UN Independent Expert reports on protection against violence of the queer community in Georgia
By Levan Abramishvili
Tuesday, June 11
United Nations General Assembly recently published a report of Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on his visit to Georgia, from 25 September to 5 October 2018.
In the report, the Expert assesses the implementation of existing national and international human rights standards to combat violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and gives a panoramic view of the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons in Georgia.
According to the report, during his visit, the Independent Expert met with representatives of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, local authorities and the Public Defender’s Office.
The report encompasses various aspects of the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, including the overview of the context; the institutional, legal and public policy framework; the lives of queer people in Georgia and discrimination.
In light of the information collected about the abovementioned facets of the issue, the Expert identifies positive steps and remaining challenges and formulates recommendations to strengthen the protection of persons against phobia-based hate crimes and violence and to curtail, and ultimately eradicate, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Even though the report mentions some of the implemented valuable policy actions in the field of human rights, “unfortunately, a very significant majority of the targets set have not been met, and very little progress can be observed on most of them.” According to the report, this was consistent with the stories of the members of the queer community that the Expert met with, “who described a situation in which public measures had not yet had any meaningful impact.”
The Independent Expert also observes that some of the key issues are still unaddressed in the legal and policy framework. Including “the right of trans persons to legal recognition of gender identity, regulation of and access to gender-affirming treatment, and ensuring the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons deprived of liberty.”
As mentioned above, the Independent Expert personally met with the members of the community, according to the report, “very few are protected by status or wealth; others leave the country and break their family bonds to seek asylum elsewhere.”
The Expert concluded that the stigma against the queer community in Georgia stems from “beliefs in the need to maintain traditional family units and “traditional values”; the view that diverse sexual orientation and gender identity is abnormal; and rigid expectations about how women and men should look and behave.”
The report states that the majority of violence against queer people remains undocumented and, if reported, “it is rendered invisible by improper qualification or recording.”
The Independent Expert also touches upon the issue of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) and the events that took place on May 17 of 2013, when a group of peaceful protesters were commemorating IDAHOTB, when they were attacked by thousands of far-right and church groups. The expert “encourages Georgia to take the necessary steps to ascertain the truth surrounding the events, establish responsibilities, and take the necessary measures of reparation.”
The report concludes that there are significant gaps in terms of implementation of the legal framework that hinder the ability of the State to address the violence against queer people. “As a result, hate speech is on the rise, homophobic and transphobic hate crime remains rampant and discrimination is pervasive.”
The Expert identifies education and awareness-raising as key tools that must be considered a priority by the government. According to him, “prevalent stigma and prejudice hinder the deployment of effective State measures and fuel intolerance, discrimination, and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons.”
Based on the findings, the Independent Expert gives numerous recommendations to the Government of Georgia in several directions, such as legal framework, public policies, domestic violence, hate crimes, freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, HIV/AIDS, health, etc.
Some of the key recommendations include ensuring that the process of legal recognition of gender identity is based on self-determination by the applicant, is a simple administrative process, is exempt from abusive requirements, recognizes non-binary identities and is accessible to minors.
Also, the Expert recommends for the government to create data to ensure that the needs of the community are being met, also to craft an education campaign on sexual orientation and gender identity with a view to addressing stigma, “dispelling myths and combating stereotypes that create obstacles to the full implementation of the government strategy in that regard.”
The Expert also recommends the government to launch mediation between the Orthodox Church and members of the community “to find solutions that allow for peaceful coexistence and avoid unnecessary confrontations during demonstrations.”
In the report, the Independent Expert thanks the government for its cooperation and “wishes to acknowledge the essential role played by civil society in the furtherance of the work against violence and discrimination and expresses his gratitude to everyone who shared their stories and expertise.”
The full document, “Visit to Georgia, Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”, is available for the public through the UN Official Document System at documents.un.org