Time to end invisibility of LGBT people in Georgia

A UN expert has commended the commitment of the Georgian Government to address violence and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans persons, but has expressed concern that implementation is falling short of what is urgently needed.

The UN Independent Expert on Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz said beatings were commonplace, harassment and bullying constant, and exclusion from family, education, work and health settings appear to be commonplace.

“The majority of Georgians who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans face dilemmas: leaving the country or staying and taking one of two paths: revealing their true self and be subjected to certain violence and discrimination, or concealing this essential aspect of their identity and living in a world of deception,” Madrigal-Borloz said.

“In recent years, the Government has taken significant steps to address the situation of LGBT people, which are among the most discriminated and vulnerable communities in Georgia,” he said in a statement at the end of his 11-day visit to Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi regions.

Madrigal-Borloz said trans persons, particularly trans women, find it difficult to access State services, a challenge exacerbated by abusive requirements for legal recognition of their gender identity, and disempowerment resulting from reliance on the opinion of medical doctors, unnecessary on this matter.

The expert met a wide range of stakeholders from Government and civil society, and many LGBT people shared with him life experiences and stories. One of them, a gay man, told Madrigal-Borloz: “some people tell us that this change will take 30 years. But I am 34 years old! I cannot wait 30 more years to be free!”

The Independent Expert also met with high-level representatives of the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church and other religious leaders, including the Mufti of All Muslims of Georgia and the Chairman of the Jewish Council of Georgia. “Despite differences of opinion, I am encouraged that during all of these meetings we identified a basic common ground: violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are never justified and must be condemned and discouraged. Active dialogue is one of the guiding principles for my mandate, and I am delighted to have been able to deploy this approach so actively during this visit,” said Madrigal-Borloz.

“The Government of Georgia has already taken the most important step: recognising the eradication of violence and discrimination as one of its main priorities, and firmly declaring sexual orientation and gender identity as protected grounds. I encourage the authorities to continue along this path; I am convinced that respect, peaceful coexistence and tolerance are cherished Georgian values and I am certain that they will provide a foundation where all Georgians who happen to be gay, lesbian, trans or bisexual will live free and equal.”