Open Society Georgia Foundation, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Transparency International Georgia (TI), Civil Development Agency (CiDA), as well as religious minority groups, held a press conference on April 28 regarding the bill on the elimination of all forms of discrimination.
NGOs protest anti-discrimination bill
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, April 29
The government submitted a draft of the anti-discrimination legislation to parliament on April 10. The bill, proposed by the government, was passed with its first reading on April 17.
Adoption of this legislation is one of those requirements Georgia must fulfill in order to qualify for the EU’s visa liberalization regime. However, the NGOs claim that the initial version of the draft significantly differed from the version presented by the government to the legislative body.
The NGOs claim that the draft lacked major points, like having an inspector for protection of equality specifically for the purpose of overseeing the implementation of the anti-discrimination legislation. The government stated that the function would be fulfilled by the Public Defender. However, NGOs say that the proposal does not provide for empowering the ombudsman’s office with the relevant means to efficiently tackle the problem.
Organizations also express concern that the fining mechanism against the individuals/public agencies concerning acts of discrimination are no longer considered in the bill.
“Adoption of the law without considering the fining mechanism will be meaningless and will not change the situation in the country,” head of CiDA, Zviad Devdariani told The Messenger. He added that NGOs are ready to discuss an alternative version with the government.
“When there is just a recommendation awaited, no real changes in attitude are expected. After making the recommendation and statement by the Public Defender on discrimination, the court should respond to the statement through legal levers,” Devdariani stated.
Executive Director of Transparency International Georgia, Eka Gigauri, emphasizes that adoption of the draft with such content would discourage the facilitation of visa free regime with Europe.
“We hope that the comments and opinions expressed by the major actors and institutions working on human rights issues will be foreseen,” the NGOs stated, expressing her suspicions that the initial version of the draft was modified through the influence of majority and the church.
The organizations also stressed that Amnesty International had expressed the same vision in terms of the bill.
Through the statement made by the foreign organization, the Georgian government should take into consideration the concerns of civil society and offer a bill that would not only outlaw discrimination on paper, but would also enforce the prohibition of all forms of discrimination in practice.
“It is important that the new anti-discrimination law is effective, since discrimination has been a significant problem in Georgia. During the last two years there have been cases of attacks on and discrimination against members of religious minorities and the LGBT community in the country,” Amnesty International said.
Member of the Georgian Dream coalition, Gedeon Popkhadze, stated that the law will be a new stage in combating discrimination. The MP stressed that empowering the Ombudsman with additional rights and the ability to enforce the law, would discourage discrimination in the country.