LGBT rights in Georgia (country)

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LGBT rights in Georgia
Europe-Georgia.svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal status Legal
Gender identity/expression Change of legal gender allowed, following sex reassignment surgery
Military service No known policy
Discrimination protections Yes, for both sexual orientation and gender identity
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
Constitutional ban set to take effect sometime after the 2018 elections.
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Georgia enjoy some of the rights that non-LGBT people enjoy. Georgia is one of only few countries in the former Soviet space (others being EU-member Baltic states, and Ukraine) 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][3]

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 Georgian 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."[4] Since 2014, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is outlawed. Moreover, recent street tensions in the country over LGBT rights have generated unprecedented media coverage and public discussion of this previously neglected topic.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

In 1933, Article 121 was added to the Criminal Code, for the entire Soviet Union, and expressly prohibited male homosexuality, with up to five years of hard labor in prison. The precise reason for the 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.[5]

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.[6]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Georgia does not recognize same-sex unions, either in the form of marriage or civil unions.

2016 Constitutional reform crisis[edit]

In March 2016, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition proposed a constitutional amendment, which would define marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Although Georgia's Civil Code already defines marriage as a heterosexual union, thus effectively preventing same-sex marriages, the Constitution of Georgia was gender-neutral, specifying that "Marriage shall be based upon equality of rights and free will of spouses." That gender-neutral wording caused conservative elements in the Georgian society to worry that the Civil Code may be challenged and struck down in the courts, potentially paving a way for same-sex marriages.[7]

The proposed constitutional amendment caused a backlash from Georgian civil society and human rights organizations, which assailed the legislation as way of politicizing this sensitive issue and capitalizing on popular societal prejudices ahead of the upcoming 2016 parliamentary elections. LGBT activists also distanced themselves from suggestions that they would use constitutional ambiguity to seek same-sex marriages, noting that gays in Georgia face much more immediate and existential problems than marriage, such as "physical, psychological and verbal abuse and violence".[7]

The constitutional amendment caused a split within the ruling coalition itself, with members of the liberal-leaning Republican Party of Georgia campaigning against the initiative. The opponents pointed out that besides substantive considerations, the proposed constitutional ban is a futile move since it will very likely fail to garner enough votes to pass, as was the case with a similar proposal in 2014.[7]

After a month of public consultation, the proposal was considered in Parliament. Public meetings on the ban were scheduled from mid-March until April 15 in various cities throughout the country.[8] The proposal then required three hearings on two different sessions with at least a three-month interval in between them. For the ban to be successful, a minimum of three-fourths of Parliament, or 113 of the 150 MPs, must vote in its favor.[9]

The constitutional amendment passed the Parliament on 26 September 2017, establishing that marriage exists solely as “a union between a woman and a man for the purpose of creating a family.[10] It also does away with direct elections for president and switches to a system of proportional representation in Parliament. President Giorgi Margvelashvili vetoed the constitutional amendment on 9 October, describing it as an "anti-people constitution". Parliament overrode his veto on 13 October.[11] The constitutional amendments are set to go into effect after the 2018 elections.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili had previously announced that Georgia would not hold a referendum on whether to ban same-sex marriage in the country's Constitution, saying he does not support the constitutional amendment because the Civil Code already bans same-sex marriage.[12]

Discrimination protections[edit]

LGBT flag map of Georgia

Since 2006, Article 2(3) of the Labor Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment relations.[13]

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 an anti-discrimination law, banning all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It took effect upon publication, on 7 May 2014.[14][15][16]

Hate crime laws[edit]

In spite of the legislative amendment to article 53 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which ensures that bias motivated by the sexual orientation or gender identity of a victim may be taken into account as an aggravating circumstance when determining sanctions, there are still no official statistics about crimes conducted on SOGI grounds in the country. According to the registered cases and conducted studies, it has become clear that the law prohibiting hate crime is not efficient.[17]

