1 Georgia Gay Overview:
first country in South Caucasus to decriminalize Homosexuality when it joined Council of Europe
Georgia Gay Overview
Languages: Georgian, Russian
Area: 69,700 km2/ 26,911 sq mi.
Capital: Tbilisi (Tiflis)
Religions: Georgian Orthodox 84%, Muslim 9,9%, Armenian Apostolic 4%
Important Gay Cities: Tbilisi (Tiflis), Batumi
Climate: Moderate continental climate, hot summers, cool winters. In the mountains a continental climate with colder summers and winters. Subtropical by the seaside. Georgia is a country where east meets west. The major cities continue to develop a gay scene that attracts an ever increasing number of tourists.
Georgia was the first country in South Caucasus to decriminalize Homosexuality when it joined Council of Europe. The age of consent is set at 16 years for both hetero- and homosexuals.
Legislation does not contain discriminatory clauses, yet insufficient anti-discrimination legislation often creates gaps. Georgia also has the first LGBT organization in the region and is known as most open-minded country compared to other two in the region.
However, Georgia, as a post communist, orthodox and very traditional society, is still not very open towards gays and lesbians. In the large urban societies homosexuality is better accepted than in the rural areas. Concept of guest in Georgian mentality, however, would provide for an exceptional attitude towards visitors whether gay or not. It is very convenient to hold hands in public and greet each other by kissing on cheek once – this is very common in Georgia.
Although, a gay scene in the western sense of the word hardly exists, Tbilisi, the capital offers very diverse choice of places worth visiting. Perovskaia and Chardin areas of the capital offer vast number of places starting from very traditional Georgian to street-cafe, international ethnic or fusion ambiance.
It is very difficult to fine tune your gaydar in Tbilisi. People might be looking at you without any intention and not look at all when there are some strings attached. There are no official gay bars or clubs in Tbilisi. Tbilisi gays do not like to hang out in the places with frequent appearance of gays, one can see them in an upscale places of any profile.
Cruising in any sense, whether in Bar, bath or parks is considered a very bad tone by local community. Especially street/park cruising is very dangerous, this is where gays are exposed to most violence. New patrol police does not harass gays and in fact is very helpful and prompt in responding to violations. Drugs are illegal in Georgia.
Visitors still find it interesting to go to traditional Tbilisi sulphur spas in the heart of the old town called ‘abanotubani’ (abano – bathhouse in Georgian). It is a must to do and also quite cruisy by evenings. Local men go to shared sectors and cruise each other to leave together.
There is big number of Georgian fortune surfers in the web. Most of them though would hide their identities. It is always better to start communication some while before visiting the country.
Georgia is a country well worth visiting: the ancient culture has left its marks and Tbilisi has a vibrant night life. Countryside is very spectacular containing the almost all global climate zones in a country size of Ireland. By summers, whole country escapes to the Black see where town of Batumi becomes the summer gay capital of Caucasus. By winters many people visit Georgia’s very high profile ski resorts.
In General, country is known as home to the oldest winery tradition in the world.
National Gay Info
1 Name: Inclusive Foundation Web Resource
Web resource created by Georgian LGBT organization Inclusive Foundation. Provides information on status of LGBT, programmes implemented, services offered, hotline, surveys and other relevant information mostly bilingual (Georgian and English).
2 Name: Gay.ge website
Web resource supported by Georgian LGBT organization Inclusive Foundation. Provides information on major LGBT community issues, provides space for meeting and discussion forum also in English.
Name: "ME" Magazine
First Georgian LGBT quarterly magazine mostly in Georgian, has English resume. Provides information on human rights, health, art and culture and the main topics for the issue – coming out, lesbian and transgender issue, etc.
Name: Inclusive Foundation
Phone: 32 20 66 55 Email
The first openly LGBT rights organization in Georgia and in South Caucasus, ILGA member. Main areas of work is advocacy and lobbying information and public awareness campaigns, study and research, empowerment of LGBT community, HIV/AIDS and STI prevention.
Name: Fashion TV Bar
Spartacus Codes: B d glm M MA
Street: 18, Rustaveli Avenue
Commentary: Brand bar of Fashion TV bar networks, attracts designers and artists, has fashion parties and fashion and perfume product presentations, owners and staff are friendly.
Spartacus Codes: B glm M MA r
Street: 3, Vashvlovanis Street
Description of Location: (In Perovskaia district)
Commentary: Once very stylish place, nowadays casual cruising bar, frequently visited by straight people.
Spartacus Codes: B g m MA t
Street: 18, G.Akhvlediani Street
Postal Code: 0108
Phone: 93 53 83 Description of Location: (Former Perovskaia St.)
Commentary: DJ bar, with very friendly staff and visitors. Open until the early morning.
Name: Cafe Cala
Spartacus Codes: B glm M MA s
Street: 8-10, Erekle II Street
Postal Code: 0107
Description of Location: (In Chardin area)
Commentary: Good Georgian food, many artistic people hanging out, live jazz performances, frequented by gay people.
Name: Le Cafe.
Spartacus Codes: B glm M MA
Street: 4, Vashlovani Street
Description of Location: (Opposite the Success bar in Perovskaia district)
Commentary: Quite place with European cuisine. Friendly staff.
Name: Rue Chardin 12
Spartacus Codes: B glm M MA
Street: 12, Chardin Street
Postal Code: 0108
Description of Location: (In old town Chardin area)
Commentary: One of the most popular dining out places. A place to sit and be seen in a heart of old town. The smallest street in Tbilisi is home for number of upscale places that attract many community people. One can also find many other cafes in this area.
Spartacus Codes: B M MA NG
Street: 2, Right Bank
Postal Code: 0108
Phone: 32 30 30 30 (reservations) Homepage: mgroup.ge Description of Location: (In Chardin area)
Commentary: Upscale restaurant, very friendly. Offers traditional and fusion cuisine. Has chillout section with Kalian.
