The Tbilisi City Court has found the Aiisa company, a Georgian custom condoms brand, guilty of “discrediting religious symbols” in its product advertising, and imposed a GEL 500 fine and ordered to remove its products from the market.
The case was referred to the Tbilisi City Court by the Supervision Department of the Tbilisi municipality administration. The latter was approached with a request to ban the product advertising by the Georgian Idea, a Tbilisi-based conservative rights group.
The group said in its March 27 appeal that illustrations and slogans displayed on Aiisa condoms packaging, including a hand gesture with crossed fingers (resembling the Christ’s hand gesture) and the image of Tamar, a canonized female monarch of Georgia, violated the rights of the Orthodox parish and the church.
The Tbilisi City Court upheld the request at its hearing today, and ruled that “unethical slogans and illustrations” displayed on Aiisa condoms packaging “violate human and moral norms,” and “discredit religious symbols” (point 5 in article 3 of the Law on Advertising).
The company’s defense lawyer, Giorgi Mshvenieradze, slammed the court ruling as a “dangerous precedent” for restricting the freedom of expression, and added that the decision would be challenged in the Court of Appeals.
“This equals to returning to the ages of inquisition … It is very unfortunate that constitutional rights are gradually being turned into a useless pile of papers in this country,” he said.
Levan Chachua, the leader of Georgian Idea public movement, welcomed the court ruling as “the most important precedent, when the court fined a business for insulting our dignity and our religious feelings.”
Commenting the court ruling, Sopio Kiladze, chairperson of the Parliament’s human rights committee, said that use of the right to expression “should not insult other people.” “Of course, it is very difficult to draw boundaries; we should protect both rights, but observing balance between these two rights should be an obligation for every citizen,” she added.