International News: US calls for prosecutions over anti-LGBT violence in country of Georgia

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On July 13, the U.S. State Department called for calm in Georgia after the death of a cameraman who was beaten up during violence against LGBT activists last week. Those who attacked peaceful protesters and journalists should be arrested and prosecuted, said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Price, who is himself openly gay, said in a news briefing that Washington “was following the situation in Georgia” and was “committed to seeing that those responsible are held accountable.”

Price told reporters, “The safety of every Georgian journalist, and the credibility of democracy — and Georgia — in fact, require that every individual who attacked peaceful protesters and journalists on July 5 and 6, or those who incited violence, they must be identified, they should be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Price was succinct: “We remind Georgia’s leaders and law enforcement of their responsibility to protect all of those exercising their constitutional rights. We remind them of their responsibility to protect journalists exercising the freedom of the press.”

On July 11, hundreds of LGBT+ and other protesters held a rally in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi after the death of Alexander Lashkarava, 36. Lashkarava was one of several journalists assaulted when violent right wing and anti-LGBT+ groups ransacked an LBGT+ campaign office in advance of a pride march.

The “March for Dignity” Pride event was cancelled over fear of more violence and injuries.

On July 12, violence broke out in Georgia’s parliament when journalists and opposition politicians tried to enter the lower house in protest over the death of Lashkarava.

Before that parliament session on July 12, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili repeated what he said a week ago, when he told LGBT+ activists it was “unwise to conduct a pride march” in the Georgian capital.

On July 12 he reinforced that viewpoint, despite the violence and Lashkarava’s death.

“When 95 percent of our population is against holding a propagandistic parade in a demonstrative manner, friends, we will all obey that,” Gharibashvili said.

“This is the opinion of the vast majority of our population and we, as the government elected by the people, will obey it,” he said, adding, “it will not be the case that the minority always decides the fate of the majority.”

Georgia’s ombudswoman, Nino Lomjaria, said that Gharibashvili appeared to have “declared a dictatorship of the majority.”

But she added, “In a democratic society, the rights of all people are protected; the majority doesn’t decide whether the rights of the minority will be protected or not.”

She also warned against signs that, following Lashkarava’s death, “the state authorities are not trying to investigate the crime objectively — to punish the organizers and perpetrators [of the violence] — but to discredit the beaten, dead journalist.”

Protesters have since called for the resignation of the prime minister and government whom they accuse of failing to protect journalists as well as allowing street violence by radical groups.

An investigation is being conducted into violence against LGBT+ activists and journalists. Georgia’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that it “condemns actions motivated by violence, including any form of violence against media representatives. We call on citizens gathered in the streets of the capital to observe law and order, adhere to the rightful requests of the police and protest any issue within the frames of the law.”

The Ministry said that it had launched an investigation into the destruction of property carried out at the offices of two LGBT+ groups, “Shame Movement” and “Tbilisi Pride.”

The Ministry also launched a separate investigation into the violence against media reporting positively on the LGBT+ activists and the “illegal interference in their professional activities.”

In Hungary, the European Parliament has voted for immediate legal action over the new law banning any depiction of homosexuality to those under 18.

The new legislation “breached EU values, principles and law,” said the Members of the European Parliament, and noted that the law was “another intentional and premeditated example of the gradual dismantling of fundamental rights in Hungary.”

PGN has been reporting on the growing right-wing radicalization of Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban for over a year. Orban previously received strong support from former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who engaged Orban to be a signatory on Pompeo’s Geneva Consensus Declaration which declared there is “no international right to abortion,” a flagrantly religious stance rejected by U.S. allies.

The declaration also used “pro-family” language, supporting the “role of the family as foundational to society and as a source of health, support, and care.” All mention of LGBT people and families was excluded.

Orban has been building on that policy in his increasingly anti-LGBT+ actions. Orban has rejected all responses from the European Parliament, asserting that all school policy in his country should be decided by his government, not “Brussels bureaucrats.”

The EP resolution passed with 459 in favor, 147 against and 58 abstentions. Members said the latest developments in Hungary followed a broader pattern of political censorship within the country under Orban.

The parliament urged the European Commission to use a new tool that allows the EU to reduce budget allocations to member states in breach of the rule of law — economic sanctions — to ensure that the Hungarian government reverses the decision.

The parliament also urged legal action against Hungary’s right-wing nationalist government at the European Court of Justice.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there is “No place for Hungary in the EU” with these anti-LGBT+ laws and other critics say Hungary’s new law equates homosexuality with pedophilia.

“This legislation uses the protection of children as an excuse to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, calling it “a disgrace.”

The new rules introduced by Hungary focus on increasing punishment for convicted pedophiles, but an amendment was passed on June 15 banning the portrayal or promotion of homosexuality to anyone under 18.

The law will impact sex education, books, advertising and will even shift broadcasting of TV favorites as innocuous as as Friends or Harry Potter being broadcast until late at night. But the concern from activists is that LGBT+ youth could be deprived of essential support for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Teaching sex education in schools will be limited to people approved by the government and will not include anything related to homosexuality or gender identity.

This latest law in Hungary is among several recent anti-LGBT+ policy changes. In December 2020, parliament banned same-sex couples from adopting children. Hungary also passed a law preventing people from legally changing their gender. Hungary also does not recognise gay marriage.

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.