In Tbilisi, Georgia, a Georgian rights group has canceled its event for the International Day Against Homophobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) because of another rally that was planned in protest. The LGBTQ activists feared they would be met with violence from the counter-demonstration, which was put on by supporters of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
“We have seen that there were would not only be peaceful demonstrators but also illegal and out-of-control Nazi and neo-Nazi groups forcing the government to use unprecedented resources to stop hundreds of destructive citizens,” reads a statement from Equality Movement, one of the groups that supported the LGBTQ activists.
“Despite the fact that we have tried our best to avoid their activities, we were informed that they have coincided their rally with ours,” the group continues. “We LGBTQ activists recognize all the existing and real threats and took a difficult decision to cancel our rally planned at the Administration Building of the Government of Georgia.”
According to the Georgian news site Agenda, the Ministry of Internal Affairs had worked with the LGBTQ activists and guaranteed them police protection.
This guarantee, however, comes in the same week as another LGBTQ activist rally that was directly protesting a police raid of gay club, so the relationship between the police and the activists is already rocky.
In addition, local activists likely wouldn’t be comforted by guaranteed protection considering attacks from the church followers occurred on the IDAHOTB in 2013 while the activists had official police protections.
On May 17th, 2013, a reported 20,000 Georgian Orthodox church members rioted against human rights defenders. The 2013 attack occurred after the head of the Orthodox Church called homosexuality an “anomaly and a disease” and called for the government to ban the LGBTQ equality rally from happening.
Critics accused the police of doing very little to prevent the violent church members from passing through their cordon, as the Georgian news site Civil reported. Instead, they focused on evacuating the LGBTQ activists. Some of the violent church members threw trash cans at the evacuating buses and rocks at the activists, leading to 28 people being injured. Half of those individuals were hospitalized.
The country of Georgia sits broadly at the intersection of two important points in its history. First, the Georgian Orthodox community has been around for nearly 1,000 years. Since the fall of the U.S.S.R., Georgia additionally become increasingly Westernized in its legislation. Consequently, the former Soviet country has laws that protect LGBTQ people.
While Georgia has yet to provide any legal recognition for same-sex relationships, it does have a number of anti-discrimination laws around LGBTQ employment, the right to good and services and hate speech. It’s former Soviet neighbors such as Armenia, Tajkistan, and Azerbaijan do not provide LGBTQ people the same legal protections.
Culturally though, many Georgian’s aren’t accepting of LGBTQ people. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Georgia is ranked as world’s third-most homophobic countrywith 93 percent of Georgians saying they’d be against having a queer or trans neighbor. Hundreds of members of the Orthodox church marched on Thursday to support what the church called the “day of sanctity and strength of the family.”
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