LGBTQI community facing complex realities and challenges

Date: Tuesday, May 18, 2021

LGBTQI community facing complex realities and challenges

Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) remain one of the most controversial issues in Georgia. LGBTQI people face numerous difficult challenges, with the pandemic further exacerbating the existing reality. The severity of this problem was once again highlighted during an online consultation meeting initiated by UN agencies in connection to the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Together with representatives of the UN, the Swedish Embassy and the Office of the Public Defender of Georgia, members of LGBTIQ community and human rights organizations attended the meeting, focused on gender-based violence and access to justice, the impact and consequences of the pandemic and related information-sharing.

After the welcoming remarks, Deputy Public Defender Ekaterine Skhiladze reviewed the implementation of the recommendations made by the UN Independent Expert on SOGI, noting that there has been some progress in drafting anti-discrimination legislation, strengthening the Ombudsperson’s mandate and integrating LGBTQI rights into the Human Rights Action Plan. However, the practical implementation of legislation and policies remains a serious problem.

“The challenge is to create a holistic knowledge base that would rely upon the experience of queer people, to raise awareness and sensitize state policymakers on SOGI issues,” Ms. Skhiladze remarked.

The meeting laid special emphasis on hate crimes and their prevention. For years, the LGBTQI community has been at risk of violence in Georgia, but their distrust in law enforcement still remains a problem. As Social Justice Center representative Lika Jalaghania pointed out, a survey conducted by the organization found that 29 per cent of LGBTQI people have experienced physical violence, although only 30 per cent of them reported the case to the law enforcement bodies. “Prevention is crucial in the fight against hate crime,” Ms. Jalaghania noted. “[But] currently, the police are reactive: they get involved when violence occurs, and they often act merely as a mediator. Besides, there is no victim support system. They are referred to community organizations that have limited resources.” While speaking on legal gender recognition, Ketevan Bakhtadze, representative of the Women’s Initiatives Support Group, added that “it is important that any action and change be carried out by state institutions by sharing the experience of community organizations and the community itself, with their engagement.”

The consultation meeting identified the important priorities and needs for advocating for LGBTQI rights. The meeting was held within the scope of the UN Joint Programme for Gender Equality, implemented with the generous support of the Swedish Government.