Orthodox Christians put a stop to a rare attempt to combat homophobia in Georgia on Thursday (17 May).
Around 20 participants in the gay parade had joined the march through the country’s capital Tbilisi waving rainbow flags and placards. The march was meant to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), a day for education and tolerance.
Before they could reach the Georgian parliament, a group of Orthodox priests and their supporters stopped the march by shouting abuse, throwing punches, and smashing the signs.
One of the parade’s organisers Natia Gvianishvili of rights group Identoba told the Associated Foreign Press: ‘This shows that Tbilisi has a long way to go to become a modern European city.
‘We expected a negative reaction but did not expect to be attacked.’
A priest, who declined to give his name, said: ‘How can you promote such a thing in the streets where there are children? It should not be allowed.’
The gay rights activists gathered again yesterday (18 May) to protest against the violence, with one person holding up a hand-made drawing of Christ with the words ‘Jesus is love’.
Gvianishvili told AFP: ‘They can do what they like, but we're not going away. We're here, we're out and we're proud.’
Same-sex sexual activity has only been legal in the deeply religious Caucasus country since 2000, but homosexuality has remained a taboo topic.
An event in 2006 aiming to spread tolerance was cancelled after rumors spread it was actually a gay pride parade.
In a European International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) list ranking 49 countries on gay people’s legal rights, Georgia came near the bottom along with Russia, Turkey and Armenia.
Georgian ombudsman for human rights Giorgi Tugushi said politicians should address gay, lesbian and transgender issues because ‘only in this case it will become possible for our state and society to develop in a democratic and liberal direction.
‘The development of tolerant values is one of the most important preconditions for the formation of democratic society.’