Georgia should ensure effective implementation of anti-discrimination laws and improve the protection of human rights in the areas of labor and the environment

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović today published the report following her visit to Georgia in February 2022 with recommendations to combat discrimination against LGBTI people and members of religious minorities and to protect human rights in the areas of labor and the environment.

To ensure that LGBTI people and members of religious minorities live free from violence and discrimination, the Commissioner calls on the authorities to address and eliminate the inadequate implementation of legal standards and the persistent deficiencies in combating impunity for hate crimes and incitement to violence discriminatory obstacles to exercising their rights.

The Commissioner notes that LGBTI people in Georgia continue to be affected by hate crimes and widespread discrimination. It calls on the authorities to increase their efforts to combat impunity for human rights violations against them, and emphasizes that raising public awareness and training relevant professional groups on the importance of their role in promoting equality, dignity and non-discrimination should be a priority. It adds that hate speech against LGBTI people in public spaces is a concern and that an appropriate response to hate speech, including those expressed by public officials, religious and community leaders and media figures, is required through effective use of law enforcement channels and others Mechanisms such as prevention, monitoring, self-regulation and counter-speech. Given the repeated cases in which LGBTI people have been denied their right to peaceful assembly, the Commissioner emphasizes that the authorities should take comprehensive measures to enable LGBTI people to freely express their opinions and assemble. With regard to transgender people, authorities should enable legal gender recognition without burdensome medical requirements and in a quick, transparent and accessible manner.

With regard to religious minorities, the Commissioner urges the authorities to ensure effective investigation, prosecution and dissuasive and proportionate sanctioning of hate crimes committed on religious grounds, and to remove discriminatory barriers to access to places of worship and the regulation of tax and property matters. “An open dialogue should be established with all religious communities,” she explained. To support this dialogue, it underlines the need for a meaningful partnership between relevant authorities and religious communities, changes to relevant regulations and ongoing training and awareness-raising activities for officials and the general public. In addition, the Commissioner points out that the authorities should continue their efforts to eliminate religious prejudices and stereotypes from school textbooks.

The Commissioner notes that a decade of deregulation and the abolition of labor inspection in 2006 have led to a significant deterioration in the protection of workers' rights in Georgia. It welcomes the recent comprehensive legal and institutional reforms and urges the authorities to close the remaining legal loopholes by setting a minimum wage in line with international standards, ensuring equal access to parental leave and developing clear guidelines on the duration and remuneration of overtime. “It is now important to ensure full implementation of labor standards, including anti-discrimination provisions,” she said. To this end, it is crucial to provide the labor inspectorate with sufficient and appropriately trained human resources and an appropriate budget. While welcoming recent progress in reducing accidents at work, the Commissioner calls on the authorities to further improve workplace safety. It also recommends promoting and supporting diversity and equality in the workplace, including with regard to the integration of people with disabilities. In addition, the Commissioner recommends that authorities address the gender pay gap and gender stereotypes in the workplace, continually raise awareness of sexual harassment, reporting options and available remedies, and take decisive action to combat child labor and prevent and combat child labor take trade.

With regard to human rights and the environment, the Commissioner calls on the authorities to strengthen the implementation of the existing national legal framework, ensure public access to information and meaningful and transparent public participation in environmental decision-making processes at different levels of government, as well as to improve air quality and Tracking air pollution. They should also develop and implement preventive measures to reduce the risk of environmental disasters and ensure the protection of the rights of people displaced by such disasters or due to climate change. Authorities should also create a safe and conducive environment for environmental human rights defenders and activists and support their work.