Saturday, 9 April 2011

US State Department human rights report re: discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Georgia and Azerbaijan


Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation, male-to-male sex, or female-to-female sex. However, social prejudices against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) behavior were strong. The Georgian Orthodox Church strongly denounced such behavior. Cases during the year included death threats against an LGBT activist and the use of antihomosexual slogans by a candidate in the municipal elections.

There were a few LGBT organizations. However, they could not work exclusively on LGBT issues or work openly as LGBT organizations because of the extensive societal stigma against homosexuality; instead they promoted tolerance more broadly.

On April 8, threats were made against an LGBT activist by an anonymous administrator of a Georgian language Facebook Web page entitled "Death to Homosexuals." The threats were of sufficient concern that the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor's Office opened an investigation. According to the Ministry of Justice, the investigation continued at year's end. Facebook closed the Web page of its own volition.

On May 25, the GYLA filed suit to suspend the candidacy of an opposition candidate in the municipal elections for posting antihomosexual messages on his Facebook Web pages. The NGO claimed that the messages violated the election code which prohibits fostering hatred and enmity. The Tbilisi City Court ruled against GYLA.

In August false rumors of a gay pride parade in Batumi sparked the condemnation of the Georgian Orthodox Church, including a statement from the patriarch on August 20, and led to protests in front of a hotel where organizers were reportedly staying on August 25 and 26.

In December 2009 police searched the office of an NGO that promotes LGBT equality. Reportedly, they used antihomosexual slurs, made unnecessary strip searches, unnecessarily damaged organizational posters, and unnecessarily ransacked offices. The Ministry of Internal Affairs denied that any procedural violations took place and maintained that the profile of the organization was irrelevant in terms of the law. The ministry reported that its General Inspection Office gave one officer a reprimand at the "severe" level in accordance with the police code of ethics, as his actions were determined to be unethical and inappropriate for police officers. Two other officers were also given a reprimand at the "severe" level for not preventing the above-mentioned officer from making the unethical statements.

The public defender stated his priorities included protection of LGBT groups and individuals.


Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Numerous incidents of police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation occurred, according to a local NGO. Authorities did not investigate or punish those responsible for such acts, largely because victims were unwilling to file complaints due to fear of social stigma.

During the year, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community continued to refuse to lodge formal complaints with law enforcement bodies out of fear of reprisal or retaliatory persecution. Also during the year, the LGBT community held almost monthly gatherings; these were routinely raided.

During 2009 police raided gay bars on four occasions and arrested almost 50 persons. Police reportedly held the individuals and threatened to expose their sexuality publicly unless they paid a bribe. The human rights Ombudsman's Office intervened to resolve the incidents.

There was one NGO that worked on LGBT issues in the country. This NGO worked to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and provided legal advice, psychological assistance, and outreach activities. The NGO reported no official harassment of its work. There were no attempts to organize gay pride marches during the year; however, there was a small gathering on May 17 to commemorate International Anti-Homophobia Day.

On August 11, police found the bodies of two transgendered individuals, Zamiq Gasimov and Yadigar Kuzmin, in Baku. The police arrested three perpetrators who admitted to killing the two on the basis of hatred toward sexual minorities. A local NGO reported that it was unable to obtain updates on the case, for which the investigation had been closed.

In December the Prosecutor General's office issued a statement regarding a murder investigation that could be interpreted as linking "nontraditional" sexual orientation to criminal behavior.

There was societal prejudice against LGBT persons. While being fired from a job for sexual orientation remained illegal, LGBT individuals reported that employers found other reasons to fire them. Discrimination in access to healthcare was also a problem.
Report on Armenia - Police chief Alik Sargsyan, national security “hOrinats Yerkir” Arthur Baghdasaryan, and US State Department human rights report on LGBT discrimination in Armenia
Relevant post from 2010: US State Department human rights report: "Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

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