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Anti-discrimination bill remains a hot issue

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, April 30
Despite the request of the Patriarchate, the antidiscrimination bill was discussed in parliament on April 29. The discussion was opposed by the rally outside the parliament. Religionists and spirituals gathered there saying that the government is trying to “legalize the sin of Sodomy” in Georgia.

Alongside the Patriarchate’s requests, the NGOs expressed their own dissatisfaction towards the bill. They claim that there are no real mechanisms foreseen in the bill that will discourage discrimination in Georgia.

Adoption of this anti-discrimination legislation is one of the 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.

The second reading of the draft was held on April 29. Prior to the discussion, the Patriarchate made a statement, stressing that the discussion of the draft should have been postponed.

“Bringing notions that do not exist in the constitution like ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ to anti-discrimination law creates great anxiety among people, as personal rights of our citizens are already equally protected according to the existing law of Georgia,” the Patriarchate statement reads.

The Patriarchate also states that the European Union is a diverse space uniting different nations and religions, which claims that it recognizes culture and traditions of different peoples and with regard to Georgia it is ready to consider and respect values. “The requirements of this bill contradict these principles,” the statement says.

Parliamentary majority members Eka Beselia and Manana Kobakhidze claim that there is “nothing immoral” in the draft and anti-discrimination principles are also protected by the constitution. They claim that adoption of the law is significant for Georgia’s EU integration.

Fellow member of the coalition Eliso Chapidze states that the Patriarchate’s attitude is very important for the government and the Prime Minister has met Patriarch Ilia II several times to discuss the bill.

Parliamentary minority member Chiora Taktakishvili states that the United National Movement (UNM) takes the bill as one of the key issues for Georgia’s European path. However, Taktakishvili says that the NGOs appeals should be taken into consideration.

The coalition’s Parliamentary Secretary Giorgi Tadumadze explains that changes regarding the sanction, as it demanded by the NGOs will not be put in the draft, as the draft has already been adopted without such norms. He stresses that some other changes might be made in the draft.

According to Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, if the Public Defender’s rights are grown in terms of discrimination issues, additional financial resources should be allocated for the Ombudsman’s Office from the budget for fulfilling the obligation appropriately.

“In cases of discrimination, a fine should be given to an offender as well,” Nanuashvili said.

Representative of the non-parliamentary opposition and mayoral candidate, Dimitri Lortkipanidze, states that the law, if it is adopted as it is now, will violate the majority rights. He states that the law should be discussed with the Patriarchate which represents the majority of the Georgian population.