A study on discrimination among LGBT people in Georgia entitled 'From Prejudice To Equality: study of societal attitudes, knowledge and information regarding the LGBT community and their rights' conducted in 2012 by the Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG) revealed the following:[18] 32% of surveyed respondents had at least once experienced physical violence and 89.93% had experienced psychological violence. On average, among the 134 respondents, who had experienced psychological violence, 73.13% had become victims three or more times, 13.43% had experienced it twice, whereas 13.43% - once. All six respondents from the 16-18 age group had admitted that at school they had often become victims of bullying.[19] Among 48 respondents, who had been victims of physical violence, 73% had never reported to police. Among the reasons for not reporting to police the following was mentioned: Ineffectiveness of police – 21.62%; Fear of homophobic treatment – 29.73%; Failure by the police to treat the matter in a serious manner – 21.62%. Among those who had reported to police, 46.15% were dissatisfied with this decision, as they experienced a homophobic reaction from the police, 30% admit that the police acted in a friendly manner, while 23.08% state that they were treated neutrally.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Since 2008, transgender persons in Georgia can change documents and personal names only after having undergone sex reassignment surgery.[20]

Discrimination on the basis of gender identity is outlawed.[14]

Blood donation[edit]

In July 2017, Georgia's Constitutional Court lifted a ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, ruling that it was unconstitutional. In its ruling, the court pointed out that modern technologies allow for the detection of HIV/AIDS in donations, making a ban unnecessary.[21]

Previously, on 4 February 2014, the Constitutional Court also declared the ban unconstitutional. The ban stated that homosexuality was a restricting factor for donating blood. In response, the Health Ministry changed the wording to men who have sex with men.

LGBT freedom of expression[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 any kind of rally which features LGBT people is "offensive".[22]

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.[23] 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.[24]

Amnesty International criticized the Georgian Government for failing to effectively protect the march.[25] 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.[26]

The 2013 observance of International Day against Homophobia was also met with aggression. LGBT activists scheduled a rally to mark the occasion; however, it never took place. Thousands of anti-LGBT protestors, led by Georgian Orthodox priests, held a counter-demonstration. Protestors carried images of Jesus and signs reading "Stop promoting homosexual propaganda in Georgia" and "We don't need Sodom and Gomorrah." Some women waved symbolic 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" and proclaiming her readiness to fight. Despite a heavy police presence, the protestors stormed the barricades protecting the pro-LGBT rally. At least 28 people were slightly injured, with many trapped in buses and nearby shops and homes that were attacked by the protestors. 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 were, in private communications, cynical and humiliating to the rally participants. Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, along with other leading officials, condemned the violence. He said, "The right to gather peacefully and to freely express one's opinion is fundamental to our democracy. Every Georgian citizen benefits fully and equally from this right. 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."[27][28][29][30][31][32]

Social attitudes[edit]

According to 2011 social attitude questionnaires, homosexuals remained one of the most disliked groups in society – with most respondents preferring an alcoholic rather than homosexual colleague at work.[33] According to the same questionnaires, an estimated 91.5 percent of Georgians think that homosexuality is "completely unacceptable".[34]

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.[35]

Quantitative research performed in a recent large scale study dated June 2016 identified that negative attitudes towards LGBTI people remain dominant in Georgia.[18] Respondents expressed more negative attitudes towards bisexual and gender non-conforming men than bisexual and gender non-conforming women. Attitudes towards lesbians and gay persons are equally negative. The study showed that adverse attitudes towards lesbian and gay people have various predictors. Biphobic attitudes in Georgian society are stronger than homophobic sentiment. The higher level of biphobia is determined by bisexuality being perceived as a "fluid, unstable orientation". In terms of transphobia, sex constitutes a significant predictor: men are more inclined to express negative attitudes towards transgender and gender non-conforming persons than women. Negative attitudes towards select groups vary by village/town/capital, gender, age, level of contact/acquaintance with the LGBTI community, and level of knowledge about homosexuality. Homo/bi/transphobic attitudes are largely determined by respondents’ perceptions of traditional gender roles, and the level of right-wing authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism (the degree of influence evidently varies among individual groups). Respondents ranking high on the right-wing authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism scales far more frequently exhibit negative attitudes towards LGBTI community members. The more rigid the respondents’ understanding of traditional gender roles, the higher they rank on the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia scales.