Spartacus Codes: B M MA NG
Street: 8-10 Chekhov st. (On the left bank of old town)
Phone: (reservations) 995 32 77 55 20 Homepage: kopala.ge
Belleview terrace. Hotel restaurant with extensive menu and good service. Tarace offers one of the best views of old town
Name: Coloured Bathhouse
Spartacus Codes: g MA MSG SA
Street: Square in front of the Sulphur Springs
Description of Location: (In Abanotubani (Bath district)
Opening hours: 10-20h
Commentary: Number of traditional bathhouses with natural sulphur spa. Traditional massage and scrub with traditional gloves (Kisa). Public section is very cruisy especially by evenings. People basically pick up each other and leave together. For more discreet acts one can rent a cubicle. Coloured baths were favourite of A. Pushkin and A. Dumas. Fitness Studios
Name: Vake Fitness
Spartacus Codes: g MA SA SB SOL
Street: 49b, Chavchavadze Avenue
Huge fitness complex with gym, olympic swimming pool, spa, sauna, gymnastics, solarium etc. Upscale workout place. Hotels
Name: Sheraton Metekhi Palace
Spartacus Codes: AC B CC D H I M MA MSG NG OS PI SA WH WO
Street: 20, Telavi Street
Postal Code: 0119
Phone: 77 20 20 Fax: 77 21 20 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Homepage: www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton Opening hours: All year
Commentary: Luxury hotel with 182 rooms with data port, safe, TV, phone, mini-bar and bathroom phone. Cruisy sauna.
Name: Marriott Tbilisi
Spartacus Codes: AC B CC D H I M MA MSG NG OS PI SA WH WO
Street: 13, Rustaveli Ave.
Phone: 77 92 00
Commentary: 5 stars Luxury hotel.
-Underpass in front of the circus (dangerous)
-Rustaveli Ave. daytime cruising.
29 July 2003 – Radio Free Europe
Georgia: Reputation For Tolerance Slipping Amidst Attacks Against Religious Minorities
by Robert Parsons
Georgia, its people are quick to tell visitors, is home to more than 100 nationalities and all of them get along well together. And in the capital, Tbilisi, they add, churches, mosques, and synagogues exist side by side with little friction. Even today, the courtyards of that lovely city echo with a cacophony of competing tongues — Georgian, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Russian, Kurdish, and, increasingly, English. Yet this reputation for tolerance is slipping.
Tbilisi, (RFE/RL) — Eduard waved me over to his car with a big smile. He could spot a foreigner from a kilometer away. He greeted me in English before I had a chance to speak. Within seconds, he was telling me his life story. Eduard, it turned out, was Greek. Well, half-Greek, he explained. Half-Greek and half-Jewish. More remarkably, he could speak Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Russian, English, and Hebrew. Ironically, just about the only language he couldn’t speak was Greek. Not long ago, Tbilisi was full of people like Eduard — a melting pot of cosmopolitan polyglots. But a shadow seems to be creeping over this once joyous city.
Salome Asatiani is a sociologist who recently returned to Georgia after a period of study abroad. "The state of society is very intolerant at the moment," he said. "I think it goes back to the birth of the so-called national liberation movement. The Soviet ideology was replaced very quickly by nationalist rhetoric with all its implications — the intensification of religion, the representation of the national ideal or national traditions as the unquestioned pattern that should be followed. It’s Georgianess which is promoted, and anything else — ethnically, politically, or sexually or in any other way — is marginalized and directly marginalized."
The British theater company Volcano recently presented "L.O.V.E.," a staging of some of Shakespeare’s sonnets, at Tbilisi’s Marjanishvili Theater. It was the first night of a tour intended to celebrate 10 years of the British Council in Georgia. But the production featured scenes of sexuality, including homosexuality. The theater’s director walked out, ordering actors from his own troupe to follow suit. Within hours, the Georgian Orthodox Church was also protesting. Volcano’s remaining two shows in Georgia were abandoned amidst anonymous threats of vandalism.
A clash of cultures, say some. But others, among them commentator Gogi Gvakharia, the presenter of a popular talk show on Georgian television, think the Orthodox Church has a lot to answer for.
"The church here plays a big role in all this," Gvakharia said. "It’s as if words like love, compassion, and compromise have fallen from the church’s vocabulary. Now the accent is on words like the law of God, hell, and Satan. Religion and ignorance have become close associates. People are afraid that if they say they don’t believe or if they don’t visit their local priest something bad will happen to their children. The clergy are scaring them to think in this way. And because these people have no real faith or spiritual values, they believe it when they hear of plots against the church or that Jehovah’s Witnesses want to destroy the church."
On 10 July 2002, 10 men burst into the Tbilisi office of the Liberty Institute, a nongovernmental Georgian human rights organization that plays a leading role in opposing religious intolerance. The intruders beat up Liberty’s director, Levan Ramishvili, and smashed computers and furniture. Ramishvili had earned the enmity of the followers of Basili Mkalavishvili, a defrocked Orthodox priest responsible for numerous attacks on religious minorities.
"During the last three or four years, we had more than 700 pogroms organized by different groups," Ramishvili said. "The most colorful group are the so-called Basilists. In some other places, priests of the Orthodox Church are also involved in violence against various religious minorities. When you talk about violence against minorities, first what comes up is usually the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it is not just about them. It means everyone who doesn’t belong to traditional religious denominations like the Baptists, the Evangelists, the Pentecostals, and sometimes even Catholics and sometimes even distant Orthodox groups."
The church admits that the problem of religious intolerance exists in Georgia but rejects any suggestion that it is responsible. RFE/RL spoke yesterday with Father Davit Sharashenidze, the head of the press office at the patriarchate.
"Of course, there are people who blame the church for this religious extremism, but such accusations are completely unjust and divorced from reality," Sharashenidze said. "The 2,000-year-old history of the church in Georgia is proof that it is not extremist. As for Basili Mkalavishvili, the church has expelled him from its ranks. We have stated that his methods are totally unacceptable and that all use of force against people who think differently is completely inadmissible." Mkalavishvili was sentenced last month to three months in prison for his part in five incidents, although he is still at large, hiding from the police.
