Thursday 17th of May is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It was also supposed to be the day when a pride parade was once again organized in Tbilisi, Georgia. However, the parade was cancelled due to the risk of violent counter-demonstrations and a history of attacks.
Instead of a manifestation,Equality Movement, who were the organizers, decided to use the power of social media and instead go to different ministries to read statements and use smoke signals to draw attention. Several other manifestations also took place around the city, showing that the struggle for human rights in Georgia is alive and well.
The LGBT community in Georgia have fresh memories from 2013, when a parade was brutally attacked and more than 20 people were injured. At that time, police forces didn’t stop the attacks, causing LGBT people to distrust the police from then on. Recently, the police also raided several open-minded nightclubs, further deepening the distrust. With this in mind, it is understandable that organizers felt worried. Nobody expected the police to act violently, but when Pro-Russian groups, neo-nazis and the orthodox church planned manifestations at the same day, police protection could be the difference between life and death. Our experience was that police were all but welcoming, forming human shields to make manifestations more difficult, writing down the registration numbers of protesters and following protesters. However, we did not experience any police brutality, they did allow the manifestations (though sometimes unwillingly) and they did help out during several incidents where protesters were being attacked.
It should also be mentioned that the situation for LGBT people in Georgia has improved the last couple of years. At the same time, a survey conducted quite recently showed that 80% of the population have a ”strongly negative” attitude against homosexuals and that 93% of the population would be against having a gay neighbour. Georgia is currently experiencing a strong clash between conservative values on one side and liberal values on the other. The situation is developing too slow, but it is developing and the rest of the world should put pressure to make it develop faster.
Anders Rehnberg is from Gothenburg, Sweden. He is a former vice president of IFLRY and a member of the liberal youth party Liberala ungdomsförbundet (LUF).