Tbilisi Pride: Conference and Non-Festive March

A priest together with a thousand of other people attacks the participants of the campaign organized by LGBT activists on May 17, 2013. Photo by Radio Svoboda

Author: Yana Kazmirenko, Ukraine

In June, Tbilisi will host a Pride Week completed by the March of Dignity. The aspiration of the LGBTI community to speak out about their rights has already caused threats from the side of radical groups. On June 18-23, LGBTI activists will make another attempt to hold Tbilisi Pride, expecting about 1,500 participants. They do not announce the exact date of the event to prevent radicals from hindering the march and intimidating the participants.

Sandro Bregadze, leader of the Georgian March movement, said that he will not allow holding a gay march in Tbilisi and threatened to punish all those who will be protecting the LGBTI activists, including law enforcers. In addition to the radical groups, the Georgian Orthodox Church is also traditionally against the Tbilisi Pride. All attempts of the LGBTI community to organise any public events have always faced their counteractions. Thus, the Georgian Orthodox Church has announced that May 17, marking the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, is the Family Day and holds a festive parade on this day. In 2013, an LGBTI rally turned into a fight.

There is a variety of activities planned to be held within Tbilisi Pride 2019, including an international conference to discuss the challenges and the best practices in protecting the rights of LGBTI community in Georgia and in the region, the importance of visibility and the impact of prides on the situation of queer people. The topic of HIV transmission and prevention will be brought up during the panel discussion “Right to health and the problems of LGBTI people accessing health services.”

“The Tbilisi Pride mission is not limited to fighting for our rights. The Pride Week is also aimed at raising public recognition and mobilizing the LGBTI community. Our slogans are addressed to the government, to the society and to the community,” says Mariam Kvaratskhelia, co-organizer of Tbilisi Pride.

The pride will be concluded with a March of Dignity, which will not take a festive shape since queers have little to celebrate in Georgia today.

On the eve of Tbilisi Pride, its organizers issued a statement, directly saying that the state authorities use LGBTI people as a cover. The authors say that they are not going to hide and live double lives.

The statement reads, “Violence is committed against us in our families, in schools, on the street and at work. We are attacked at home and expelled from families. They’re killing us! As a result of such hate and aggression, our sisters and brothers have to seek asylum in other places. (…) We are concerned about the poverty, unemployment, occupation and social inequality in Georgia. We are used as scapegoats to draw people’s attention away from the important social problems everyone should care about!”

Mariam hopes that after the Pride Week the community will be better mobilized.

“We already see many community members going public. Some of them agreed to become heroes of our videos, others will come to the Tbilisi Pride. Every year, the number of our supporters grows. We show to the government that there are many of us, that we are strong and that we have to be taken into account,” sums up Kvaratskhelia.

In Georgia, most LGBTI people have to hide their orientation, as they are afraid of facing violence from the side of their families and being judged by the church.

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