Meanwhile, the violence continues, prompting 42 public figures in Georgia to write an open letter to the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church condemning "radical elements" within the church. The letter calls on Patriarch Illia II to resist "increased radicalism and xenophobia." It also urges him to voice concern over the violation of the rights of the country’s religious minorities.
Such abuses have prompted condemnation from international organizations, such as the Council of Europe and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, as well as the U.S. State Department. Davit of the Georgian Orthodox Church’s press office is adamant, however. The church is not involved in violence of any sort, he says.
"The church has nothing to do with this violence. You won’t find any evidence of the church calling on people to use force against anyone. It says the only legitimate form of struggle is the word. But violence is in all of us, and when Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on people’s doors and take such a negative and aggressive approach to our national and church traditions, it naturally provokes an aggressive response from some people." The resentment of minority religious sects in Georgia appears to have become widespread. Gocha Tskitishvili is the director of Tbilisi’s IPM public opinion research center.
"About 12 percent of the people of Tbilisi thinks that what Father Basil does is absolutely right," Tskitishvili said. "A further 60 percent disapprove of his methods but think that his ideas are right. In other words, the Jehovah’s Witnesses should be opposed, but it isn’t necessary to beat them up." So where is this intolerance coming from? Commentator Gvakharia believes insecurity lies at the heart of the problem: "In periods of crisis like this, people always look for scapegoats.
Tolerance genuinely has been a characteristic of the Georgian people, but the ability to be self-critical hasn’t. It’s easier to create monsters than to blame oneself — and today foreigners are filling that role. Of course, our Soviet mentality plays a big part in this, but the other thing is the speed of the foreign invasion of Georgia. The suddenness of the appearance of new ideas, products, and so on is helping spread the view that everything that comes from the West is either rubbish or disgusting."
Nor is it just religious minorities that are under fire. Gvakharia says homosexuals and Armenians are also finding themselves being discriminated against. Ramishvili at the Liberty Institute agrees: "It’s absolutely impossible to speak about the rights of homosexuals because it’s hidden. It’s not reported. Nobody complains about violations, but you can detect this hate on every corner. I think it’s hate toward people who are different. When these hate speakers want to stigmatize someone, they are portraying their opponents as homosexual, Armenian, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons."
Georgia is one of the most open societies to have emerged from the rubble of the Soviet Union. It is also one of the few to invite the United Nations to monitor the observance of human rights. But it gives the impression of a society standing on the brink.
When Sandro Bregadze, a member of parliament from the Aghordzineba (Renaissance) Party, says on television that Hitler got it right when he drowned homosexuals, there is little or no protest. When Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, the leader of the Socialist Party, stigmatizes the leader of another party by calling him gay and Armenian, nobody bats an eye.
Little wonder then that Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and other minorities in Georgia are finding it increasingly difficult to identify with the state.
June 2005 – The Villager
For some gay partners, Europe offers a safe haven
by Johanna Petersson
Gay activists in the United States often view Europe as a gay safe haven. But there are great differences in the level of protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, especially when it comes to the issue of marriage. Still, as President Bush pushes for a constitutional amendment outlawing marriage for gays and lesbians, the pro-gay stance of Europe is quite unique. Marc Behrendt and Beso Khutishvili live in South London in the United Kingdom, a new environment for them and far away from family and friends.
They met three years ago while Marc Behrendt, an American citizen, worked for an international organization in the former Republic of Georgia. They both enjoyed life there, but in the traditional and religious Orthodox Georgian society, homosexuality is a considerable social stigma and remains very much closeted. As their relationship developed, the resistance from Khutishvili’ s Georgian family increased, and finally the couple saw no other solution but for Behrendt to seek work in Europe, in order to be able to live together.
“We are not in the U.S. because I could not bring my family, Beso, there,” Behrendt said. “I was forced to leave the U.S. Here in Europe, we have protection. I received a work permit in the U.K. and Beso is credited as my partner and also received a work permit.” Behrendt now works for International Alert, an nongovernmental organization working on conflict resolution and democratization issues in the Caucasus and Central Asia, while Khutishvili is studying English. Behrendt enjoys his work, which he finds both challenging and complex, but in the long run he would like to live close to his family and friends in the U.S. — something that is impossible right now.
Behrendt and Khutishvili are enjoying the benefits of the United Kingdom immigration laws that — unlike those in the States — recognize same-sex relationships as equal to heterosexual relationships when applying for visas. Gay and co-habiting couples in Britain also have the same property, pension and “next-of-kin” rights that married couples enjoy. When it comes to marriage, only the Netherlands and Belgium recognize marriage for gays and lesbians. Belgium even amended its marriage law to include noncitizen gay couples if they can prove they are not allowed to marry in their home country. In Spain, the socialist government has drafted a bill that not only allows for gay and lesbians to marry but also to adopt Spanish children. The law is expected to be approved by the end of June.
In the U.S., many states have moved in a different direction. Fourteen states have made constitutional amendments outlawing same sex marriages. Massachusetts is the only state that gives marriage licenses to same-sex couples, while Vermont and Connecticut have civil-union laws that give statewide spousal rights to same-sex couples. New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico and the District of Columbia do not have laws prohibiting same-sex unions. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has challenged a ruling by a State Supreme Court judge that found that gay couples must be allowed to marry.
While expressing that he was pro-gay marriage, Bloomberg said he wanted to avoid the same confusion that took place in California, where gay marriages were later annulled. If the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, votes against same-sex marriage, Bloomberg said he would ask to have the legislation changed. The New York case is currently in the Appellate Court, the state’s second-highest court, and arguments are expected in the fall. There are currently three cases ongoing working their way up to the highest court.
