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Violent mob forces cancellation of Tbilisi Pride in Georgia

March organizers’ offices ransacked, journalists attacked

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(Screenshot courtesy of Dutch MP Ruben Brekelmans Twitter page)

A violent mob forced the cancellation of a Pride march that was to have taken place in Georgia’s capital on Monday.

Videos show what one source described to the Washington Blade as a “marginal mob of Christian and far-right extremists” ripping down a Pride flag that Tbilisi Pride had hung from the balcony of its offices. Tbilisi Pride Director Giorgi Tabagari later posted to social media a video that showed the mob ransacked them.

Media reports indicate the mob attacked journalists and stabbed at least one person.

“They declared war against civil society, democratic values and the European course of the country,” said Tbilisi Pride in a statement it released after it officially cancelled the march.

Tbilisi Pride and other Georgian LGBTQ activists accused the former Soviet republic’s government of not doing enough to protect march participants. Tbilisi Pride in its statement also sharply criticized Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Patriarch Ilia of the Georgian Orthodox Church and “pro-Russian groups” for comments they made before and after the march’s cancellation.

“The (Georgia) Ministry of Internal Affairs, despite having all opportunities to ensure the safety of Pride Week participants, did not take any action to protect the fundamental rights of people,” said Tbilisi Pride. “Tbilisi Pride members, representatives of international organizations and (members of the) diplomatic corps had a number of meetings with MIA representatives. They knew our action strategy. They were offered specific plans … but instead of measures, we have been watching from the morning government representatives encouraging violent groups.”

The American, Austrian, Bulgarian, British, Bulgarian, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Israeli, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish embassies in a joint statement condemned the violence. The U.N. and European Union missions in the country were also signatories.

“We condemn today’s violent attacks on the civic activists, community members and journalists, as well as the failure of the government leaders and religious officials to condemn this violence,” reads the statement. “Participation in peaceful gatherings is a human right guaranteed by Georgia’s Constitution. Violence is simply unacceptable and cannot be excused. Those who incite or threaten violence or commit violent acts are interfering with the efforts of Georgia’s law enforcement professionals to uphold a safe and secure environment. They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”  

“We call on all Georgia’s leaders and law enforcement to act swiftly to protect those exercising their Constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly, to protect journalists exercising freedom of the press, and to publicly condemn violence,” it adds.

ILGA-Europe is among the LGBTQ rights groups that have also condemned the violence. Civil.ge, a Georgian news website, reported that authorities have launched an investigation.

NOM president traveled to Tbilisi in June

The first Tbilisi Pride march was to have taken place in June 2019, but organizers postponed it amid protests against a Russian MP who spoke at the Georgian Parliament. A small Pride demonstration took place a few weeks later.

U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan in May faced criticism after she met with Georgian Orthodox Church Archbishop Iakob.

Civil.ge Editor-in-Chief Otar “Otto” Kobakhidze in a series of tweets noted Iakob “led a program against LGBTQ activists in downtown Tbilisi” on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in 2013.

National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown traveled to Georgia last week. Brown on June 23 participated in a Tbilisi press conference with Levan Vesadze, an anti-LGBTQ Georgian businessman who recently founded an ultranationalist political party.

“In country after country we find men and women, men like Levan, who act and stand for truth, for the family,” said Brown. “No lies, no slurs will stop us.”

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Africa

Human rights groups condemn victimization of LGBTQ, intersex people in Zambia

Country’s Catholic archbishop backs anti-gay campaign

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(Photo courtesy of LGBT Zambia's Facebook page)

Human rights organizations and activists have condemned the continued victimization of LGBTQ and intersex people in Zambia.

Anti-LGBTQ and intersex sentiments have been gaining momentum in recent weeks, including Dr. Brian Sampa’s #banbeardtobeard campaign in relation to gay couples. Alick Banda, the archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lusaka, and other Zambian religious leaders have also echoed these sentiments.

