Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Georgia PM’s EU trick: ‘OK for LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill, but only if we discriminate more, constitutionally’

Georgia's PM offers setting constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as a trade-off for passing LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill. Basically, on one hand, the authorities in Tbilisi are showing-off with anti-discrimination bill to tick all the EU check boxes, on the other hand, in practice, constitutionally reinforcing the very discrimination they (supposedly) committed to tackle.
In parallel to endorsing an anti-discrimination bill, which will now be submitted to Parliament for confirmation, the Georgian government has also proposed to define marriage in the constitution as a “union of man and woman.” The proposal, as PM Irakli Garibashvili put it, aims at avoiding “speculation” over the planned anti-discrimination legislation, which will provide protection against discrimination on the ground of, among others, sexual orientation. Adoption of this legislation is among requirements set in Georgia’s Visa Liberalisation Action Plan with the EU. Article 36 of the Georgian constitution currently reads: “Marriage shall be based upon equality of rights and free will of spouses.” Same-sex marriage is already banned in Georgia’s civil code, which defines marriage as “voluntary union of man and woman.”
For the European Union to accept the proposed ‘solution’ would make a mockery of the very idea of anti-discrimination legislation they are trying to enforce. This would be a dangerous precedent, indeed. What is a point of anti-discrimination bill if as a result of its approval you are getting discrimination constitutionally reinforced?! I’d say better not have such legislation at all.

If Georgia is not ready yet to move closer towards the EU, then it's not ready. The EU should never agree with such artificial and unacceptable trade-off, which is nothing less than throwing dust in the eyes.

As Georgian gay rights group Identoba noted, the country is on a “dangerous path” with proposed homophobic amendment in the constitution.
[…] Campaigning on  xenophobic and recently, on homophobic grounds has been a strategy of choice for most political players in the country, since it gained independence in the 1990s. The initiative came as  shock to many, since the issue of same-sex marriage has never come to the agenda of LGBT movement in Georgia which has struggled to exercise basic rights to security and protection. In 2012 and in 2013, under UNM and GD parties being in power, respectively, Georgia has consistently failed to ensure the freedom of assembly for Georgian LGBT activists. Georgia has not been able to persecute a single person for the horrific attacks against LGBT activists and supporters on  May 17th, IDAHO day. Therefore, constitutionally banning the prospect of marriage equality, already banned by Georgia’s Civil Code, can only be seen as a homophobic move. It further deteriorates already feeble state of LGBT human rights in Georgia. If the amendment is successfully initiated, it will directly violate universal equality of single parents, LGBT community and many others who do not live nuclear families. Alarmingly, this homophobic and cynical move ultimately kills the very spirit of equality protection of incoming Anti-Discrimination Law. 
Identoba, Georgia’s largest LGBT and gender equality protection NGO calls on all parties to speak up against proposed changes in Georgia’s Constitution.


artmika said...

Anti-Discrimination Bill Adopted

(UPDATE: initial voting result was revised as electronic voting system malfunctioned, showing wrongly that one MP was against; initial result also failed to record several votes in favor; revised result showed that the bill was passed unanimously)

Parliament adopted with 115 votes to 0 with its third and final reading anti-discrimination bill on May 2.

According to legislation on “Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination” it provides for protection against discrimination on the grounds of race, color, language, gender, age, citizenship, native identity, birth, place of residence, property, social status, religion, ethnic affiliation, profession, family status, health condition, disability, expression, political or other beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, and “other grounds”. [...]

Human rights organization were criticizing the bill for being a significantly watered down version of the draft originally developed by the Ministry of Justice as it no longer envisaged efficient implementation mechanisms, including financial penalties for perpetrators.

The major opposition came from the Georgian Orthodox Church, which was insisting on removing of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the bill; Church’s opposition culminated in heated debates at human rights committee session in the Parliament on April 29 during which Orthodox clerics warned GD lawmakers of political consequences for not heeding Patriarchate’s calls.

Street rallies were also held outside the Parliament in Kutaisi, as well as in Tbilisi, by Orthodox groups led by priests. Scale of those protests were much smaller compared to huge rallies, which the Georgian Orthodox Church staged in 2011, when it was strongly opposing adoption of the law on legal status of religious minority groups – the legislation was adopted at the time despite the protest.

There were few dissenting voices within the Church; one of them, archpriest from Zugdidi, Ilarion Shengelia, wrote on his Facebook on April 30 that he had read the bill “but could not find anything tragic or anti-Christian” in it. “The Church has always been against violence, injustice and discrimination,” he wrote.

While rejected calls for removing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the bill, in an attempt to soothe Church’s concerns GD parliamentary majority made number of changes in the legislation when it was discussed with the second hearing, including by introducing wording “public moral” in the bill.

In the political spectrum, a coalition of several non-parliamentary opposition parties, led by former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze, was the most vocal in criticizing the bill. Criticism of the bill from politicians of this coalition, among them of Tbilisi mayoral candidate in the June 15 local elections Dimitri Lortkipanidze, was mainly echoing those voiced by the Georgian Orthodox Church.

UNM parliamentary minority group voted for the bill, but echoing concerns of human rights organizations, UNM lawmakers also expressed regret that the bill was not providing enough mechanisms to make it an efficient tool in fight against discrimination.

artmika said...


According to the legislation Public Defender’s Office (PDO) will be in charge of overseeing anti-discrimination measures. Complaints about alleged cases of discrimination should be filed to PDO. The latter will also have the right to look into reported cases on its own initiative without waiting for a formal complaint to be filed.

PDO should at first mediate between the parties involved in order to try to reach an out-of-court settlement; if the attempt yields no result, PDO will then send a “recommendation” to an entity or a person to address a problem related to discrimination; if this recommendation is left unheeded, PDO can then take the case to court.

A victim of discrimination, according to the legislation, will have the right to seek remedies in court that, among others, may also include pecuniary and non-pecuniary compensation.

But human rights and legal advocacy organizations say that this measure is far from being efficient as in practice it actually means that in most of the cases perpetrators can get away without any financial penalty because on the one hand instance of discrimination usually incurs no financial damage and seeking for compensation for moral damages, as the practice shows, is too complicated. Human rights groups were insisting on introduction of financial penalties for violators of this law, but the proposal was rejected by the government and GD parliamentary majority group.

Adoption of the anti-discrimination law was one of those requirements, which Georgia has undertaken under its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan in order to be granted short-term visa-free regime by the EU.