Parliament adopted the anti- discrimination law 115 votes to one, after its third and final hearing on May 2. The bill had been subject to much controversy due to its mention of sexual minorities– especially among members of the Orthodox Church. However, despite the loud protests from church, the bill was passed nonetheless and included language referring to sexual minorities.
Anti-discrimination bill adopted
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, May 5
The new law prohibits any form of discrimination and aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination no matter of race, color, language, sex, nationality, origin, birth, place of residence, property or social status, religion or belief, national, ethnic or social origin, profession, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or political beliefs.
The fifth clause of the Article on Harassment was removed from the draft law. The clause stated harassment should not exist with respect to people towards whom there is hostile, humiliating, intimidating, degrading or otherwise offensive environment.
A new wording related to “morals” appeared in the law.
According to the legislation, the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) will be in charge of overseeing anti-discrimination measures. The public defender would at first mediate between the parties involved in order to try to achieve some agreement. If the action is useless, the Ombudsman will then send a recommendation to an entity or person linked to the discriminative action. If the recommendation is ignored, the Ombudsman has the right to take the case to the court.
Human rights organizations state that the law will not be effective, as it lacks fines and mechanisms to punish those who discriminate. According to them, without this lever, there will be less fear in committing discriminative acts. Various NGOs (Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International Georgia and so on), as well as the Public Defender’s Office, stress that the public defender requires more financial and legal assistance in fulfilling their obligation properly. Head of Open Society Georgia Foundation Keti Khutsishvili has admitted that it was a lack of knowledge over the law that caused controversy.
The Georgian Patriarchate’s Information Service has refrained from making comment on the final version at the moment. According to father Iakob, the Patriarchate needs time to study the law.
Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili stated that nothing new has been introduced in the law. “The terms gender equality and sexual orientation have been mentioned in Georgian legislation since 1997,” Usupashvili stated, stressing that the government and the parliament has taken the Patriarch’s appeal into account and active consultations were held until the adoption of the law.
The UNM parliamentary minority group voted for the bill, but emphasized the concerns voiced by the human rights organizations. UNM lawmakers also expressed regret that the bill did not contain the necessary mechanisms to enforce the law.