Public Defender Finds Discrimination over Refusal to Allocate Space to Organizations Working on LGBT+ Rights

On January 27, 2020, the Public Defender of Georgia found discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and the field of activity against Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University (legal entity of public law), Batumi Akaki Tsereteli Library (non-commercial legal entity) and Merab Berdzenishvili International Culture Center “Muse”.

During the period of May-August 2019, NGOs working on LGBT+ issues - Identity (non-commercial legal entity) and Tbilisi Pride (non-commercial legal entity) - addressed the Public Defender against three organizations, indicating that the organizations refused to allocate space for holding an event on the LGBT+ theme by using formal arguments. All three organizations named repairs to their premises as a motive for their refusal.

The Public Defender considers that the refusal of the State University, Batumi Library and Muse Ltd to allocate space for a public lecture/performance might have been based on objective circumstances, however, the defendants did not show willingness to offer the applicants an alternative solution. In addition, according to the Public Defender, the negative and hostile attitude of the community around the events surrounding Tbilisi Pride played a crucial role in the reluctance of the respondent organizations to allow talking about LGBT+ issues in their space in that period. Accordingly, on the basis of a discriminatory motive, the applicants’ requests were rejected.

The Public Defender notes in the recommendation that the means used for achieving the legitimate objective - the refusal of delivering a lecture in two cases and the refusal of holding a performance in another case, were not necessary means, because Batumi State University and Batumi Library had alternative spaces, while the Muse Center was able to offer an alternative date, which would have been less intensive interference with the applicants’ right and they would have been allowed to hold their events. In addition, the Public Defender emphasized the commitment of Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University and Batumi Akaki Tsereteli Public Library, as education institutions, to facilitate dissemination of information on equality issues and development of a tolerance-based environment.

In view of the above, the Public Defender recommended the respondents to develop an internal policy document on prohibition and prevention of discrimination, to observe the principle of equality in their future work and to promote a tolerant environment for the LGBT+ community and other vulnerable groups.

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