LGBT rights in Georgia

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This article is about LGBT rights in the country of Georgia. For LGBT rights in the U.S. state of Georgia, see LGBT rights in Georgia (U.S. state).
LGBT rights in Georgia
Georgia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Military service No known policy
Discrimination protections Yes
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
No
Adoption No

Georgia is one of only few countries in the former Soviet space (others being EU-member Baltic states) that directly prohibits discrimination against LGBT people in legislation, labor-related or otherwise, and considers crimes committed on the grounds of one's sexual orientation an aggravating factor in prosecution.[1] Despite this, homosexuality is considered a major deviation from highly traditional Orthodox Christian values prevalent in the country, where public discussions of sexuality in general tend to be shunned. Consequently, homosexuals are often targets of abuse and physical violence.[2]

The government tries to bring the country's human rights record in line with the demands of Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Former Georgia's Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has stated that "sexual minorities are the same citizens as we are... [and that] the society will gradually get used to it."[3] Moreover, recent street tensions in the country over LGBT rights have generated unprecedented media coverage and public discussion of this previously neglected topic.

Legal history of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

In 1933, Article 121 was added to the criminal code, for the entire Soviet Union, that expressly prohibited male homosexuality, with up to five years of hard labor in prison. The precise reason for the new law is still in some dispute. Some historians have suggested that Joseph Stalin's enactment of the anti-gay law was, like his prohibition on abortion, an attempt to increase the Soviet birthrate. The article was also used by Soviet authorities against dissident movements, with many activists being arrested on trumped-up sodomy charges.

After Georgia obtained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the aforesaid practice fell out of use and there are no recorded cases of sodomy article being openly used against political opponents ever since. Despite this, the freedom of same-sex sexual activity was not officially enshrined in the law until 2000, when the Georgian government put in place an amended criminal code to meet the standards set forth by the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights.[4]

The age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual sex stands at 16 years of age as set by the Georgian Penal Code Articles 140 and 141.[5]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Since 2006, Article 2(3) of the Labor Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment relations.[6]

According to the amended Georgian Criminal Code (since 2012), committing crimes against individuals based on sexual orientation, among other things, is an aggravating factor that should result in tougher sentences during prosecution.[1]

On 2 May 2014, the parliament approved the anti-discrimination law banning all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It took effect upon publication, on 7 May 2014.[7][8][9]

LGBT freedom of expression[edit]

Initial public events[edit]

An event in 2006 that supposed to promote the tolerance and cultural dialogue was canceled after the rumours spread that it was supposedly a gay parade. The head of Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilya stated that the any kind of rally which features LGBT people are "offensive".[10]

On 17 May 2012, Georgian LGBT organisation Identoba organized a peaceful march in observance of International Day against Homophobia. This was the first public march in support of LGBT equality in Georgia. The march was discontinued soon after it started, however, because the marchers were assaulted by religious counter-demonstrators, including representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church and radical Christian groups.[11] Police intervened to protect the march participants only after the fighting had already broken out and arrested some of the victims instead of the perpetrators.[12] Amnesty International criticized the Georgian government for failing to effectively protect the march.[13] On 14 January 2013, LGBT organization Identoba and the participants of the march filed an application against Georgia with the European Court of Human Rights. The application claims that Georgia failed to effectively protect the participants of LGBT march and did not investigate or adequately punish the perpetrators.[14]

2013 violence[edit]

The 2013 observance of International Day against Homophobia was also met with aggression by thousands of anti-LGBT protestors, led by radical Georgian Orthodox priests. Protesters carried images of Jesus and signs reading "Stop promoting homosexual propaganda in Georgia" and "We don't need Sodom and Gomorrah." Some women waved bundles of nettle to "beat the gay people", including one woman who labeled the rally a "gay parade" held by "sick people ... against our traditions and ... morals". Despite a heavy police presence, the protesters stormed the barricades protecting the pro-LGBT rally, injuring at least 28 people, with many trapped in buses and nearby shops and homes that were also attacked by the protesters. According to a video from the scene, the police saved one young man from an apparent lynching by several dozen people. According to the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, however, the state "failed to ensure conduct of the scheduled event ... and thus [the] rights of rally participants to assembly and manifestation were grossly violated." Observers indicated that the police allowed Orthodox clergymen and other demonstrators to enter the barricaded area and privately expressed cynical attitudes, disparaging the rally participants. Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, along with other leading officials, condemned the violence, saying that "the right to gather peacefully and to freely express one's opinion is fundamental to our democracy...Acts of violence, discrimination and restriction of the rights of others will not be tolerated, and any perpetrators of such acts will be dealt with according to the law."[15][16][17][18][19][20]

Post-2013 events[edit]

In the aftermath of the 2013 clashes, 2014 went without any public LGBT demonstrations. Nevertheless, on 17 May 2015, Georgia's LGBT community marked the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by holding small public demonstrations with rainbow flags in several locations. Unlike the 2013 event, the 2015 anniversary went without incidents, and the participants were protected by many buses full of police, who outnumbered the demonstrators.[21]

Notable incidents[edit]

