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

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

To ensure that LGBTI persons and persons belonging to religious minorities live free from violence and discrimination, the Commissioner for Human Rights calls on the authorities to address the inadequate implementation of legal standards and the persistent shortcomings in combating impunity for hate crimes and incitement to violence, and to remove discriminatory obstacles that hinder their enjoyment of their rights.

The Commissioner notes that LGBTI people in Georgia continue to be affected by hate crimes and widespread discrimination. She calls on the authorities to step up their efforts to combat impunity for human rights violations against them and stresses that raising public awareness and training relevant professionals on the importance of their role in promoting equality, dignity and non-discrimination should be a priority. She adds that hate speech against LGBTI people in public spaces is a problem and that an appropriate response to hate speech, including when expressed by officials, religious and social leaders and media professionals, is needed through effective use of law enforcement channels and other mechanisms such as prevention, monitoring, self-regulation and counter-speech. In light of repeated cases where LGBTI people have been denied their right to peaceful assembly, the Commissioner stresses that the authorities should take comprehensive measures to enable LGBTI people to freely express their views and assemble. With regard to transgender persons, authorities should facilitate legal gender recognition without invasive medical requirements and in a rapid, transparent and accessible manner.

As regards religious minorities, the Commissioner calls on the authorities to ensure effective investigations, prosecutions and dissuasive and proportionate penalties for hate crimes committed on religious grounds, and to remove discriminatory barriers to access to places of worship and to the regulation of tax and religious property matters. “An open dialogue should be established with all religious communities,” she stated. To support this dialogue, she stresses the need for a meaningful partnership between the relevant authorities and religious communities, changes to relevant regulations and continuous 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 remove religious prejudices and stereotypes from school textbooks.

The Commissioner noted that a decade of deregulation and the abolition of the Labour Inspectorate in 2006 have led to a significant deterioration in the protection of workers' rights in Georgia. She welcomes the recent comprehensive legal and institutional reforms and calls on the authorities to close the remaining legal gaps 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 labour standards, including anti-discrimination provisions,” she stated. To this end, it is crucial to equip the Labour Inspectorate with sufficient and adequately trained staff and an adequate budget. The Commissioner welcomes recent progress in reducing accidents at work, but calls on the authorities to continue to improve occupational safety in the workplace. She also recommends promoting and supporting diversity and equality in the workplace, including with regard to the integration of people with disabilities. The Commissioner also recommends that the authorities address the gender pay gap and gender stereotypes in the workplace, continuously raise awareness of sexual harassment, highlight reporting options and available legal remedies, and take decisive action against child labour and prevent and combat child trafficking.

Regarding 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 improve air quality and air pollution monitoring. 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. The authorities should also create a safe and supportive environment for environmental and human rights defenders and activists and support their work.