Georgia Significantly Expands its Legal Protection from Discrimination

London, 19 May 2014

On 7 May, the Law of Georgia on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination came into force after being signed by Georgia’s President Margvelashvili.  The enactment of the Law is to be strongly welcomed as it moves Georgia’s anti-discrimination framework closer towards the standards required by international law. There is some room for improvement in the final text.

The setting up of an “Inspector for Equality Protection”, as proposed in an earlier draft, was not adopted, leaving some concerns about the lack of adequate enforcement mechanisms. In addition, a last-minute amendment to the Law such that protection of the “public order and morals” may help to justify differential treatment is concerning as it appears to have been a direct response to objections among the Orthodox Church to the Law’s provision of protection from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Nevertheless, the Law is an important and significant step towards the realisation of equality in Georgia.

The Law aims to bring the Georgian legal framework in line with the European Union’s requirements and the standards of international human rights law. It extends the legal protection against discrimination previously covered by Georgia’s Constitution, as well as provisions of its Law on Gender Equality and its Labour Code. Further, the Law addresses all forms of discrimination, refers to both direct and indirect discrimination, and covers both private and public spheres. However, it is expected that some of the provisions adopted may conflict with existing legislation, and thus the Law’s position in relation to the Constitution and other relevant legislation needs to be clarified.

In particular, the Law:

  • provides protection from discrimination on a list of grounds which is largely in line with international standards: Article 1 of the law includes, for example, the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality and health status;
  • includes the concept of multiple discrimination (Article 2(4));
  • expands the scope of anti-discrimination protection to cover all spheres (Article 3);
  • provides for temporary special measures intended to accelerate de facto equality, especially in gender, pregnancy, and maternity issues (Article 2(7)); and
  • states that while any type of discrimination is prohibited,  maintaining  “public order and morals” is allowed when the action has reasonable and objective justification (Articles 2(2) and 2(3)). 
The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) welcomes the passing of the Law as an important step in bringing Georgia’s anti-discrimination legislation into line with international human rights law. However, it is regrettable that the adopted law does not establish an independent equality body,  as an earlier draft suggested. Instead, the body responsible for overseeing implementation of the law is the Public Defender, which does not have the authority to impose any penalties and can only issue recommendations. This unfortunate change raises concerns that the right to non-discrimination will not be effectively enforced in practice. 
Dimitrina Petrova, ERT Executive Director, said:
“The comprehensive anti-discrimination law is a much needed upgrade of Georgia’s equality framework. Extending the non-exhaustive list of protected grounds is very welcome, as it reflects the experience of groups that are in a vulnerable position and at risk of being marginalised in Georgia. Although the law brings about many desired changes, some of its aspects raise concerns. For example, the inclusion of the clause on the protection of the “public order and morals” can be used to undermine the universality of the right to equality, and weaken the protection of the LGBT community in particular. Further, the Public Defender must be granted sufficient resources to carry out its task as a monitor of the law.” 
To read the Law click here