Fourteen countries in Europe offer some sort of legal protection to same-sex couples; Denmark, Finland, Norway, Croatia, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Luxembourg, Scotland, France, Iceland, Portugal, Britain and Hungary, while new European Union member countries Poland and Slovenia are preparing laws on registering partnerships. The European Region of the International Gay and Lesbian Association, a gay rights organization, welcomes all moves towards equal rights. “We support any level of recognition which moves to improve rights for the L.G.B.T. community — in whatever shape they may take,” said Juris Lavrikos, the organization’s spokesperson. “What we care about is the substance of the law; it is not a matter of wording.”
Even if Lavrikos thinks matters are moving in the right direction, he challenges the view of Europe as a gay safe haven, since, just as in the U.S., there is a great difference in the experience of same sex-couples depending whether they live in a small rural village or a capitol city, he said. “All countries have issues, on different levels,” Lavrikos said. “For example, in the Netherlands, a developed gay rights country, we are now receiving reports of increased levels of gay bashing.”
The Polish parliament is currently working on a law registering partnerships, but a couple of weeks ago Warsaw’s mayor banned the gay pride parade there for the second year running, claiming its application had not been filed properly. Twenty-five hundred people defied both the ban and anti-gay protestors throwing eggs.
March 9, 2007 – The Messenger, Tbilisi, Georgia
Building an inclusive Georgia
by Anna Kamushadze
“If people want to know how homosexuals feel living in Georgia, they can imagine what Georgians feel like living in Russia these days. Being a victim of homophobia or xenophobia isn’t such a different experience,” says the chairperson of the Inclusive Foundation NGO. “No matter whether the minority is called ‘Georgian’, or ‘homosexual’ or ‘Muslim’, the discrimination they face as a minority is very similar,” he continues.
The Inclusive Foundation supports the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community in Georgia and is the first organization in Georgia which assists sexual minorities by offering free consultations with psychologists, doctors and lawyers. They were officially registered as an NGO in August 2006.
The NGO’s donor organizations include COC Netherlands, the Dutch Lesbian Gay Bisexual (LGB) Organisation and the European region of the International Lesbian Gay Association (ILGA). The Foundation is also part of the Council of Europe’s NGO group and member of the working group “All different, all equal” campaign. The organisation promotes the establishment of a society in Georgia where sexual orientation and gender self-expression would not be not grounds for discrimination, as “a democratic, coherent and strong society is inconceivable without the full integration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, as well as any other social group”.
The goal of the Inclusive Foundation is to promote the integration of the LGBT community in Georgian society, through education and civil action. Inclusive’s chairperson doesn’t blame Georgians for having low levels of tolerance, he points out homosexuality in Georgia was illegal until 2000, when it was decriminalised by the government as part of their Council of Europe membership commitments.
Since 2000, the attitude of the Georgian media towards homosexuality has been far from positive. In a study the organization conducted in February 2006 called Representation of Homosexuality/ homosexuals in Georgian Media, the issue of media coverage of homosexuality is addressed. The report states that before 2000, articles would only touch upon issues such as “minor sexual disorders”, “abortion”, “HIV/ AIDS” and “prostitution”. The term “homosexual” was first seen in Georgian print media in the context of discussing HIV/AIDS and prostitution, thereby just strengthening stereotypical notions of sexual minorities in Georgian society.
The study says the situation changed rapidly starting in 2000, when homosexuality “became a politicised issue”. Newspaper headlines proclaimed, “Georgia is ruled by homosexuals” (Rezonansi, # 107) and “Despite the fact that ‘blue people’ [the slang term for gay men] do not procreate, they continue to increase in numbers” (Akhali 7 Dghe # 17); “Enemies of the people: KGB agents and … Pederasts” (Georgian Times, # 9). In an issue of Akhali Taoba (#307), Elene Tevdovadze Chair of Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights and Civil Integration and one of the very persons in charge of defending citizens’ human rights is quoted as saying,
“…our problems today, are unemployment, drug dependency, following the criminal tradition and changing orientation.” When asked what she means by “changing orientation” she says, “I mean sexual orientation, of course. In my opinion it is big misery when so many young people change their sexual orientation. If we do not take proper care of this, we might be facing a terrible catastrophe tomorrow.”
Inclusive Foundation publishes a quarterly magazine Me (I) to try to counter the negative representation of homosexuality in society. The articles touch on issues ranging from political issues such as human rights protection of sexual minorities in other countries, to art-related articles reviewing movies dealing with issues related to homosexuality (such as Philadelphia) to social issues such as myths about homosexuality in society (i.e. if you participate in a homosexual act even once, your orientation will change). Commissioner of the Council of Europe for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg, during his visit to Georgia at the end of February of this year, felt the need to comment on homophobia.
“Homophobia is not a part of a modern society which is oriented towards democracy and human rights’ protection…and from this point of view, we think the government must be a leader in resolving problems. It must assist people in becoming more informed and educated in this area.”
Inclusive Foundation members also organize various trainings and seminars to empower their volunteers. In addition, they hold seminars for researchers, students, journalists, human rights NGOs and other institutions working on LGBT issues in Georgia. Members of the organization say it’s not easing being gay in Georgia. Although homosexuality has been legal in Georgia since 2000, there is still discrimination. It’s difficult for a conservative, traditional country to accept a ‘nontraditional’ orientation.
Goga, an only child, says he hid his feelings for a long time. One day, he left his house in a rush and accidentally left his computer on. His mother discovered everything and before he returned, she had packed all of his luggage and put it in the doorway. He began living on his own with not a tetri to his name. Now he works and has a good salary, but still he never tells anyone about his orientation. “I have a friend that I treat as my girlfriend. I pay attention to her, kiss her, pet her and by doing this lead people to think I am heterosexual,” confides Goga.
