Georgia’s ruling party proposes LGBTQ+ “propaganda” law that compares homosexuality to incest

Georgia’s ruling party proposes LGBTQ+ “propaganda” law that compares homosexuality to incest

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Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Shalva Papuashvili, April 2024

Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Shalva Papuashvili, April 2024 Photo: Zhaslan Zhumabekov/via WIkipedia

A lawmaker with the ruling party of Georgia has introduced legislation that would strip the rights of same-sex couples, ban depictions of homosexuality in media, and outlaw all LGBTQ+-related gatherings.

The chilling legislation bears all the hallmarks of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts at LGBTQ+ erasure.

On Tuesday, Shalva Papuashvili, a leader of Georgia’s revanchist Dream party and the speaker of Georgia’s parliament, introduced legislation targeting what he described as “LGBT propaganda.”

The bill, as well as amendments to 18 existing laws, would attack the LGBTQ+ community on several fronts.

Same-sex marriages would not be registered, adoption would be limited to “heterosexuals,” and gender transition would be outlawed along with any “medical manipulation for the purpose of gender reassignment,” Papuashvili said.

The legislation erases LGBTQ+ people from public spaces by ordering broadcasters, advertisers, and movie theaters to redact all content featuring same-sex relationships and positive portrayals of homosexuality for all ages.

In a nod to both Putin and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), the bill bans schools in Georgia from providing information to students that “promotes belonging to the opposite sex, same-sex relations or incest.”

The introduction of the draconian bill follows the Georgia Parliament’s passage of another Russian-inspired law to label Western NGOs “foreign agents,” teeing up a harassment campaign aimed at expelling human rights and other groups that far-right conservatives and the Orthodox Church have accused of infecting Georgia and other countries with “degeneracy.”

Speaking of opponents of the nascent legislation in March, Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority, said, “Even if they brand the law against LGBT ‘propaganda’ not Russian, but Soviet, we will follow it through, given that it is the biggest challenge of modern times.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment runs high among extremists in the former Soviet republic. In 2021 and 2023, violent mobs shut down Pride marches in the capital of Tbilisi.

Organizers say foreign agents delivered by Putin joined far-right fascist political gangs and members of the Georgian Orthodox church to sabotage the peaceful demonstration. Hundreds were injured in the two incidents.

Rights groups and supporters described the attacks as “pogroms.”

Around 56% of Georgian respondents to a U.N. survey in 2022 believe that the LGBTQ+ community should be protected but that “its members should not impose their way of life on others.” 

Tamar Jakeli, director of Tbilisi Pride, told German news site DW that despite the conservative leanings of Georgian society, “The public opinion towards queer people has shifted for the better.” 

But she says the government is standing in the way of “building an equal and accepting society.”

“Unfortunately, nowadays Georgia is a hostile place for the LGBTQ+ community, but not because of its society, but because of its pro-Russian, authoritarian government. Society is giving us much to hope for; the government is totally beyond any hope,” she said.

Georgia is still officially a candidate for membership in the European Union, a remnant of the country’s earlier flirtation with liberal democracy. Putin has opposed the proposed membership, and Georgia’s current majority Dream party, ardent supporters of the Russian president, are working hard to undermine it.

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