“In the last 12 months, we have witnessed an increase in the number of incidents and events that promote LGBTQ tendencies contrary to the laws of Zambia and our Zambian culture. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of incidents of sodomy where boys and men are raped by fellow boys and men with impunity,” said Banda on Sept. 25. “We have witnessed several cases of sodomy and homosexuality on the increase in our society much to the displeasure and disapproval of the general public. Unfortunately, the law enforcement agents and the president who took an oath to protect the Constitution seems to be paying a blind eye. The question that begs an answer is, is it by design or by default.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zambia.

President Hakainde Hichilema last month reiterated his government does not support LGBTQ and intersex rights in response to Sampa’s protest.

The Global Interface Network, a global NGO that promotes safety and inclusion for all people of faith and especially for people who suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation, criticized Banda’s comments.

“The statement by the archbishop has the potential to further escalate violence and we are deeply concerned for the wellbeing and safety of members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Zambia,” said the Global Interface Network in a statement it released on Sept. 26. “Religious leaders are the shepherds of their flocks and have a responsibility to provide guidance, care and support to the faith community. Although we understand that for the Archbishop of Lusaka, same sex sexualities and non-normative gender identities are unfamiliar, we do not believe that it is appropriate, especially in a context in which people are already marginalized and subjected to violence and discrimination, for the archbishop to put his stamp of approval on further violence.”

The Global Interface Network in its statement encouraged Banda and the country’s Catholic Church “to enter into a process of fellowship and discernment alongside 2SLGBTQIA+ people of faith and skilled dialogue facilitators in Zambia and to collectively grow in the mission to offer compassion, care and love to the most vulnerable.” 

“The people of Zambia, just as it is the people of the African continent, deserve an opportunity to see humanity beyond heterosexuality,” it said. “That opportunity has the potential for a reclamation of the African people’s history of dealing with diversity, an opportunity of understanding beyond the common narrative of dehumanization.”

Mino, a Zambian LGBTQ and intersex activist, said Sampa has been sharing misleading information on his social media platforms that has influenced religious leaders and others across the country.

“The leader of this ban homosexuality movement has jumped from one cause to the other without success and unfortunately, this has seen him get heavy backing from people who share similar religious views. The whole thing has not been objective, the information he is disseminating is highly inaccurate, and full of untruths about 2SLGBTQIA+ persons. Sadly, the church and in a way the State has also jumped on this bandwagon,” said Mino. 

“Nevertheless, despite the current situation facing the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Zambia, it is my hope that this opens a balanced dialogue of issues of sexuality and gender,” added Mino. “People must have accurate information on who we are as people and begin to see us as human beings with lives, families, interests, jobs, struggles, just like any other person as currently the 2SLGBTQIA+ community has been reduced to being only sexual beings and cannot be seen beyond that.”

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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Eastern Europe

Slovenia legalizes marriage, adoption for same-sex couples

Country first in Eastern Europe to pass such legislation

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(Image by AlexLMX via Bigstock)

Slovenia has become the first country in Eastern Europe to legalize same-sex marriage and the adoption of minor children by same-sex couples.

After considerable debate Tuesday in the Slovenian Parliament, 48 lawmakers passed legislation that guarantees the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Twenty-nine MPs opposed the legislation, while one abstained.

This past July, the country’s Constitutional Court in a 6-3 ruling found a Slovenian law that granted rights to only opposite-sex marriages and adoptions violated a constitutional prohibition against discrimination. The court ordered the Parliament to amend the law within six months to guarantee that all marriages and adoptions would be equal in the eyes of the law.

At the time of the high court’s ruling; Labor, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Minister Luka Mesec said: “The Constitutional Court has ordered us to do it, and we will do it with the greatest pleasure.”

Most of Slovenia’s Eastern European neighbors do not allow civil unions or same-sex marriages.

The government of Estonia came the closest in 2016 by agreeing to recognize same-sex unions created in other countries. Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Montenegro have laws establishing same-sex civil partnerships — and in Hungary, even talking about homosexuality in front of minors has been punishable by a fine since summer 2021, euronews noted.

“With these changes, we are recognizing the rights of same-sex couples that they should have had for a long time,” Slovenian State Secretary Simon Maljevac told MPs when presenting the amendment.

The main opposition party, the Slovenian Democratic Party, criticized the court’s decision and organized several rallies against the new law.

