Freedom and Fear
The public discussion held at the Heinrich Boell Foundation on 16 May was dedicated to the International Day of Fighting against Homophobia and Transphobia, which is denoted on 17 May.
The discussion raised a wide array of questions. For example, as Georgia is a country of variety of traditions, how do people see the combination of all of them? How does your dream country look? What measures do you take to eradicate problems related to hate speech? Is the system of values that you are introducing an ideological diversion of the Georgian State against the values of Georgian nation? How should public consciousness be raised? What is the potential of establishing an LGBT movement in Georgia and to what extent do you consider the LGBT movement to be the key actor for solving this problem? Is homophobia a separate problem in Georgia or a part of a xenophobic attitude? Where does the fear come from, and shouldn’t the state guarantee a safe environment to people of any sexual orientation?
The majority of issues, as well as the questions raised, were answered very shortly on the next day, by dissolution of the demonstration against homophobia on Rustaveli Avenue, organized by the LGBT community. The members of the Orthodox Parents’ Union, as opposed to previous years, did not attend the discussion held at the Boell Foundation. This time they preferred to act in a situation where the majority would support them in the fight against a minority. It was also noted at the discussion that the studies confirmed that the tolerance rate of the population towards the LGBT community is only 10 percent.
In parallel to the discussion, a photo exhibition called “Acceptance Begins With Yourself” was organized in cooperation with the Social Photography Foundation in Georgia and the Caucasus. These words are directly related to the discussion topic “Freedom and Fear”.
How can one overcome fear or defeat social pressure that exists among the public? According to Mr. Giorgi Tabagari, Director of LGBT Georgia, only a limited number of people agreed to participate in the photo-session “Confession starts from you”, which is related exactly to this fear. “It’s very difficult to cope with the stigma that is guaranteed when (LGBT) people “come out”… This part of the society is certainly vulnerable and the problems that these people face must be dealt with in a timely manner”, says Mr. Tabagari.
He also talked about the legal environment and noted that “from the legislative point of view, the state is farther ahead than the consciousness of the majority of the population and the LGBT community with regards to this issue”. He also noted that decriminalization of homosexuality took place decades ago in Georgia. Moreover, several months ago a law was adopted that identifies a homophobia biased motive as an aggravated circumstance. The Georgian society and especially the LGBT community itself should keep up with these developments. Most importantly, LGBT organizations and the media, the role of which is very significant, and the legislative body must come to a consensus with regards to hate speech and the solution of this problem.