Stronger Enforcement Measures Needed to Uphold Important Georgian Anti-Discrimination Law
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today called the Georgian Parliament’s adoption of an anti-discrimination bill that includes sexual orientation and gender identity on the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination an important step forward. The organization urges Georgian policymakers to put measures in place to enforce of the law that bans all forms of discrimination. The law was passed earlier this month as a precondition for Georgia being granted relaxed visa procedures with European Union states.
“The passage of the anti-discrimination law in Georgia is a breakthrough for human rights in a region where there is a growing climate of persecution and violence against members of the LGBT community and other vulnerable minority groups,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “We urge the United States to press Georgian authorities to pass stronger enforcement and protection measures to strengthen this important law.”
While the original draft bill included the creation of an inspector to investigate allegations of discrimination and impose sanctions, the final draft removed this new office, assigning the responsibility for implementation to the public defender without granting new authority to impose penalties for violations. Georgian civil society leaders are calling for the passage of additional measures to ensure enforcement of the law.
“The existence of an anti-discrimination law that explicitly declares sexual orientation and gender identity as bases of anti-discrimination is very important in such a homophobic country as Georgia,” Georgian activist Anna Rekhviashvili from Identoba told Human Rights First. “Unfortunately the current law does not include an effective mechanism to react on the cases of discrimination. Currently, the ombudsman of Georgia is responsible for responding to cases of the discrimination, but no additional funding is allocated to the ombudsman’s office to fulfill the mission.”
Human Rights First recently met with members of the Georgian Parliament who expressed their approval for the legislation. Despite public protests and opposition from leadership of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the bill was passed with a strong majority of 115 votes to one, with the support of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili who said, “Adoption of the anti-discrimination law is a part of the reform programme that our government is carrying out to strengthen the protection of human rights in Georgia.” The inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the law is a requirement for meeting the conditions that the European Union has set for Georgia to sign an Association Agreement.
The passage of the anti-discrimination law is a positive step forward in a region where there is an active spread of anti-LGBT sentiment and of discriminatory Russian-style anti-“propaganda” laws that infringe on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to press Russian officials to end the systematic persecution of civil society, and for neighboring countries to refrain from adopting similar anti-propaganda laws or other laws that infringe on human rights.