Last Updated 28 October 2020

A former Soviet republic which declared its independence in 1991, Georgia is today a representative democratic semi-presidential republic, lying at the intersection of Europe and Asia.

The northern regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have declared independence from Georgia, though there is little international recognition for their independence, and Georgia considers them part of its sovereign territory despite them being under Russian military occupation following the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008.

Systemic Discrimination
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Constitution and government

Article 9 of the Constitution of Georgia guarantees “complete freedom of belief and religion.” While recognizing the “special role … in the history of Georgia” of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC), the Church remains separate from the State.1 However, the constitution, and government policy do confer special status and privileges to the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC).

The influence of the GOC in public life was boosted by the signing of a Concordat with the Georgian government in 2002. The Concordat (legal agreement) confers unique status upon the GOC; the government does not have a Concordat with any other religious group. The concordat grants rights not given to other religious groups, including legal immunity for the GOC patriarch, the exclusive right to staff the military chaplaincy, exemption of GOC clergy from military service, and a consultative role in government, especially in the sphere of education.2

The GOC is the only religious group with a line item in the government budget. The tax code grants religious groups partial tax exemptions, and applies them unequally. Taxes paid by all religious groups except the GOC include a profit tax on the sale of religious products, value added taxes on the provision or importation of religious products, and taxes on all activities related to the construction, restoration, and painting of religious buildings.

Education and children’s rights

Georgia’s Law on General Education protects the principle of religious neutrality, and indoctrination and proselytism are forbidden at public schools. But according to various local and international reports, this law is systematically violated. In many public schools, most notably in the region of Adjara, religious symbols are displayed in classrooms, the Orthodox clergy preach during school hours, students undergo collective prayers and minorities and atheist students experience discrimination.4

Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals

According to the 2014 census, the 83.4 percent of Georgians who identify as Christian Orthodox made up the largest religious group in the country followed by Muslims at 10.7 percent. There is a strong correlation between ethnicity and religious affiliation with the majority of ethnic Georgians associating with the GOC. The regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia follow similar

Social prejudice against the non-religious

According to Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), negative attitudes towards atheists are widespread in Georgia, despite most people not having regular contact on a daily basis with anyone who identifies as being irreligious, indifferent or atheist. Because of the importance placed on religion in mainstream Georgian identity, especially Christian Orthodoxy, people are likely to perceive religious belief as a desirable quality in politicians, spouses or business partners, for example.6

LGBT rights

In the last several years, Georgia has adopted reforms to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2014, the Parliament approved a law which banned any form of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

However, homophobia remains deeply rooted in the country, in particular due to the influence of the Orthodox Church. Gay people have often been the target of violence and physical abuse.

On the rare occasions that LGBTQ+ people and groups have attempted to hold demonstrations (peacefully and lawfully) they have been met with counter-protests and violence, and the Church has organized large-scale events on the same day in order to push out the LGBTQ+ activists. On 17 May 2012, Identoba, a Georgian LGBTQ+ organization, planned a peaceful march in honor of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). A group of Orthodox Christians insulted and threatened the activists. The following year, on 17 May 2013, the protest was again interrupted by religious counter-demonstrators, including representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who broke through the police cordon and assaulted the participants, leaving up to 28 people injured. The authorities were criticized for failing to effectively protect the march. Two priests of the GOC were amongst those arrested in connection to the attack. Another year on, in 2014 the GOC announced that May 17 would be “Family Purity Day”, and continues to hold large events to mark this day every year. In 2018 the organizers of the LGBTQ+ marches announced they would no longer celebrate IDAHO on May 17 in order to prevent new

In 2017, the Vice-Captain of the Georgian national football team, Guram Kashia, wore a rainbow armband during a match on the Dutch National Coming Out Day. Far-right groups rioted in front of the Georgian Football federation demanding Kashia’s expulsion from the national team. This incident led to 8

Minority rights in general

In January 2016, the Council of Europe published a report assessing the legislative steps taken by Georgia regarding the protection of national minorities since its adoption of the Action Plan for Tolerance and Civic Integration in 2009. The report covers the establishment of the State Agency for Religious Affairs in February 2014. The institution, which is responsible for the protection and promotion of religious diversity in Georgia, is criticized for unequally providing funds (92.2% to the GOC) and thereby fostering a hierarchy among

Furthermore,  the report highlights the resistance of certain traditional institutions, such as the GOC, against the application of the Anti-Discrimination standards which entered into force in 2014. In 2013 and 2014, in several towns across Georgia, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims were prevented from worshiping in public by Orthodox;

Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist rights

Freedom of the press

The press is rated as “Partly free” by Freedom House, and there is some evidence of improvement in recent

There are sporadic reports of politically motivated attacks and prosecutions on opposition media and government

In  January 2016, three journalists:Levan Sutidze, Irakli Kiknavelidze and Nino Macharashvili, working for the opposition media channel Tabula, were attacked at a restaurant in Tbilisi. The assault was motivated by the journalists’ coverage of the GOC. The journalists reported minor

In August 2019, Nika Gvaramia was charged with abuse of authority during his time as director of a pro-opposition TV channel, Rustavi 2. In subsequent months, additional charges related to misappropriation of funds and fraud were pressed against him.14 Another high profile case involved the forced resignation of Natia Zoidze from Ajara TV in February 2020 following “political pressure”.15

Political attempts to establish a “blasphemy” law

There have been multiple attempts, in at least 2013, 2015 and 2018, to introduce a “blasphemy” law in Georgia.

In December 2015, a draft “blasphemy” law was submitted to the parliament, having been initiated by the Georgian Orthodox Church in January 2015. The Church argued that there was a need to deter people from “directly or indirectly” insulting the Georgian Orthodox Church or other “traditional religions”, and specifically to de-prioritize the right to freedom of expression as a defense against “insulting” religion. Under the draft law “insulting religious feelings” would lead to a fine of GEL 300 (US$ 120) or GEL 600 in case of repeat offenses. In early February 2016, the proposed law was endorsed by the parliamentary Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, however critics noted that the law was vague, and the bill was withdrawn on 15 February 2016 by the Georgian parliamentary deputy Ioseb

In March 2018, the MP Emzar Kvitsiani submitted a bill which would criminalize “public manifestations of hatred” against religious symbols, religious organizations, clerics and believers, and/or “publishing or displaying materials insulting the feelings of believers”. Offences would be punishable with a fine or imprisonment for a term of up to one


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