The European Court of Human Rights handed down a win to a Georgian condom brand Aiisa that had to pay a fine and recall products in 2018 after Tbilisi Court ruled its packaging and product advertising “discredited religious symbols” and constituted unethical advertising.
The ECHR said that the Tbilisi City Court and Appellate Court, which upheld the 2018 ruling, violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, right to freedom of expression, against Ani Gachechiladze, the individual entrepreneur behind the condom brand.
In its ruling, the European Court argued Georgian justices’ decisions implicated that “the views on ethics of the Georgian Orthodox Church took precedence in the balancing of various values protected under the Convention and the Constitution of Georgia.”
“In a pluralist democratic society, those who choose to exercise the freedom to manifest their religion must tolerate and accept the denial by others of their religious beliefs and even the propagation by others of doctrines hostile to their faith,” the ECHR stressed.
The ECHR justices said that Georgian courts’ reasoning was not “relevant and sufficient” to interfere with the freedom of expression concerning at least three of the four disputed condom packaging designs.
The four designs contained an image of King Tamar, a canonized female monarch of Georgia, a hand gesture with crossed fingers resembling Christ’s gesture, a cartoon of a crown titled Miraculous Victory, referring to the Didgori Battle of 1121, and a line from of a popular satirical Georgian song.
The dispute was initially launched after Georgian Idea, an ultraconservative group appealed about the brand’s advertising to the Supervision Department of Tbilisi municipality administration, which referred the case to the Tbilisi City Court.