In a study the Foundation conducted in conjunction with their partners in January 2006, 120 members of the Georgian LGBT community were anonymously surveyed. When asked if they were out to their family, 86.7 percent answered “no"” and when they were asked if they were out to their friends, only 33.61 percent said that they were. “
We are not witches, we are normal people who have the same feelings as others,” says 34-yearold Nika. Nika identifies with the male gender though he lives in the body of a female. He says he remembers as a five-year-old, choosing to wear trousers rather than the dress his mother would lay out for him.
At the age of seventeen, Nika identified with boys and hung out on the street corner with his friends. One day, he brought home his girlfriend and said it was his wife. His family was very confused about their “daughter” bringing home a girl as his “wife” and after a week Nika’s lover left due to family pressure. They then forced their “daughter’” to get married to a man. One of his close male friends loved him and so something was arranged so that he did not realize what was going on until he woke up in bed with him the next morning. His friend assured him that it was necessary for both of them at that moment and so he went along with it. He lived with his spouse while maintaining his now 17-year-long relationship with his girlfriend on the side.
After two years, he says he couldn’t live that way any longer so he divorced his husband and went to be with his girlfriend. He says the most difficult moment of his life was when he had to explain to his daughter of 15 that he did not have an ordinary sexual orientation. But he says his daughter was amazingly understanding, and now she often accompanies him when he goes to meetings at the Inclusive Foundation.
“You live only once in this world and you mustn’t live for others. You kill yourself by doing that,” says Nika.
Contact the Inclusive Foundation
24 July 2007 – BBC News
‘Gay’ rally in Georgia cancelled
by Matthew Collin, BBC News, Tbilisi
An event promoting tolerance and cultural dialogue in Georgia has been cancelled, after rumours spread that it was in fact a gay parade. The highly influential head of the Georgian Orthodox church spoke out against the event. Organisers told the BBC they feared that the participants could have been attacked if it went ahead.
Gays have come under attack in former Soviet republics, with the Orthodox Church one of their main critics. Since false rumours spread that the planned event was a demonstration for homosexual rights, the organisers say they have received large numbers of abusive telephone calls and emails, some making threats of physical violence.
The event was to have been held in the Georgian capital next week as part of a Europe-wide campaign against intolerance, called "all different, all equal". But it was cancelled on Tuesday amid fears for the safety of the young people taking part. The organisers, a human rights organisation called Century 21, say they are victims of what they describe as disinformation and lies broadcast by Georgian television channels.
The head of the Georgian Orthodox church had also warned that any rally involving sexual minorities would cause widespread offence and possibly lead to physical confrontation. Georgia is a highly religious country which prides itself on its traditional Christian values. Although homosexuality is legal, it is widely regarded as immoral. Gay rights activists in Georgia say homosexuals are often the targets for abuse and physical violence.
25th October 2007 – PinkNews
LGBT discrimination in Europe’s margins
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
Two leading gay rights groups have compiled a report into the serious situation gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face in two countries aspiring to join the EU. The ILGA-Europe and COC Netherlands study of the position of LGBT People in Georgia and Azerbaijan concludes that the South Caucasian nations must stop discrimination and incitement to hatred. They are also urged to put in place an inclusive anti-discrimination law in line with Council of Europe and EU standards. The reports are the result of a joint fact-finding mission and reflect the vulnerable social and legal situation of LGBT people. They put a particular focus to lesbian and bisexual women and transgender people. They also give examples of human rights violations on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In Georgia a high level of hostility towards same-sex relationships and diverse gender identities prevails in virtually every aspect of society. Many believe them to be a disease, some see them as a sin, others as a perversion. The human rights of LGBT people are opposed by some prominent human rights defenders and other high-level figures. Stigmatisation is so pervasive that most LGBT people are forced out of communities, deprived of any chance to openly express their sexual orientation or gender identity, and suffer from discrimination and hate crimes.
In Azerbaijan lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not invisible in the predominantly Muslim society. Tens of transgender sex workers go into the main street of the capital city Baku every night, prominent showbiz figures barely hide their sexual orientation, mass media gives more space every day to the subject of sexual orientation and gender identities. And yet one should not be misled by this relative visibility: there is a price of estrangement from family, bullying, social exclusion, discrimination, blackmailing and hate crimes attached to it. The reports seek to raise awareness of European and international organisations, put pressure for positive change on national governments and encourage donors to support LGBT groups organising in these countries.
Patricia Prendiville, executive director of ILGA-Europe, said: "The reports illustrate the vulnerable position of LGBT communities and the systematic nature of human rights violations against them. This situation runs against Georgia and Azerbaijan’s obligations under the European Convention for Human Rights and against European Union laws and values these countries have to respect if they aspire to EU membership in the future."
Frank van Dalen, president of COC Netherlands, added: "Upon completion of the fact-finding mission to South Caucasus, COC Netherlands with ILGA-Europe and other partners has started a five-year project aimed at strengthening LGBT movements in the newly-independent states and prevention of HIV/AIDS in this community. First results give very positive hopes: where there has been hardly any movement before now there are strong, registered NGOs advocating for human rights and social equality and providing a range of services for the community."
To read the reports click here
31 July 2009- Civil.ge
Ombudsman Nominee Says ‘Homosexuality should be Punishable’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi – MP Dimitri Lortkipanidze, who was nominated for the post of Public Defender by parliamentary minority in which Christian-Democratic Movement is a leading party, said on July 30, that he believed homosexuality should be criminalized again. “I think that homosexuality should be punishable in this country, because it is punishable by our [Orthodox Christian] act of faith. I think that one of the best means to fight against homosexuality will be if this act becomes punishable under the criminal code,” MP Lortkipanidze said.
He was speaking at a meeting of two candidates for the Public Defender’s post with a group of civil society representatives.
MP Lortkipanidze’s response triggered boos among some of the participants of the meeting. “That’s what I think about this matter and I do not know why it triggered such a reaction among you, but I can’t give a kind of an answer which may be favorable for you, but disastrous for me,” MP Lortkipanidze added. He made the remarks after the both of the candidates were asked what they thought about the case, when a young gay man was expelled from the Georgian TV show after he made an on-air candour about his sexual orientation less than two years ago.