In February 2005, the Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Zhvania was found naked and dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in a secret apartment with another man, Raul Usupov, who also died. The incident has been a recurring flashpoint in Georgia's political life ever since, with Zhvania's bodyguards arguing that his death was a homosexual encounter gone wrong, and his homophobic family maintaining that it was a politically motivated murder. In 2015, Zhvania's bodyguards admitted to tampering with the scene in order to erase any traces that the two men have had sex, so as to "keep his [Zhvania’s] name clean".[22][23] When asked about homosexuals, Zhvania's brother Gogla stated that he finds homosexuals disgusting and that if Zhvania was one of them, it would be a disgrace to his family, though Gogla maintained that it was not the case.[24]

Social attitudes[edit]

Similar to their inconsistent religious beliefs, Georgians maintain contradictory attitudes towards LGBT people. According to a 2013 statistically sampled survey of Tbilisi on the subject of 2013 LGBT demonstrations, 87% of residents said that physical violence is "always unacceptable" but 50% of the same respondents also said that violence is acceptable towards groups that threaten "national values". Similarly, although 91% said that everyone, including the clergy, should be equal before the law, 57% thought that clergy who participated in violence against LGBT persons should not face trial. When asked whom they would not like to see as their neighbor, 31% named homosexuals, which was three percentage points below criminals who lead the ranks of undesirables. 40% of respondents disagreed with the notion that church should be intolerant towards sexual minorities, 45% agreed with church intolerance of sexual minorities, while 15% were uncertain. 57% stated that the successful organization of a peaceful demonstration dedicated to IDAHOT would endanger Georgia in some way.[25]

In surveys conducted several years earlier, homosexuals remained one of the most disliked groups in society – with most respondents preferring an alcoholic rather than homosexual colleague at work.[26] According to the same questionnaires, an estimated 91.5 percent of Georgians think that homosexuality is "completely unacceptable".[27]

In October 2007 one of the contestants on the reality TV show Bar-4 outed himself on public television. After reportedly receiving a call from the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II of Georgia, the Georgian president allegedly pressured the producers of the show into evicting the gay participant from the TV program.[28]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 2000)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2000)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2006)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2014)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2014)
Same-sex marriages No (Constitutional ban proposed)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Emblem-question.svg
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSM allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b ILGA-Europe, President of Georgia signs anti-discrimination amendment 20 April 2012
  2. ^ Global Rights report on Georgia (country)
  3. ^ PM Comments on Planned Gay Rights Rally 14 May 2013
  4. ^ "State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults" (PDF). 
  5. ^ Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by Georgia – A report prepared for the Committee on the Rights of Child 34th Session – Geneva, September 2003 Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved. 25 June 2011.
  6. ^ Article 2(3), Labor Code of Georgia
  7. ^ Civil Georgia. "Civil.Ge - Anti-Discrimination Bill Adopted". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Georgia's Antidiscrimination Law Opposed By Church Comes Into Effect". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "სსიპ ”საქართველოს საკანონმდებლო მაცნე”". სსიპ ”საქართველოს საკანონმდებლო მაცნე”. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "BBC NEWS - Europe - 'Gay' rally in Georgia cancelled". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  11. ^ "Fighting at gay rights march in Tbilisi Georgia", BBC News, 17 May 2012
  12. ^ "HRIDC statement on the dispersal of LGBT organization Identoba's demonstration". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  13. ^ "‘Virulent’ homophobic attacks put South Caucasus activists at risk". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "'Identoba' files an application to the European Court of Human Rights against Georgia", 29 January 2013
  15. ^ "Crowds break up gay rights rallies in Georgia, Russia", Reuters, reported by Margarita Antidze and Liza Dobkina, published in the Chicago Tribute, 17 May 2013
  16. ^ "Thousands protest in Georgia over gay rights rally", BBC News, reported by Damien McGuinness, 17 May 2013
  17. ^ "Police, special task forces save gay parade participants from outraged citizens in Tbilisi", Ukraine News, Interfax News Agency, 17 May 2013
  18. ^ "Georgia". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "GYLA.GE - News - Initial evaluation of observer organizations on the scheduled rally on May 17, the International Day against homophobia and transphobia". GYLA. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "LGBT rights and the long road to democracy in Georgia", Foreign Policy, posted by Arianne Swieca, 17 May 2013
  21. ^ Anti-Homophobia Day Marked in Tbilisi, Civil Georgia, 17 May 2015.
  22. ^ Jury Finds Late PM Zhvania’s Bodyguards Guilty of Neglect, Civil Georgia, 15 August 2015
  23. ^ Two former guards found guilty of negligence in Zurab Zhvania’s death, Democracy & Freedom Watch, 15 August 2015
  24. ^ "If Zurab turned out to be a homosexual, would you consider him a disgusting person?" – Tamar Chergoleishvili to Gogla Zhvania, Georgian Journal, 13 February 2015
  25. ^ Survey on the May 17th Events in Tbilisi, Caucasus Research Resource Centers, 26 August 2013
  26. ^ Lomsadze, Giorgi. Georgia: Time for Homosexuality to Come Out of the Closet? EurasiaNet.Org. Published:15 February 2011. Retrieved:25 June 2011
  27. ^ "Georgia: Time for Homosexuality to Come Out of the Closet?". EurasiaNet.org. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  28. ^ Chuck Stewart, The Greenwood Encyclopaedia of LGBT issues worldwide, 2010