“The best father will never replace a mother and vice versa,” said SDS parliamentary group chair Alenka Jeraj prior to the debate and vote.

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Russia

Putin slams LGBTQ people in Ukraine annexation speech

The international community has condemned sham referenda

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(YouTube screenshot from AFP/NBC)

In a rally ceremony that resembled a political convention on Sept. 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his signing a decree that Russia had annexed four regions of Eastern Ukraine that were overrun by Russian military forces and Russian-backed separatists.

“The people made their choice,” said Putin in the formal signing ceremony at the Kremlin’s St. George Hall. “And that choice won’t be betrayed” by Russia, he said.

This past week, in an election President Joe Biden labeled fraudulent and a sham, Ukrainians in the occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia voted to join Russia in elections supervised by heavily armed Russian troops.

Speaking from the White House on Sept. 30, Biden said the U.S. and its allies will not recognize Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian regions and reaffirmed that NATO countries will defend all territory in the alliance.

Addressing the Russian leader, Biden said “Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”

America and its allies are not going to — I’m going to emphasize, are not going to be intimidated, are not going to be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats. He’s not going to scare us and he doesn’t — or intimidate us.

Putin’s actions are a sign he’s struggling. The sham referenda he carried out and this routine he put on, don’t worry, it’s not there if you’re looking, OK. The sham routine that we put on this morning that’s showing the unity and people holding hands together. Well, the United States is never going to recognize this and quite frankly, the world is not going to recognize it either. He can’t seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it. It’s as simple as that.

And they’re going to stay the course. We’re going to continue to provide military equipment so that Ukraine can defend itself and its territory and its freedom, … And we’re fully prepared to defend, I want to say this again, America is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO’s territory, every single inch. So Mr. Putin, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Every inch.”

Putin in his speech at the ceremony, which took place on a massive stage in Moscow’s Red Square opposite the Kremlin’s walls, took aim at the West with particular emphasis on Western values and culture.

“Western countries have been repeating for centuries that they bring freedom and democracy to other peoples. Everything is exactly the opposite: instead of democracy — suppression and exploitation; instead of freedom — enslavement and violence,” Putin said.

Later during the speech Putin decried the LGBTQ community and Western nations that allow equity and equality and human rights:

“In fact, they spit on the natural right of billions of people, most of humanity, to freedom and justice, to determine their own future on their own. Now they have completely moved to a radical denial of moral norms, religion, and family.

Let’s answer some very simple questions for ourselves. I now want to return to what I said, I want to address all the citizens of the country — not only to those colleagues who are in the hall — to all the citizens of Russia: do we want to have, here, in our country, in Russia, parent number one, number two, number three instead of mom and dad — have they gone made out there? Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on children in our schools from the primary grades? To be drummed into them that there are various supposed genders besides women and men, and to be offered a sex change operation? Do we want all this for our country and our children? For us, all this is unacceptable, we have a different future, our own future?”

Putin then implied directly that the U.S. and its NATO allies assisting Ukraine were trying to erase Russian culture and then justified the annexation of the four regions in Eastern Ukraine:

“Today we are fighting so that it would never occur to anyone that Russia, our people, our language, our culture can be taken and erased from history. Today, we need the consolidation of the entire society, and such cohesion can only be based on sovereignty, freedom, creation and justice. Our values ​​are humanity, mercy and compassion.

And I want to end my speech with the words of a true patriot Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin: ‘If I consider Russia my Motherland, then this means that I love in Russian, contemplate and think, sing and speak Russian; that I believe in the spiritual strength of the Russian people. His spirit is my spirit; his fate is my fate; his suffering is my grief; its flowering is my joy.’

Behind these words is a great spiritual choice, which for more than a thousand years of Russian statehood was followed by many generations of our ancestors. Today we are making this choice, the citizens of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, the residents of Zaporozhye and Kherson regions have made this choice. They made the choice to be with their people, to be with the Motherland, to live its destiny, to win together with it.”

Putin has long held homophobic and transphobic opinions and has signed multiple pieces of legislation that has sharply curtailed LGBTQ rights and expression in Russia during his 18 years as president, including the country’s “Don’t Say Gay” law signed in 2013 that has been strengthened and augmented by succeeding measures.

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