Another candidate, Giorgi Tugushi, who is most likely to be confirmed by the Parliament on the post as he is nominated by the ruling party, said discrimination against on the basis of sexual orientation was totally unacceptable for him. Homosexuality, which was decriminalized in Georgia in 2000, is generally regarded as “immoral” and remains a taboo topic and closeted in Georgia.
One of the most recent case when the issue was publicly discussed on TV was in January, when then deputy head of the public broadcaster, Gia Chanturia, who is now an acting general director, used a disparaging term when referring to a male homosexual.
23 December 2009 – Gay Armenia Blog
Police attacks Georgian LGBT group Inclusive Foundation in Tbilisi. Head of organisation Paata Sabelashvili arrested.
On December 15 2009 the office of the Inclusive Foundation, a well known Georgian LGBT organisation, was raided by the police. They did not wear police uniforms, did not provide a search warrant, did not inform about their identity or agency they represented and did not explain the purpose of their intrusion. Members of the LGBT community were present in the office during the raid for a regular meeting of the “Women’s Club”. The men confiscated cell phones of all those present in the office, did not allow them to contact their families, and made degrading and humiliating remarks, such as ‘perverts’, ‘sick persons’, Satanists. They threatened to take photos of the women and disseminate them to reveal their sexual orientation. They also threatened ‘to kill’ and ‘tear to pieces’ one of the leaders of the organisation, Eka Agdgomelashvili, if she did not stop demanding the search warrant and identification documents of the police.
Paata Sabelashvili, the leader of the organization, was arrested as a result of the raid. Soon after arrest he confessed to the possession of 8 grams of marijuana. However, because he made the confession before seeing his lawyer, without the presence of anyone except law enforcement officials, the validity and voluntary character of the confession is highly suspicious.
Staff members of the organization are under continuous surveillance up till now. Their homes, movement in the city and office are under constant surveillance by cars full of men without uniform. One such car is permanently stationed outside the entrance to the house of one of the staff members. The raid on the Inclusive Foundation represents a logical continuation of the policy of repression of non-governmental organizations conducted by the Georgian government. It aims at marginalizing, intimidating and discrediting human rights defenders in Georgia.
December 28, 2009 – PinkAmerica
ILGA-Europe: Paata Sabelashvili is free, Georgian police still keeps under surveillance the Inclusive Foundation office and its staff
Paata Sabelashvili, board member of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board and a leader of the Inclusive Foundation in Georgia, has been released and is now recovering after nearly two weeks detention. Nevertheless ILGA-Europe is concerned with the continuous surveillance of the Inclusive Foundation office by Georgian police, including tapping the telephone conversations of the Inclusive Foundations staff.
Linda Freimane, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board said:
“We are relieved and happy Paata is free and well. We want to thank all organisations and individuals across the world who supported Paata and campaigned for his release.”
Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chairs of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Boards, said:
“There are a few questions still to be answered by the Georgian authorities. We are concerned that the raid on the office of the Inclusive Foundation which took place on 15 December 2009 was disproportionate and humiliating. We are very concerned with the way the police forces treated the staff of the Inclusive Foundation and with the damage they cause to the office. The other worry is that Georgian police still monitors the office and that other leaders of the Inclusive Foundation, Tinatin Japaridze and Eka Agdgomelashvili, continue to be under police surveillance. We call on the Georgian authorities to immediately end intimidation and any surveillance of the Inclusive Foundation office and its staff.”
December 28, 2009 – Inclusive Foundation
Georgian Gay Activist Arrested
On December 15 2009 the office of the Inclusive Foundation, a well known Georgian LGBT organisation, was raided by the police. They did not wear police uniforms, did not provide a search warrant, did not inform about their identity or agency they represented and did not explain the purpose of their intrusion. Members of the LGBT community were present in the office during the raid for a regular meeting of the “Women’s Club”.
The men confiscated cell phones of all those present in the office, did not allow them to contact their families, and made degrading and humiliating remarks, such as ‘perverts’, ‘sick persons’, Satanists. They threatened to take photos of the women and disseminate them to reveal their sexual orientation. They also threatened ‘to kill’ and ‘tear to pieces’ one of the leaders of the organisation, Eka Aghdgomelashvili, if she did not stop demanding the search warrant and identification documents of the police.
Paata Sabelashvili, the leader of the organization, was arrested as a result of the raid. Soon after arrest he confessed to the possession of 8 grams of marijuana. However, because he made the confession before seeing his lawyer, without the presence of anyone except law enforcement officials, the validity and voluntary character of the confession is highly suspicious..
Staff members of the organization are under continuous surveillance up till now. Their homes, movement in the city and office are under constant surveillance by cars full of men without uniform. One such car is permanently stationed outside the entrance to the house of one of the staff members.
The raid on the Inclusive Foundation represents a logical continuation of the policy of repression of non-governmental organizations conducted by the Georgian government. It aims at marginalizing, intimidating and discrediting human rights defenders in Georgia.
25 January 2010 – Gay Armenia
Georgia: Church inspired opposition to upcoming Council of Europe (PACE) debate on gay rights resolution
During its session on 25-29 January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will debate a groundbreaking resolution on “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”. [which follows a recent UN statement signed by Armenia (and Georgia too)]
There have already been church inspired voices from Georgia opposing this resolution.
Georgian Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, Vatican’s envoy? to Georgia, leaders of Jewish and Muslim communities in Georgia jointly ?condemned PACE’s plan to debate this resolution (Information is in Georgian language). I am amused with displays of such a unity when it comes to opposing human rights. It would have been sweet, if not so tragic and ironic. They are so out of touch with realities.
In a related development, Georgia’s Christian Democrats announced they will oppose PACE resolution. Ironically, they are members of the “Liberal fraction” in the PACE. Georgia’s Christian Democrats are to oppose proposals to protect sexual minorities when they come before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) this week. The party’s spokesperson, and PACE member, Magda Anikashvili said, according to "Gruzia Online", the proposals were "contrary to both our history and our spirituality."
