As historically traditional societies, Georgia and Armenia have come a long way since the fall of the Soviet Union in terms of certain aspects of development. However, numerous challenges persist in the context of human rights, foretelling a long, arduous, obstacle-ridden road towards the achievement of equal rights for all groups. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons represent one of the most marginalised, least visible and discriminated against groups in Armenia and Georgia. Despite a degree of success achieved in recent years, especially in Georgia with the adoption of the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination in 2014, members of the group continue to face violence, oppression, and harassment from the general public, as well as specific institutions, including medical facilities and the workplace. Bias-motivated violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) frequently goes unreported and, hence, remain without proper investigation and retribution. Deep-rooted homo/bi/ transphobia permeating virtually all segments of society is reinforced by traditional values, as well as binary, heteronormative gender roles, which, in turn, fuel the discriminatory culture prevalent in these two countries and prevent LGBTI persons from fully enjoying their rights and freedoms. A flawed understanding of democratic values and minority rights has also largely been inherited from the Soviet Union, and has been symptomatic of small nations with a collective memory of unresolved conflict and survivalist ideology, where LGBTI persons are seen as a threat to local customs and religion.
In order to comprehensively combat discrimination against LGBTI people in the two countries, the South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation has been implementing the EU-funded action Solidarity Network for LGBTI in Armenia and Georgia, in partnership with the Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG) and Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMC) in Georgia; and Society Without Violence (SWV) and Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK) in Armenia. The overall objectives of the action are to enhance the protection of and respect for LGBTI people’s rights, combat homophobia and support LGBTI people’s inclusion in Georgia’s and Armenia’s respective societies, while the specific objectives are to support LGBTI people in the full scale realization of their rights through the enhancement of an LGBTI-friendly environment and to stimulate a higher cohesion of civil society actors on SOGI issues in Georgia and Armenia.
The present publication is the result of a year-long coordinated effort by the project partners, which envisioned the development and implementation of two comprehensive studies: a full-scale research of homo/bi/transphobic societal attitudes, and a situational assessment of the legal and physical conditions of LGBTI persons in the two countries.
The large-scale in-depth study of homo/bi/transphobic societal attitudes includes a thorough examination of social prejudices and stereotypes that would facilitate the investigation of the scale and specific nature of homo/bi/transphobia in Armenia and Georgia. Although, several studies to measure attitudes towards homosexuals have been previously conducted in both countries (the 2011 CRRC Caucasus Barometer being one example), the scope and scale of the present study is unprecedented, affording an integrated perspective on prevalent attitudes towards and knowledge about LGBTI persons. An almost identical methodology for Georgia and Armenia allows for effective comparison of the data in the future.
The situational assessment depicting particular legal and physical conditions of LGBTI people in Armenia and Georgia provides an in-depth analysis of legal standards, existing international and local legislation, cases of discrimination in various spheres, levels of state responsibility towards LGBTI persons and their accessibility to relevant services (health care, education, etc).
The findings of the two studies and the specific areas of focus identified therein will serve as the basis for the development of country-specific evidence-based long-term advocacy strategies on the advancement of LGBTI issues, as well as a set of recommendations for specific actors. The advocacy strategy and the findings of the two studies will also be used as groundwork for a multifaceted awareness-raising campaign, as well as capacity-building activities for CSOs, LGBTI organisations, activists and initiative groups within the framework of the action.
The Heinrich Boell Foundation is particularly grateful to the four project partners mentioned above for their meticulous work and coordinated efforts in developing the methodologies, designing the study tools, producing in-depth analytical reports and ensuring the publication of the two studies; the Institute of Social Studies and Analysis (ISSA) in Georgia and the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC) – Armenia Foundation for the comprehensive field work, data collection and analysis; and experts, Ms Ekaterine Aghdgomelashvili, who has almost single-handedly ensured the validity of every single correlation and invested countless hours and sustained effort in producing a high-quality, comprehensive and well-rounded report, as well as Ms Elmira Bakhshinyan, Mr Jack Vahan Bournazian, and Ms Mariam Osipyan for their invaluable and exhaustive work. Heinrich Boell Foundation’s own Eka Tsereteli also deserves high commendation for her work on the graphic design of the homophobic attitudes study, as do Anne Nemsitsveridze-Daniels for their contribution to the translation and editing efforts of the study and situational assessment, and Hasmik Hayrapetyan, for her assistance in the translation of the quantitative tools.
It is our hope that the two detailed studies will provide a better understanding of LGBTI rights in both Armenia and Georgia and pave the way for a long-term strategy that would ensure their protection and inclusion in all aspects of life, which would consequently strengthen democratic development and lead to inclusive and tolerant societies free from discrimination.
Tbilisi, 23 March 2016
Heinrich Boell Foundation
South Caucasus Regional Office