Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists, Orthodox clergy and its parish all gathered in Tbilisi streets on May 17 to celebrate two radically different events: the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and the Day of Family Purity, which was established by the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church in 2014.
Family Purity Day marked in Georgia in parallel with LGBT rally
By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, May 18
However, unlike in previous years, these gatherings ended peacefully without detentions and confrontation between the LGBT activists and conservative Georgians.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has blocked traffic on several streets in connection with the rallies planned in connection with the day, as the parishioners and clergy gathered in front of the Philharmonic Hall, Rose Revolution Square, Opera and Parliament buildings, as well as in Pushkin Square.
In the morning, the clergy delivered a service, after which concerts were underway with the participation of folk regional ensembles.
They also marched from the Philharmonic theatre down Rustaveli Avenue, to Rose Revolution Square and then to Holy Trinity Cathedral, where the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II blessed gathered families.
As for the LGBT gathering, police were mobilized to let them peacefully hold their demonstration.
Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Presidential Administration and ordinary citizens also took part in the event. The main slogan of the rally was “Do not stand on the side of violence."
The activists stressed that homophobic and transphobic sentiments in society are further aggravated by the government's inactivity, adding that even politicians incite hatred and aggression towards LGBT people.
“We protest against the systematic oppression and discrimination in front of the governmental administration of Georgia,” the activists said.
In order to ensure the safety of LGBT people, after the rally the police officers helped them leave the protest territory with mini-busses.
The NGOs expressed concern that such rallies can only be held by the mobilization of police, and claim that the rights of the LGBT people are not properly protected in Georgia.
“I am glad that these people had the opportunity to express their protest but it is pity that the Interior Ministry has to take strict measures in order to protect LGBT activists from the other citizens,” Sophio Shamanidi, the President’s Advisor in issues of ethnic and religious minorities, stressed.
A member of the NGO Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Giorgi Gotsiridze, says that the problem of homophobia and transphobia is very acute in Georgia.
“When these people need police protection in order to organize a peaceful demonstration, this means that there is a serious problem of homophobia and transphobia in the country,” he said.
Public Defender of Georgia Ucha Nanuashvili released a statement saying homophobic and transphobic behaviour, use of hate speech, unequal treatment regarding sexual orientation are some of the main challenges of Georgia.
“LGBT people do not even feel safe using such important rights as education, employment, health care, and others,” Nanuashvili said, and called on the authorities to take proper steps in order to improve the situation.