The Christian Democrats sit in the Liberal fraction in the PACE. […]
Georgia remains one of the most homophobic countries in Europe. It is widely believed that the current government legislated to decriminalise same sex relationships with no enthusiasm and simply to meet the criteria of the Council of Europe. The Christian Democrats, however, opposed even that and recently called for homosexuality to be recriminalised – a move that could eventually see Georgia expelled from the Council of Europe if it were ever enacted.
The Georgian police recently attacked the country’s main gay rights campaign group. I wonder how Armenian delegation will vote. Will keep an eye on developments. Armenian representatives should not follow Georgian voices in opposing this resolution, which will contradict Armenia’s signatures under the UN statement and (similar in spirit) EU statements.
11 March 2010 – Gay Armenia
US State Department human rights report: "Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan
In past, gay rights were reflected within the US State Department annual human rights country reports very briefly under the "Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination" section (see e.g. 2007 and 2008 reports). In a remarkable shift of policy, this year’s report which was published today and reflects 2009, features gay rights much more prominently under the separate section: "Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" This may be the clearest yet indication of shift in Obama administration’s policy and that gay rights in the region and elsewhere will be monitored and act upon more seriously.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity General societal attitudes towards homosexuality remained highly unfavorable. The country’s endorsement of the UN December 2008 statement against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity caused a public outcry and increased the number of negative articles in the media about homosexuals. Society continued largely to view homosexuality as an affliction.
Persons who were openly gay were exempted from military service, purportedly because of concern that they would be abused by fellow servicemen. However, the legal pretext for the exemption was predicated on a medical finding of gays possessing a mental disorder, which was stamped in their documents and could affect their future. During the year there was at least one reported case of a young man, whose homosexuality was revealed during military service, being diagnosed and hospitalized with "homosexuality disease."
According to local human rights activists, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons experienced some of the most humiliating discrimination in prisons, where they were forced to do some of the most degrading jobs and separated from the rest of the prison population. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation continued to be a problem with respect to employment, family relations, and access to education and health care for sexual minorities.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation, male-to-male sex, or female-to-female sex; however, homosexuality was not widely accepted in society. There were a few lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) organizations; however, they did not work exclusively as such and instead promoted tolerance more broadly. One reason for this was the strong societal stigma against homosexuality, including its denunciation by the Georgian Orthodox Church. The new public defender (see section 5) stated that among his priorities would be the protection of LGBT groups and individuals, and on July 31, in a debate with another nominee for the post, he said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was unacceptable.
On December 15, the office of an NGO that promotes LGBT equality was searched by police. Reportedly, officials used antihomosexual slurs, made unnecessary strip searches, unnecessarily damaged organizational posters, and unnecessarily ransacked offices. The Ministry of Internal Affairs denied that any procedural violations took place and maintained that the profile of the organization was irrelevant in terms of the law. The ministry reported that its General Inspection Office gave one officer a reprimand at the "severe" level in accordance with the police code of ethics, as his actions were determined to be nonethical and inappropriate for police officers. Two other officers were also given a reprimand at the "severe" level for not preventing the above-mentioned officer from making the unethical statements.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity There are no laws criminalizing sexual orientation. There were numerous incidents of police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation. During the year there were no investigations into or punishments of those responsible for these acts, although this was largely due to victims’ unwillingness to file claims due to fear of social stigma. In 2007, after an official complaint was made through the ombudsman’s office, two police officers were removed from their positions.
During the year police raided gay bars on four occasions and arrested almost 50 persons. Police reportedly held the individuals and threatened to expose their sexuality publicly unless they paid a bribe. The human rights Ombudsman’s Office intervened to resolve the incidents. One NGO worked on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues in the country. This NGO worked to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and provided legal advice, psychological assistance, and outreach activities. The NGO reported no official harassment of its work. There were no attempts to organize gay pride marches during the year; however, there was a small gathering on May 17 to commemorate International Anti-Homophobia Day.
There were no reported deaths during the year due to violence based on sexual orientation. However, domestic violence due to sexual orientation remained a large problem.
The government did not officially condone discrimination based on sexual orientation; however, there was societal prejudice against LGBT persons. While being fired from a job for sexual orientation remained illegal, LGBT individuals reported that employers found other reasons to fire them. Discrimination in access to healthcare was also a problem. In 2008 two transgender individuals died from injuries received from a car accident because physicians at Baku Hospital Number 1 refused to treat them.
24 April 2010 – Georgia Media Centre
Scapegoating gay people for Georgia’s crisis
Elections are meant to be the chance for the people to express their views without fear. But elections can also be a time of heightened fear and threat: especially for those in a minority in a society in crisis, argues Paata Sabelashvili, president of the Inclusive Foundation– Georgia’s lesbian and gay rights campaign and the only open gay rights organisation in the Caucasus. Homosexuality is legal in Georgia – but the rights of lesbians, gay men and transgendered people are under attack. Sabelashvili was personally targeted by the police recently, the Inclusive Foundation’s offices raided, staff and clients intimidated and insulted and the office damaged. Arrested on the scene, Sabelashvili says he was only released from prison after he agreed to a plea bargain which saw him admit to a marijuana possession charge.
He says that the drugs charge was a cover for an attack on the Inclusive Foundation that was designed to appease nationalist and conservative forces aligned with the Georgian Orthodox Church’s campaign against gay rights. With the government under pressure in the backwash of the Tea Tutberidze affair and a visible break down of relations with the Patriarch], it may well be that such actions help shore up the government’s support with more conservative voters. But while the government seems to play both sides in this debate – President Saakashvili has recently been citing his government’s legalisation of homosexuality as a positive step forward, but only to audiences outside Georgia – others see “gay bashing” as a way of winning votes.
