Manifesto of May 17

 

lgbt

The Georgian society has gone through a difficult way of political, social da economic development since the Soviet Union collapse. Despite the fact that the state has recognized the idea of human rights and equality of citizens on the legislative level, in reality, certain social groups cannot enjoy their rights and are subject to structural oppression and discrimination. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people are the most marginalized, less visible and most discriminated group in Georgia.

Despite certain positive legislative changes, among which the adoption of the Law on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination in 2014 is the most noteworthy, the members of LGBTQI community are victims of systematic violence, discrimination and pursuit from the state, the society, certain institutions, including medical and educational institutions, and from employers. The state fails to react appropriately and effectively investigate hate crimes on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Homo/bi/transphobia, deep-rooted in the society, is further strengthened through politicization of LGBTQI issues and through organized anti-gay discourse by different social, political and clerical forces. It is noteworthy that the anti-gay narrative of the representatives of the Church and different political parties often coincides with the global policy of the Russian Government and the Church that tries to demonize gender issues, promoting them as “Western, licentious, perverse” values. Obviously, as a result, the evidently non-effective and non-secular politics deprive the LGBTQI people the right to enjoy their right and deepen their social marginalization.

During last years, state responses to crimes against LGBTQI people has been inadequate, as reflected in the ineffectiveness of investigations of the cases of the persons accused of dispersing the peaceful gathering of May 17, 2013, the murder of transgender woman, Sabi Beriani, and in court decisions as well. Under these conditions, confidence in state institutions is low and the victims are absolutely lone and vulnerable, facing violence. Experience of violence and discrimination affects social rights, opportunity of self-determination and self-development of the Community and deprives them the rights to be employed, enjoy healthcare services, housing and other social benefits.

In this context, politicalizing sexual orientation and gender orientation issues, mostly oriented on gaining electoral support and other political dividends, makes it more difficult to protect the rights of LGBTQI people. Propagation of anti-gay and anti-gender irrational ideas by politicians generates stereotypes and aggression in the Society. Unfortunately, the policy the state against violence on the grounds of hate and homophobic and non-secular public statements of the ruling party representatives sustains existing practices. Accordingly, the existing political environment cannot fulfil the function of representing and releasing different oppressed groups, and destines them to physical and psychological violence.

Fighting for visibility was the most significant issue on the agenda of LGBTQI Community. The backlash was most clearly reflected in the facts of restricting the freedom of assembly and expression. Expelling LGBT people from public spaces is related to misunderstanding of private and public spaces, and efforts of political parties and representatives of the Church to privatize and sacralize public spaces. The freedom of assembly of LGBTQI Community is restricted by the dominant religious group and discourse and any types of representation of LGBTQI people in public space is deemed as “propaganda of homosexuality,”[1] which results in expelling the Community members from public spaces. It becomes obvious that the binary normative views regarding sex and gender shift to wider social areas and deprive the LGBTQI people the space for self-representation. Accordingly, the spaces of expressing self-identity become exclusively private.

In the 90s, in the US, Syntia Bowman discussed the instruments of expelling women out of public spaces and referred to this process as non-formal ghettoization of women[2]. The theory of ghettoization of oppressed groups can be adapted to the Georgian reality, where homophobic attitude expels LGBTQI people from public spaces through violence and persecution and pushes them to go “home,” when even the mentioned “home” is not free of violence. The members of the community systematically become victims of physiological and physical violence from their family members.

In 2012 and 2013, violent dispersal of the manifestations related to the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), the lack of state political will and the failure to protect the rights and dignity of LGBTI persons encourages violence and makes them even more invisible as a social group. On May 17, 2013, the state failed to take appropriate measures to prevent a large-scale, violent counter-demonstration. With its failure, the state let religious and xenophobic groups to occupy the public/political space. After the events of May 17, the members of LGBTI Community cannot enjoy the right of assembly and the state openly demonstrates its loyalty towards totalitarian, extremist groups. It is noteworthy that since May 17, 2013 the cooperation between the Church and political authorities has strengthened and even the signs of institutionalization of non-secular attitudes have appeared.

May 17 this year, the LGBTQI Community was not given the opportunity to celebrate IDAHOT, which reaffirms the state policy of ignorance towards the group. May 17 has become seized and captured by different social, political and clerical groups that started to celebrate “the Day of Family Purity” with homophobia and transphobia. On the contrary to homophobic groups, it must be noted that the aim of LGBTQI community or the organizations working on their rights was not to fight for a single day. Confrontation with homophobia and transphobia is reflected in everyday, systematic and restless fight of LGBTQI activists and organizations.

It is clear that because of global confrontations of anti-gender groups that the State fails to control, social and human rights situation of LGBTQI persons becomes more and more aggravated. In this process, it is very important to realize that the main goal of homophobic and xenophobic groups is to reproduce power and sustain privileges, rather than to protect purity of homes, traditions and values, as they describe it. Accordingly, their goal is to strengthen patriarchate, sustain hierarchies and inequality inside families and reproduce power through control and repression of sexuality. They try to suppress the process of emancipation and secularization of the society, as this would decrease their privileges and power.

Therefore, it is critically important to put queer issues on the agendas of every activist, social movement and human rights organizations, as the practices of oppression are not isolated from each other, they are interrelated and reach every sphere of social life. As we realize that the reasons of oppression of different groups lie in current political, social and economic system and violent structures act in a diversified manner, we consider that fights for emancipation of all oppressed groups should become a common cause.

We should realize that oppression is not the fate of the LGBTQI community, women, workers, sex-workers, socially vulnerable groups, the homeless, or substance abusers. Human rights do not grant privilege to a certain group; rather, these values are adjusted to each individual.

The fight for visibility, freedom, and occupation of public spaces is not lost. The fight should begin today.

Accordingly, we urge human rights organizations, activists and social movements to:

  • Get involved against oppression systems and put LGBTQI issues in their agenda;
  • Start purposeful and systemic works to protect the rights of LGBTQI people;
  • Realize the significance of the fight against intersectional oppression and confront it with complex, result-oriented activities.

Accordingly, we urge the State to:

  • Ensure the protection of LGBTQI people
  • Take effective measures against homo/transphobic violence and support equality-based policy;
  • Support the LGBTQI Community to enjoy the right of assembly and expression and change the existing violent and discriminative practices;
  • Ensure secular and non-discriminative policy regarding the issues related to minorities;
  • Openly and publicly distance themselves from the propagation of hate language from different political parties.

Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG);

LGBT Georgia;

Identoba;

Temida;

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)

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[1] Ekaterine Agdgomelashvili “Homophobic hate speech and political processes in Georgia”, situation of LGBT people in Georgia, 2012, page 10

[2] Cynthia Grant Bowman “Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women”, Harvard Law Review, Volum 106, Number 3, 1993. იხ: http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1141&context=facpub