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‘First ever’ openly lesbian candidate runs for elections in Georgia

15 September 2017
Nino Bolkvadze, an openly openly lesbian woman presented as a candidate for Tbilisi City Council. (Netgazeti)

An openly lesbian woman is running for Tbilisi City Council in the upcoming local self-government elections.

Nino Bolkvadze, a human rights lawyer and a queer rights activist, was presented as a candidate for the Republican Party on 15 September.

‘It is important for me to voice principal issues — the existence of real, invisible problems, that people are fighting for survival, homelessness, unemployment, low quality of life’, Bolkvadze said during an exclusive interview with Liberali magazine.

Bolkvadze says she will work to voice the problems that queer people in Tbilisi face, but her main priority will be safety.

‘It’s the air we breathe, threats while getting an, when bullying in schools is widespread, psychological health, management of harmful attitudes, domestic violence, hate crimes’, she told Liberali.

According to queer rights group Equality Movement, Bolkvadze is the first openly lesbian woman to run for the local elections in Georgia.

Bolkvadze is in seventh place in the proportional list of the Republican Party, who were formerly in alliance with the ruling Georgian Dream. The Republicans, members of which served as Defence, Environment, and Reconciliation ministers after 2012, left the alliance in 2016. Davit Usupashvili, the former head of the party chaired Georgia’s parliament in 2012–2016.

Usupashvili and other leaders left the Republicans last year after failing to win any seats in the 2016 Parliamentary elections. He has recently created a new centrist political party, the Development Movement.

Tamar Kordzaia, political secretary of the Republican Party, said ‘it is disappointing that society is surprised when an openly lesbian person becomes a candidate’.

A former Christian Orthodox monk who served at the Monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos in northern Greece, is also among the top 10 Republican candidates.

In parallel to electing 64 mayors, Georgians will elect more than 2,000 members of 64 city councils on 21 October. Fifty members, half of whom will be elected through a proportional system, will form Tbilisi City Council.  

According to international queer rights group ILGA-Europe, Georgia’s queer community still faces difficulties, with local NGOs continuing to receive reports of discrimination. ‘Many of these cases involved hate speech directed at LGBTI people, or bias-motivated violence — all occurring in spite of relatively recent anti-discrimination legislation. Surveys of public opinion also revealed distinctly negative feelings towards LGBTI people, re-emphasising the gap between laws on paper and the atmosphere in which people live’, ILGA’s annual 2017 report claimed.