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Irakli Gharibashvili: “They [LGBTQ+ people] face no danger in our country. There is not a single fact of such discrimination and I would like to say that if there ever were a separate case, obviously it should not be generalised.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement is a LIE

Resume: Despite some positive changes in the law (antidiscrimination legislation) enacted in the past years, the government’s measure cannot adequately respond to the challenges in regard to the protection of LGBTQ+ people.

LGBTQ+ people living in Georgia still face numerous systemic problems which are stipulated by deep-rooted stigma and stereotypes in the public, on the one hand, and by the government’s superficial approach, on the other hand.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ people are still unable to fully enjoy their rights and given the growing number and influence of different hate groups, they are still victims of violence, pressure and discrimination. In their daily lives, they experience hardships in fully enjoying their labour, healthcare, education and other rights.

Analysis

On 5 July 2021, the March for Dignity was supposed to take place in Tbilisi as part of Pride Week. However, as a result of the violence committed and announced by homophobic groups as well as the virtual inaction of the government, organisers were unable to hold the event.

Prior to the homophobic groups engaging in violence, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, issued a statement and said that it was unreasonable to hold the March for Dignity.

The Prime Minister’s statement reads: “Our people do not have a problem with anyone, including these people. These people, representatives of minorities, work and live in an absolutely normal environment and situation every day. They face no danger in our country. There is not a single fact of such discrimination and I would like to say that if there ever were a separate case, obviously it should not be generalised.”

FactCheck verified the accuracy of Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement.

Georgia’s legislation has been significantly amended over the past years to improve the situation for sexual minorities. Nevertheless, important challenges still remain. In particular, LGBTQ+ groups are unable to fully enjoy their rights and, as a result of the growth of a number of hate groups and their influence, they are still victims of violence, pressure and discrimination. They also experience difficulties in fully enjoying their labour and education rights as well as their right to access healthcare and social services.

Since the challenges facing LGBTQ+ people are systemic and all-encompassing and it is impossible to adequately discuss them in one article, FactCheck offers a short overview of the major problems of the past years which remain unaddressed today.

Hate Motivated Crimes

There are no unified and comprehensive statistics on hate-motivated crimes vis-à-vis sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGIE) which would show a picture of the previous years.

In September 2020, a memorandum on cooperation to create a joint data system for crimes committed on the grounds of intolerance and publishing a joint report was signed. However, only October-December 2020 figures are currently available on the website of the National Statistics Office of Georgia.

According to the report, the Ministry of Internal Affairs launched investigations on 246 crimes motivated by intolerance with discrimination in October-December 2020. Of these cases, gender identity was the ground for discrimination in seven cases and sexual orientation in six cases. In the reporting period, three individuals were convicted for crimes committed on the ground of gender identity and six individuals were convicted for crimes on the ground of sexual orientation.

The website of the Prosecutor’s Office also shows statistical data in regard to crimes committed on the grounds of intolerance, albeit incompletely.

Graph 1: Number of Criminal Cases on Alleged Crimes Committed on the Ground of Sexual Orientation or/and Gender Identity by Years (Georgian Prosecutor’s Office Data)

Source: Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia

Graph 2: Number of Criminal Prosecutions Launched on Alleged Crimes Committed on the Ground of Sexual Orientation or/and Gender Identity

These graphs demonstrate that the number of criminal cases as well as prosecutions launched on possible crimes committed on the grounds of sexual orientation or/and gender identity has been rising annually. However, it is vague whether this rise is stipulated by increased reporting or if the crimes are in fact committed more often.

Of note is that according to the report of the Public Defender of Georgia, entitled Report on Positive Obligations of Law Enforcement Officers to Protect the Equality of Vulnerable Groups, the study of hate-motivated crimes committed in 2019-2020 showed that LGBT+ community members were most active in reporting the crimes. The same report reads that some of the alleged hate crimes committed against LGBT+ people were related to physical and verbal abuse, beatings and death threats as well as cases of assault on the office of an organisation working on LGBT+ rights.

