The South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation hosted a round table entitled “LBT Rights are Women’s Rights” on 12 March 2012. The round table was a part of the Week of 8th March Campaign organized by “Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group”. The photo exhibition “A Room of One’s Own” was also part of the event, where participants could view professional and amateur photographers’ works.
K. Samnidze, T. Tsopurashvili, L. Jakeli, E. Aghdgomelashvili. Photo by S. Sagharadze
Eka Aghdgomelashvili opened the round table with a speech on LBT (Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender) women’s rights. The speech was based on the shadow report to be presented to the Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), prepared by “Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group”. Ms. Aghdgomelashvili highlighted the gaps in Georgian legislation directly limiting the rights of LBT groups. Actually, the Georgian legislation cannot be evaluated as non-discriminatory; the Constitutional article listing various bases for discrimination does not mention sexual orientation and gender identity. The same can be said about the Criminal Code of Georgia. Widely spread hate speech against LGBT people still remains as one of the most important problems, which is regulated only by Broadcasting Code of Conduct and Charter of Journalism Ethics in Georgia.
The discussion made it clear how difficult, and most of the time even impossible, it is to assign any responsibility to journalists or certain media for their homophobic statements. Especially threatening, a newly adopted law for Protection of Personal Data does not prohibit publicizing very specific personal data, also including information on a person’s sexual orientation.
Eka Aghdomelashvili mentioned positive developments as well: since 2008, critics of homophobic hate speech in the media are noticeable. It is particularly important to underline that since 2011 LBGT issues are more discussed in a human rights context.
The next speaker, Natia Gviniashvili, talked about LBT women’s activism. Strengthening the LBT women’s community is one of the main priorities of the “Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group”. As Ms. Gviniashvili explained, the community is quite closed and united, but it becomes more and more important to increase its visibility; this process is best supported by the community members’ joint activism, which they promote through art. Several events and exhibitions were already organized within this framework, including “Stalinale” (2007), “Stalinale II” (2009), and LBT publishing “Elbitica”, among others.
The important role of the virtual space for LB (Lesbian and Bisexual) women was the topic of the next speaker of the round table, Shorena Gabunia, who is also an alumna of the 2009 Scholarship Program of the Heinrich Boell Foundation. The interesting findings of Ms. Gabunia’s research on LB Women from Tbilisi showed how crucial it is to have a friendly environment and virtual space for communication to discuss openly about one’s own gender identity and sexual orientation.
The questions stated and issues discussed had different dimensions: solidarity among LGBT and more general human rights organizations; sexual orientation as the base for political speculations; roles and priorities of international organizations on this issue; tendencies of attitudes towards LGBT issues in the media and governmental circles; attitudes of opposition parties and possibilities of cooperation during the election campaign; special trainings and educational courses integrated in centers of higher education.
At the end of the day it was again clear that many problems still exist and not much has been changed during these last years. But despite this, the feeling of being locked in a “closed circle” should still strengthen the desire of civil society and international organizations to find new ways and possibilities to fight against homophobia in Georgian society.