Monday, November 24, 2014

Exploring Homophobia in Georgia: Part 5

This is the fifth and final blog post in a series analyzing the findings of CRRC-Georgia’s 2013 May 17 survey in Tbilisi and presents evidence-based policy recommendations which address the issue of widespread homophobic attitudes. The previous blog posts in this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
As discussed in previous blog posts, the main statistical predictors of homophobia among Tbilisi adults are:
  • Sex, with males at a higher risk of having homophobic attitudes than females;
  • Level of education, with those with higher educational attainment being at a lower risk of having homophobic attitudes;
  • Tolerance and adherence to liberal values, with those not sharing these values being at a higher risk of having homophobic attitudes;
  • A perception that homosexuals are a threat to the country, with those believing that homosexuals endanger Georgia being at a higher risk of having homophobic attitudes.

These empirical findings provide crucial information for policy makers to plan policy intervention(s) aimed at decreasing the level of homophobic attitudes and promoting tolerance and respect for the rights of all minorities, including sexual minorities.

We recommend that targeted interventions are made in the legal and educational spheres. The former is important, because Georgia still lacks legal guarantees for the protection of rights of minorities and enforcement mechanisms to punish violations of those rights. This is especially evident for sexual minority rights. The widely debated anti-discrimination bill, initiated by the Government of Georgia in April, 2014, has caused a division of opinions in society, which, in part, was caused by protests emanating from the Georgian Orthodox Church and other religious organizations. Although the initial definition of the target group of those protected by this bill included sexual minorities and a new institution of “equality protection  inspector” was introduced (as well as fines for discriminating against individuals or entities), due to pressure from religious as well as some non-religious circles, the revised draft of the bill presented to  and passed by  Parliament was much softer than the original one and lacked crucial wording  defining concrete mechanisms for the protection of the rights of minorities.

Hence, we recommend that government of Georgia should ensure it does not fall under the influence of religious institutions, including the Georgian Orthodox Church, while drafting and implementing policies aimed at the protection of the rights of minorities. In particular, it must be ensured that the anti-discrimination bill is an efficient tool for the protection of minority rights and ensures sufficient and effective protection of minority rights through effective enforcement mechanisms.  

Education has been shown to be the most important socio-demographic factor which inculcates against homophobic attitudes among Tbilisi adults, and this finding is not specific to Georgia. Education is universally associated with the acceptance of liberal values, and the more educated an individual, the higher is the probability that they will be more tolerant, even in cases when liberal values are not specifically promoted in the process of formal education. Hence, it is hard to overestimate the importance of education in addressing the issue of homophobia and intolerance more generally.

A course on civic education was introduced in Georgian secondary schools in 2006 for high school pupils, covering issues such as basic human rights, gender equality, structure of government, international legal documents, and elections among other topics. Although this course has not proven to be highly effective yet  , it has the potential to become an important tool in promoting liberal values and understanding the importance of accepting diversity in society.

We recommend that the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia:
  • Strengthens   the existing course on civic education and introduces the subject in primary schools with younger pupils as well, rather than in high school only;
  • Implements a comprehensive training program for teachers of civic education on issues such as equality, tolerance, and human rights.
These recommendations can and should be implemented at the national level. In doing so, they will have a positive effect not only in Tbilisi, but throughout the country.

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