Dossier: Situation of LGBT people in South Caucasus

DOSSIER: Situation of LGBT people in South Caucasus

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Wars, state failure, social and economic problems – for more than one decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, the three states of the South Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan were faced with existential challenges. With the consolidation of state structures, the at least transitional freezing of territorial conflicts, and the strengthening of ties with Western Europe, attention to the rights of sexual minorities also increased. At the beginning of the 2000s, in the course of becoming part of the Council of Europe, all three countries began the process of decriminalizing homosexuality. But all three former Soviet republics remain far from having eliminated discrimination. Only in Georgia do two paragraphs in a law exist that forbid discrimination. At this point, in the countries of the region, it is impossible to conceive of recognition of LGBTI partnerships or even their equal treatment with heterosexual couples.

Background

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LGBTI individuals and LGBTI human rights defenders in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are facing huge challenges as LGBTI rights issues are currently shaped by EU, Russia, and South Caucasus geopolitical and economic interests. Could the European Neighbourhood Policy and other EU foreign policy initiatives contribute to the improvement of the LGBTI rights situation in the region?

Photo "Be Proud of Who You Are" from the exhibition "Acceptance starts with you" held at the Heinrich Boell Foundation on 16 May, 2012
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2012 was a special year in terms of publicity of LGBT (Lesbi, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community and LGBT movement in all three South Caucasian countries. Several important steps have been made towards raising acute issues about sexual identity, differences/diversity and social constructs in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.

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Wars, state failure, social and economic problems – for more than one decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, the three states of the South Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan were faced with existential challenges. With the consolidation of state structures, the at least transitional freezing of territorial conflicts, and the strengthening of ties with Western Europe, attention to the rights of sexual minorities also increased.

Georgia

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In the history of the fight for LBGT rights in the South Caucasus, 17 May 2012 is a milestone. On this internationally recognized day, a group of activists took to the streets in the center of the capital Tbilisi for the first time to demonstrate for the rights of sexual minorities. The campaign had been registered with the mayor’s office. Police were present to protect the demonstrators. It did not take long before their service was necessary.

Armenia

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In Armenia, everyone is proud of Sergei Parajanov. He is characterized among the most original film directors of the 20th century and has as a result been recognized by colleagues in the same league as French director Jean-Luc Godard. The fact that Parajanov, who died in 1990, spent five years in prison during the Soviet era because he supposedly propagated homosexuality is mostly kept quiet, however. When people refer to this, it is immediately assumed that they do so in order to denigrate Parajanov.

Azerbaijan

LGBT flag map of Azerbaijan
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Azerbaijan’s capital Baku was ready when the Eurovision Song Contest took place there at the end of May 2012. All guests were welcome. “Baku was very open and liberal,” Stern.de journalist Jens Maier describes the atmosphere. “A gay club was opened. I do not know of any cases in which problems arose or people felt threatened.” Two openly gay activists, Elham Bagirov and Kamran Rzayev, also remember the excitement of this occasion.

In English

2012 was a special year in terms of publicity of LGBT community and LGBT movement in all three South Caucasian countries. Several important steps have been made towards raising acute issues about sexual identity, differences/diversity and social constructs in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.

Auf Deutsch

Das Jahr 2012 war ein besonderes Jahr für die LGBTI-Community und für den öffentlichen Auftritt der LGBTI-Bewegung in allen drei Ländern des Südkaukasus. In Aserbaidschan, Armenien und Georgien wurden hinsichtlich tabuisierter Fragestellungen zur Identität und zur sexuellen Vielfältigkeit einige wichtige Schritte getan.