Georgian Society’s Capacities for Inclusiveness: Cultural and Legal Aspects for Acceptance of Differences

What problems does Georgia face in regards to protection of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities rights? The problem was discussed at the public discussion on “Georgian Society’s Capacities for Inclusiveness: Cultural and Legal Aspects for Acceptance of Differences” held in Batumi on December 14, 2012.

“Protection of minorities’ rights is far beyond the private interests. This is the precedent-related issue that shows how conflicts emerge between majority and minority groups and what principles should be brought in its resolution. Generally the latter defines the roles of political parties, civil society and the state in the process. Consequently we can discuss what kind of state Georgia should be: the one where everyone will be provided with the equal rights to express their own interest, or the one where citizens are ranged based on this or that criterion… The precedent-related nature of the issue is defined by the reason that the LGBT community is the least protected minority, the one which even professional human rights defenders do not deal with sincerity” – said Tamar Gurchiani human rights defender.

What should guide us when values and the lifestyle of majority and minority groups are conflicting with each other? In case of the rule-of-law state one should address the constitution. Constitution of Georgia does not deal with majority rights as such. The spirit of the document is the declaration of the public will that in Georgian case is understood as reflection of the will of the majority. The minority rights can be derived from interpretation of several provisions of the document: article 19 of Georgia’s constitution declares “everyone has the right to freedom of speech, thought, conscience, religion and belief”, and article 24 states “Everyone has the right to freely receive and impart information, to express and impart his/her opinion orally, in writing or by in any other means“.

Conflict that emerged in the village of Nigvziani in Guria region was provoked by religious sentiments of groups of two different denominations. Some of the participants of the discussion tried to explain this as the exaggeration by Georgian media, while others tried to view traces of political intrusion and manipulation. Levan Abashidze member of the Laboratorium 1918 suggested to analyze the happening in broader social-political context. He stated three main reasons why conflicts like in “Nigvziani case” emerge in Georgia: political and cultural development of Georgian society is crisis-ridden; there is the fierce lack of the social capital; and there is the need to overcome quasi-historicist and nationalistic narratives which are embedded in education and everyday life since soviet times.

Chairperson of the Freelance Journalists’ House Aslan Chanidze assessed opinions on ethnic, religious and sexual minorities cultivated by and reflected in Georgian media.

Representatives of Ajara autonomous republic government, civil society organizations and religious and ethnic minority communities attended the public discussion in Batumi Press Café.