New Identities in Georgia: Taboos and Minorities

Is it necessary for the modern Georgian state to ensure human rights through collective rights for certain groups? How can identities distinct from the majority be accepted and recognized by the general society? Should this be a state policy objective? These issues were discussed at a public discussion organized by Heinrich Boell Foundation on July 23 in Batumi.

According to a survey conducted from 2009-2012, homophobia is pervasive in Georgia. This survey found that homosexuality is inacceptable for 90% of the population. Director Liana Jakeli screened her film, “The Price of Being Me”, during the discussion and noted that this homophobic atmosphere creates a strong barrier for sexual minorities to openly express their identities. The film, which portrays the current situation, presents the effects of doing so as akin to social suicide.

Asla Chanidze, Director of the House of Free Journalists, spoke about civil society’s interest in raising and discussing such issues. He observed that society is not ready to publicly discuss this topic. He said that the Ajara region currently has no appropriate human and moral resources or willingness to address discrimination towards sexual minorities.

According to Niaz Zosidze, Deputy Chair of the Supreme Council of Ajara, society should never accept “unruly” behavior. He briefly discussed an initiative of his party, the Christian Democratic Movement, which has initiated constitutional changes to limit freedom of expression for sexual minorities.

The Georgian constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex/gender and other socio-cultural characteristics. However, sexual orientation is not included in this list. Also, no law regulates the use of hate speech, which is now covered only by the law on broadcasting. According to Giorgi Gotsiridze of the Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association, this situation creates incompliance between laws and practice in Georgia, as well as international liabilities. It also fundamentally conflicts with the universal understanding of human rights that the state of Georgia recognizes.

Debates were held within the framework of the EU-funded project: “Combating Hate Language in Georgia: Litmus Test for Social Tolerance and Human Rights”