In parliament the Christian Democrats have called for homosexuality to be recriminalised (a move that would see Georgia expelled from the Council of Europe) and, as Sabelashvili recounts in the video here, have promoted a scare campaign about gay marriage. Others – such as Malkhaz Gulashvili], publisher of the Daily Georgian Times and founder of the People’s Orthodox Movement – are campaigning for the same outcome outside parliament.
At the root of much of this, argues Sabelashvili, is the population crisis in Georgia. Using arguments completely discredited in the west, anti-gay campaigners, either out of prejudice or ignorance, claim that homosexuality is like some infection that spreads through the population and so cuts the birth rate. For them it needs to be suppressed. But, as Sabelashvili says here, the real factor that is cutting the birth rate is the poverty that drives so many young Georgians away from their homeland and leaves them vulnerable when abroad.
2010 November 12 – PubMed.gov
‘We are ordinary men’: MSM identity categories in Tbilisi, Georgia
by Meyer W, Costenbader EC, Zule WA, Otiashvili D, Kirtadze I.
Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA. e-mail
Men who have sex with men remain largely absent from the health statistics of many Eastern European countries. This relative dearth compared to other parts of the world may be attributed to the generally hidden nature of this population. The tendency to employ Western sexual identity labels, rather than locally meaningful categories of identity, may also make it difficult to identify men who have sex with other men. In a pilot study of HIV risk in Tbilisi (Georgia), we used a suite of qualitative techniques – focus groups, individual semi-structured interviews and pile-sort exercises – to probe the opinions, knowledge and experiences of 65 Georgian men. We identified locally meaningful men-who-have-sex-with-men types, demonstrating a complex intersectionality of sexual preference, socio-economic status, behaviour and geography. Positioning within these types appeared to impact a man’s exposure to the social stigma of homosexuality; the sexual, physical and mental health risks that he faced; and his access to treatment and counselling. Our results suggest the use of imported identity categories limits researchers’ ability to identify men who have sex with other men in Georgia and that further research aimed at elucidating locally meaningful categories is needed – research likely to lead to more-effective group interventions and facilitate a better understanding of holistic individual health needs.
February 15, 2011 – EurAsiaNet.org
Georgia: Time for Homosexuality to Come Out of the Closet?
by Giorgi Lomadze
A grisly murder in Tbilisi’s Courtyard Marriott Hotel is focusing attention on the issue of homosexuality in conservative Georgia. Twenty-six-year-old French engineer Stéphane Cohen, an employee of the French transportation company Systra, was knifed to death on January 27 in his room in the posh hotel. Cohen was in Georgia to help the Tbilisi government set up a city tram system. A 17-year-old Georgian male, recorded on hotel security cameras, has confessed to Cohen’s murder.
Police say robbery was a possible motive – the detained suspect ran off with Cohen’s laptop computer, mobile phone and camera – but declined to comment further to EurasiaNet.org given the case’s “sensitive” nature and the ongoing investigation. While questions remain about the circumstances surrounding Cohen’s murder, Tbilisi café owner Irakli Kutateladze, who describes himself as the dead man’s close friend, told EurasiaNet.org that the Frenchman met his suspected murderer through GayRomeo.com, a dating site actively used by gay Georgians. Other members of Georgia’s gay community confirmed that they saw Cohen’s profile on the dating site.
Unlike Cohen, who had his own picture posted on his profile page, most of the 285 Georgians registered on the website use fake identities to shield their true names. “Steph told me he was going to meet that kid, even though I advised him against it,” Kutateladze said, adding that the victim, as a foreigner, did not fully realize what type of person he was meeting.
Police have not stated publicly how Cohen and his murderer first met. Homosexuality remains a taboo topic in Georgia, where deviations from traditional Orthodox Christian values are frowned upon and public discussions of sexuality are shunned. An estimated 91.5 percent of Georgians think that homosexuality is never acceptable, according to a 2009 survey by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers. Rare media attention to the topic of homosexuality has done little to change public perceptions.
Save for a few shady cruising areas and a couple of gay-friendly bars in Tbilisi, that attitude means that Georgia’s gay community largely operates online, in a realm of secret avatars and blind dates – all designed to shield gay Georgians from the scorn of family, friends and the general public, commented Tamta Melashvili, acting director of the Diversity Research and Community Activism Association. Melashvili’s group is the only Georgian non-profit organization that directly deals with sexual minorities.
“They lead several lives, among their families, circle of friends and on social networking sites,” said Melashvili. In public, most Georgian gays maintain that they are heterosexual, she added. Some gay Georgians say that the secretive nature of Georgia’s gay life increases the vulnerability of homosexuals to crime. Fear of social ostracism and, sometimes, physical abuse, drives the gay community underground, into “a dark corner,” as gay rights activist Davit Mikheil Shubladze put it, where screening for potential troublemakers on dating sites can prove difficult.
“The way I do it is I speak to the guy for a while to figure out who I may be dealing with,” said one gay man, Vakho, who insisted on using a fake name. “Once I reach the comfort zone, we pick a place to meet. But I always get the creeps when I show up on the site. What if it is someone that you know, or some freak?”
07 September 2011 – Interfax
German gay tourists attacked in Georgian village
Tbilisi (Interfax) – Three German tourists, which turned out to be gay, were beaten and thrown into a river in the mountainous village of Omalo in Georgia on the border with the Russian republic of Chechnya. Several young Georgians, who had arrived in Omalo as tourists from Tbilisi, invited the three German tourists to their table at a local restaurant, the Kakhetia information center said, citing a representative from a travel agency.
After traditional Georgian toasts, including one for love, the invited guests started passionately kiss each other in the lips. The hosts, having misunderstood the same sex love, felt affronted – first they beat up the German gays, and then tied their hands and legs and threw them into the river. The foreigners were pulled from the river by local residents, who also helped the victims to descend safely into the valley. No criminal investigation has been launched into the incident, as the German tourists quickly left Georgia, having complained neither to the Georgian police, nor to the German Embassy in Tbilisi.