Many in Georgia heaved a collective sigh of relief after pro-LGBT rights rallies went without clashes on May 17, the International Day against Homophobia.
Groups of activists assembled in several locations in the capital, Tbilisi, mainly to highlight the European Court of Human Rights’ recent decision to impose penalties on the Georgian state for failing to prevent attacks against participants in an anti-homophobia demonstration in 2012.
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili construed the lack of violence as proof that Georgia “is a deserving, distinguished society and a civilized state.” But it also had to do with the LGBT community and their rights-defenders taking their precaution this time around. Mindful of assaults in 2012 and, especially in 2013, when a violent mob crushed a similar demonstration, the groups this year did not publicly announce the venues for their rallies.
One demonstration took place in a small downtown public garden. The rally was heavily guarded by police, with circles of cordons and busloads of police officers at the ready. Another group gathered on Vachnadze Street, where in 2013 police barely managed to rescue several LGBT activists from a de-facto lynch-mob. Still another group gathered in front of the justice ministry calling on it to implement the European Court of Human Rights’ decision.
In a May-12 judgment, the Strasbourg-based court ruled that the Georgian state should pay a total of 33,500 euros (roughly $38,181) to both individual and group plaintiffs for having failed to protect their right to safe assembly in 2012.
Some of the same individuals became victims of violence on a much larger scale in 2013.
Others appear bent on lending a foreign-policy dimension to these confrontations. Those who agitate in favor of closer ties with Russia maintain that the EU and its LGBT-tolerant policies run counter to Georgian traditions (an argument that also has been made in Armenia about Armenian traditions).
On May 17, a small collection of poster-toting protesters, including several priests, gathered in front of the European Union’s office in Tbilisi to denounce "propaganda for homosexuals."
But beyond that, activism by both sides was scattershot and peaceful, and much of the debate took place online and on TV.