In October 2017, Georgian football player Guram Kashia expressed support for LGBT rights, appearing at a match in the Netherlands with a rainbow armband as part of National Coming Out Day. Far-right groups held rowdy protests and violent riots in front of the Georgian Football Federation, demanding Kashia's expulsion from the national team. 8 people were arrested at the riots.[36] Other fundamentalists, including singer Gia Korkotashvili, appeared on national television, screaming prophecies of an imminent gay apocalypse. However, many supported Kashia's right to freedom of speech including many other athletes and politicians. These included President Giorgi Margvelashvili. Kakha Kaladze, a retired footballer, former Deputy Prime Minister and newly elected Mayor of Tbilisi, expressed support for Kashia, saying: "We are a democratic country. Everyone has the right to express their views, regardless of their nationality, sexual orientation or religion."[37] LGBT groups saw the support for Kashia as a sign that attitudes towards the LGBT community in Georgia are changing.

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)
Discrimination based on gender identity banned Yes (Since 2014)
Hate crime laws include sexual orientation Yes (Since 2012)
Same-sex marriages No (Constitutional ban scheduled to take effect after 2018 elections)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2008)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSM allowed to donate blood Yes (Since 2017)

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. ^ From Prejudice To Equality: study of societal attitudes, knowledge and information regarding the LGBT community and their rights
  4. ^ PM Comments on Planned Gay Rights Rally 14 May 2013
  5. ^ "State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2010. 
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b c GD Refloats Proposal on Setting Constitutional Bar to Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Georgia, 8 March 2016, Retrieved: 9 March 2016
  8. ^ Public hearing process begins for constitutional ban on same-sex marriage
  9. ^ Georgia: MPs Launch Proceedings For Setting Constitutional Bar To Same-Sex Marriage
  10. ^ Georgia's Ruling Party 'Supermajority' Passes Unilateral Constitutional Reform
  11. ^ "Parliament Overrides Presidential Veto on Constitutional Amendments". Civil Georgia. 13 October 2017. 
  12. ^ Georgia’s President Blocks Proposed Referendum To Ban Same-Sex Marriage
  13. ^ Article 2(3), Labor Code of Georgia
  14. ^ a b Civil Georgia. "Civil.Ge - Anti-Discrimination Bill Adopted". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  15. ^ "Georgia's Antidiscrimination Law Opposed By Church Comes Into Effect". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "სსიპ "საქართველოს საკანონმდებლო მაცნე"". სსიპ ”საქართველოს საკანონმდებლო მაცნე”. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  17. ^ WISG, (2012). Situation of LGBT People in Georgia. Tbilisi.
  18. ^ a b From Prejudice To Equality: study of societal attitudes, knowledge and information regarding the LGBT community and their rights
  19. ^ WISG, (2012). Situation of LGBT People in Georgia. Tbilisi.
  20. ^ Georgian Laws Discriminate on Transgender Rights
  21. ^ Georgia’s Constitutional Court lifts ban on gay blood donation
  22. ^ "BBC NEWS - Europe - 'Gay' rally in Georgia cancelled". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Fighting at gay rights march in Tbilisi Georgia", BBC News, 17 May 2012
  24. ^ "HRIDC statement on the dispersal of LGBT organization Identoba's demonstration". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  25. ^ "'Virulent' homophobic attacks put South Caucasus activists at risk". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  26. ^ "'Identoba' files an application to the European Court of Human Rights against Georgia", 29 January 2013
  27. ^ "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
  28. ^ "Thousands protest in Georgia over gay rights rally", BBC News, reported by Damien McGuinness, 17 May 2013
  29. ^ "Police, special task forces save gay parade participants from outraged citizens in Tbilisi", Ukraine News, Interfax News Agency, 17 May 2013
  30. ^ "Georgia". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  31. ^ "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. 
  32. ^ "LGBT rights and the long road to democracy in Georgia", Foreign Policy, posted by Arianne Swieca, 17 May 2013
  33. ^ Lomsadze, Giorgi. Georgia: Time for Homosexuality to Come Out of the Closet? EurasiaNet.Org. Published:15 February 2011. Retrieved:25 June 2011
  34. ^ "Georgia: Time for Homosexuality to Come Out of the Closet?". EurasiaNet.org. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  35. ^ Chuck Stewart, The Greenwood Encyclopaedia of LGBT issues worldwide, 2010
  36. ^ 8 arrested in protest riots over Georgian footballer’s LGBT armband RT, 1 November 2017
  37. ^ Athletes, Politicians Back Georgian Soccer Player's Support for LGBT Rights Global Voices, 5 November 2017