Women’s Initiatives Support Group (WISG), Keti Bakhtadze, the issues mentioned in the document, which are related to the fight against discrimination and hate crimes, include queer people as well, because they also benefit from these protection mechanisms created in the country. However, Keti Bakhtadze says that a number of issues that are particularly important for the community are not included in the strategy, which is a problem.
“It is especially important for the community to integrate specific issues in the strategy, such as the lack of a mechanism for legal recognition of gender, the absence of clinical guidelines and protocols regulating trans health care, health issues of intersex children, and others. In addition, the improvement of the legal and social situation of LGBTQI people and the reduction of homo/bi/transphobia will be significantly facilitated by sex education in schools and the creation of protection and assistance services for victims of hate crimes. By solving these problems, apart from the LGBTQI group, many other vulnerable groups in the country will benefit. The fact that these issues are not integrated in the strategy is a clear demonstration that the state sees LGBTQI people only as victims of discrimination or hate crimes and does not recognize their needs, the satisfaction of which would prevent them from being discriminated against.” says Kati Bakhtadze.
According to the Director of International Society For Fair Elections, Nino Dolidze, “both this document and the information contained in it are very important for the country its future development”.
Mari Kapanadze, director of the civil and political rights program of the Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI), notes that it is necessary to reflect the needs of all groups that require special protection from the state in the mentioned document.
“The government does not have the political will to recognize and protect LGBTQI people, which, of course, is a significant step backwards for Georgia, which has an obligation at the national and international level to protect the rights and freedoms of every oppressed group, including LGBTQI people.” , – says Mari Kapanadze.
According to the chairman of the Republican Party, Khatuna Samnidze, the state does not recognize the problems of the LGBTQI community and has turned its back on them, which, in her opinion, “is a proof that the state, this government does not think about democracy at all, including the protection of the rights of minorities.”
According to the director of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Nona Kurdovanidze, the omission of LGBTQ issues in the strategy document is, first of all, an emphasis at the policy level that the rights of the LGBT group will not be protected in the country.
“Allowing this is completely unacceptable and it must be changed. In the strategy, there should be an appropriate entry addressed to all groups and all individuals,” says Nona Kurdovanidze.
Giorgi Tabagari, co-founder of Tbilisi Pride and project manager of Zinc Network, talks about the dangers that follow from the omission of LGBTQI people in strategic documents. According to him, this will make people nihilistic because the state does not see the challenges and needs they face.
“In the conditions when the rights of LGBTQI people are already very often violated, the absence of LGBTQI issues in the strategy and generally turning a blind eye to the fact that these people have problems and challenges that the state should take care of is devastating. This makes people feel nihilistic and pushes them to leave the country, to go where they will have basic access to the benefits that the state provides,” says Giorgi Tabagari.
Partnership for Human Rights Director, Ana Arganashvili, points out that when a document that is supposed to be against discrimination targets any group, it itself becomes an instrument of discrimination. Anas also says that the process of developing the strategy was flawed, and the involvement of civil society was formal.
“This process was conducted quite formally, that is, to create the impression that different groups were participating. The document was formally provided for comments, to express opinions, yet no one had the time to study the document and make any real suggestions and reflections. The time given was not enough, the format was not correct thus the result was not sufficient. If you offer me to participate and you don’t take my opinion into account, then participation is pointless,” Ana Arganashvili notes.
Ida Bakhturidze, co-director of Women Engage for a common Future, also talks about the concept of gender equality – a document that was adopted by the Parliament at the end of 2022, and in which gender equality is defined as the equality of women and men, while people with different gender identities are completely ignored. According to Ida Bakhturidze, the mentioned approach of the Georgian Dream is a pre-election strategy aimed at mobilizing queerphobic voters.
“This is a kind of electoral strategy, it seems, in the run-up to the 2024 election for those voters who think that this country is only for a certain group of people, only for people of a certain sex or gender identity. It is a problem when the state not only does nothing to change this, but also supports it and takes this position with an open policy,” says Ida Bakhturidze.
Director of the Social Justice Center, Tamta Mikeladze, notes that the disappearance of LGBTQI issues from strategic documents is a kind of trend, which indicates institutional homophobia. According to her, this expulsion and exclusion decision by the authorities can be described as institutionalized homophobia and discrimination against queer people.
“In the past, we talked about the fact that the state recognized LGBTQI rights at the legislative and institutional level, but the social reality for LGBTQI people did not change. Today, we see that these people are being removed even at the level of institutional politics”, says Tamta Mikeladze.
The director of Sapari, Baia Pataraia, also talks about the homophobic attitudes and pre-election goals of the Georgian Dream government.
“Unfortunately, the current government, in particular Georgian Dream, has always been characterized by homophobia, and it is by focusing on homophobia that it thinks it will mobilize the voters of its own party and uses homophobia as a tool. In politics, this is a weapon for them,” says Baia Pataraia.
According to the co-founder of Young Greens, Tamar Jakeli, this problem affects everyone who is an active citizen, who stands on the watch of democracy, justice, equality in this country, be it an activist, a politician or any other person.
“It is necessary to talk about the fact that we are slowly finding queer people outside the framework of state human rights. […] This means that when queer people face daily threats, the state can protect us less and less,” says Tamar Jakeli.
According to the co-founder of Shame Movement, Nodar Rukhadze, if the society demands that all people’s rights be protected, the government will have no choice but to do so.
“If a large part of our country’s population says that queer rights should be protected, people should be able to pursue their own happiness, then I am sure that the Georgian government will have no choice and will fulfill its duty and protect the rights of Georgian citizens. But when the majority of the population are homophobic, the government, as a traditional authoritarian populist government; a populist party, fulfills the order and continues to completely ignore the rights of queer people,” says Nodar Rukhadze.
Giorgi Mshvenieradze, a lawyer and Democracy Defenders representative, summarizes the developments around the strategy document and notes that, in his opinion, the vision of human rights should be part of the declaration of confidence in the government.
“I personally think that developing such documents at a time, which is discombobulated with the recruitment of the government in not necessary. I think it is very correct that when a vote of confidence is made in the government, the government plan, which the prime minister candidate is obliged to present, should include their vision regarding the human rights policy and these issues should be integrated in this plan, which the parliament will be able to control through periodic hearings”, says Giorgi Mshvenieradze.
The national human rights protection strategy of Georgia was approved by the government and should be discussed by the parliament. The document in its mentioned form completely ignores LGBTQI issues, which reveals the institutional queerphobic attitude towards one of the most oppressed social groups in Georgia.