Demonstrators outside the Ministry of Justice in Tbilisi marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia hold Georgian and rainbow flags, May 17, 2015. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
A small group of activists, some holding rainbow flags, gathered outside the Ministry of Justice in Tbilisi on May 17 to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
A separate demonstration was also held earlier on Sunday in a small downtown park in the capital city, where representatives from several civil society organizations were gathered under rainy skies and a heavy police presence.
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Locations of the events were not pre-announced publicly because of security reasons – in order to avoid possible reoccurrence of violence similar to those that took place in 2012 and 2013.
No incidents were reported.
Activists gathered in Mrgvali Bagi (Round Garden) in Tbilisi to mark the International Day Against Homophobia in Tbilisi on May 17, 2015, holding banners reading quotes from the verdict of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that the police failed to protect gay rights activists from attacks on May 17, 2012. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
There was a heavy police presence around the Mrgvali Bagi with police officers brought in with municipal buses. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Demonstrators outside the Justice Ministry were calling on the authorities to simplify procedures for obtaining ID cards for transgender people, as well as not to shun away from applying, when appropriate, a clause from criminal code, which makes bias motives of an offender an aggravating circumstance.
Participants at a gathering in Mrgvali Bagi (Round Garden) at UN office in Vake neighborhood of Tbilisi on Sunday morning were holding banners reading quotes from the verdict delivered earlier this week by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights over the violence in 2012, when first-ever march of a small group of rainbow flag-waving gay activists, marking May 17, ended in scuffles after Orthodox groups blocked activists’ way.
The Strasbourg-based court said that the authorities failed to provide adequate protection for LGBT activists against attacks in 2012.
In 2013 a small group of LGBT rights activists, who were intending to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, faced violence of much larger scale, when they were attacked by thousands of anti-gay demonstrators, led by Orthodox clerics. Fearing homophobic violence, the day was not marked by the LGBT groups with any public events last year.
About dozen of people gathered briefly on Sunday on the Vachnadze street in Tbilisi center to mark anti-homophobia day – the venue was specifically chosen as it was one of the scenes of 2013 homophobic violence.
Demonstrators outside the Ministry of Justice in Tbilisi, marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, hold Georgian and rainbow flags, May 17, 2015. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Demonstrators outside the Ministry of Justice in Tbilisi mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17, 2015. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Ambassador of Sweden to Georgia, Martina Quick, who was present at a demonstration in Mrgvali Bagi tweeted:
— Martina Quick (@martinaquick) May 17, 2015
Two members of the parliament – MP Chiora Taktakishvili of opposition UNM party and MP Tamar Kordzaia from Republicans parliamentary faction, part of GD ruling coalition, were also present at a demonstrate in Mrgvali Bagi; the latter was also present at a rally outside the Justice Ministry.
In an attempt to counter the International Day Against Homophobia, the Georgian Orthodox Church introduced last year, what it calls, the Family Day on May 17. Last year the day was marked with a large rally, led by the Orthodox clerics, which turned into anti-gay demonstration and protest against anti-discrimination law, which was newly adopted at the time.
Various outdoor events to mark the Georgian Orthodox Church-introduced Family Day were initially planned in Tbilisi center for Sunday, but on Friday evening all those events were announced to be canceled. The Georgian Orthodox Church cited celebration of arrival of St. Mary’s Icon in Tbilisi from Mtskheta as the reason behind its request to organizers to call off those events.
In his sermon in the Holy Trinity Cathedral, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, spoke about need for strong families and condemned abortion.
“Family is a foundation of the mankind and the state. If families are strong, the state will also be strong,” Patriarch Ilia II said. “Abortions mush stop I want to call on doctors, who perform abortions, that this is a huge sin,”
PM Irakli Garibashvili, who is visiting Guria region in western Georgia on Sunday, welcomed, without mentioning International Day Against Homophobia, that several demonstrations in Tbilisi were held peacefully.
“There were several rallies in Tbilisi today and they were held absolutely peacefully, in a civilized manner. I want to stress that we have proven that we are a distinguished nation… a civilized state; interests of our country are the most important for us. I want to thank everyone, including the Interior Ministry, who were involved in arranging all these issues,” Garibashvili said.
“Today is also the Day of Family, introduced by the Patriarch; I congratulated you on this day and I wish everyone stronger Georgian families – that’s the foundation of the Georgian state,” the PM added.
In a statement on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, the Georgian Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, said that despite numerous calls, the authorities have failed to “take efficient measures for the purpose of increasing public awareness and establishment of culture of tolerance.”
“Timely and efficient investigation of hate motivated crimes still remains a problem,” the Public Defender said.
Also on Sunday a pro-Russian group, King Erekle II Society, joined by a small Orthodox group, gathered outside the EU embassy in Tbilisi and protested against the Strasbourg-based court’s ruling. “No to gay Europe; propaganda of indecency should be banned,” said one of the organizers of the rally Archil Chkoidze. Some participants were holding banners reading in English: “No propaganda for homosexuals.”