However, of additional interest is that some of the cases were related to verbal abuse from police officers. The report also highlights the inaction of the police in certain cases.

All of these indicate that in the light of increased reporting, the inadequate response from law enforcement on crimes still remains a problem.

Right of Assembly and Manifestation

For the LGBT+ community, it is also challenging to use their right of assembly and manifestation. The most vivid example is the events of 17 May 2013 and the problems associated with Tbilisi Pride occurring nearly every year.

Apart from a clear activation of far-right, homophobic groups against the LGBT+ community in the last years, which is often encouraged by Orthodox clergymen, it is also a problem that the government is mostly inactive or responds inadequately to prevent threats coming from such groups. For instance, in 2019, when Giorgi Gakharia was the Minister of Internal Affairs, the MIA refused to provide protection for participants of the March for Dignity. To remind readers, homophobic mobs smashed tents outside of the Parliament of Georgia, raided the offices of the Shame Movement and other civic organisations and attacked or/and physically assaulted at least 50 journalists.

The government also demonstrated indifference vi-à-vis the March for Dignity scheduled for 5 July 2021. Although homophobic groups announced their intention to disrupt the march, the government did not take effective measures.

Discrimination of LGBT+ People in Different Fields

Discrimination in labour relations has been one of the major problems for LGBT+ people for years. Despite a number of legislative acts and a national action plan, which provide a foundation to protect the rights of LGBT+ people, these changes did not find reflection in practice due to their ineffective enforcement.

One of the recent studies of the Social Justice Centre (former EMC), entitled Social Exclusion of the LGBTQ Group in Georgia, is a good illustration of the socio-economic problems facing LGBT+ individuals. According to this study, 93.1% of respondents agree that “LGBTQ people have less access to employment than others.” In addition, 28.8% of respondents stated they have been victims of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity or association in the last two years. In the same period, 36.9% of respondents left their job voluntarily while 9.2% left their job against their will.

LGBT+ individuals face barriers in the field of education as well. Bullying LGBT+ people and an intolerant environment in schools has been a problem for years. According to the Social Justice Centre’s study, 32.2% of respondents (N=292) named homophobic discrimination by teachers and/or school administration whilst 41.9% named homophobic bullying by classmates/schoolmates as a barrier to receiving general education (see the Equality Movement’s study on this issue).

Access to an adequate quality of healthcare is also a problem for LGBT+ people. According to one of the studies carried out in 2015 and submitted to a UN independent expert, 39% of medical staff interviewed believed that homosexuality was a disease.

The health confidentiality is also an issue for LGBT+ individuals, since health workers often disclose the medical history of such individuals. It is also an often occurrence when transgender people are refused medical treatment.

Homelessness and discrimination in the housing field is yet another important challenge. According to the Social Justice Centre’s 2020 study, 44.8% of respondents indicated that the experience of homelessness was related to their identity. In addition, 41.9% named violence due to identity by family members as a factor behind their homelessness.

The 2020 report of the Public Defender of Georgia also pays attention to discrimination against LGBT+ individuals in the housing field. According to the report, in some cases private individuals refused to rent out publicly listed property if the contractor was a representative of the LGBT+ community.

Conclusion

As a conclusion, we have to reiterate that despite some positive changes in the law (antidiscrimination legislation) enacted in the past years, the government’s measures cannot adequately respond to the real challenges in regard to the protection of LGBTQ+ people.

LGBTQ+ people living in Georgia still face numerous systemic problems which are stipulated by deep-rooted stigma and stereotypes in the public, on the one hand, and by the government’s superficial approach vis-à-vis the existing problems, on the other hand.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ people are still unable to fully enjoy their rights and given the growing number and influence of different hate groups, they are still victims of violence, pressure and discrimination. In their daily lives, they experience hardships in fully enjoying their labour, healthcare, education and other rights. Therefore, the Prime Minister’s statement that such discrimination is non-existent and separate cases should not be generalised is a LIE.


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