What Georgian Dream Is Trying to “Protect” before Elections, Russia “Protected” Already — See How

March once again and once again the proposal of the Russian law, the purpose of which is once again to discredit people and limit the freedom of expression. Once again, homophobia of Georgian Dream, which is very similar to that of the Kremlin.

Georgian Dream presented a homophobic initiative, which it sometimes calls a draft law against “LGBT propaganda” and sometimes prohibiting “popularization”. Although there is no proof of “LGBT propaganda” or its “works” , Mamuka Mdinaradze proves to us that this is a great danger from which the future generation must be protected.

In this article, we will discuss the announced legislative and constitutional changes that the ruling team would apparently like to adopt before the elections and find another similarity between the policies of Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán. It is precisely because of the similarities and connections with the politics of Putin and Orbán that the current government of Georgia has been criticized many times.

Political Homophobia of Georgian Dream

Unfortunately, this is not the first initiative, law or statement from the ruling team that deliberately harms the legal status of the queer community, restricts freedom of expression or promotes the aggression of pro-Russian and anti-Western groups.

The homophobia of Georgian Dream has been going on for 11 years. The population of Georgia remembers well that:

  • On May 17, 2013, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, parishioners and clergy attacked a peaceful march by queer activists. The state has failed to protect citizens’ freedom of expression. The following year, the Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church established the “Family Sanctity Day” on May 17, and every year a procession is organized in the central streets, and the freedom of assembly for the LGBTQ+ community is limited due to increased threats;
  • On May 17, 2018, for the first time since 2013, LGBTQIA+ organizations planned to hold a peaceful gathering, but due to insufficient security guarantees, they were forced to cancel the event. At least part of the community and supporters came to the government chancellery, where activist Niko Gorgiladze was beaten during his speech. Soon he had to leave the country;
  • In 2018, pro-Russian groups launched a homophobic and aggressive campaign against Guram Kashia for wearing an LGBT armband at a match. They demanded Kashia’s exclusion from the team, otherwise they threatened to disrupt the game. Therefore, civil activists and fans gathered in support of Kashia at the national team meeting, but they were restricted from bringing LGBTQIA+ symbols on the field — the police and security searched them and took away the flags;
  • In 2019, the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that it was impossible to hold Tbilisi Pride in the planned format and places, meaning in an open space, and did not give the activists protection guarantees, which they gathered at the chancellery to protest. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Internal Affairs was notified in advance about the rally at the chancellery, people could not gather there, because they were met by pre-mobilized homophobic groups, so they moved to the nearby stairs and were surrounded by the police cordon for several hours. Homophobes tried to attack them and used verbal abuse;
  • Before the premiere of the movie “And Then We Danced” in 2019, homophobic groups repeatedly announced violence, but the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not arrest anyone. On the day of the premiere, citizens had to enter the cinema with a cordon of special forces due to the mobilization of thugs, during which several people were attacked;
  • In early July 2021, two Pride Week events (a film screening and a Pride festival) took place amid the mobilization of violent groups, although police maintained security. On the day of the third event, the march, Prime Minister Gharibashvili said that he considers it inadvisable to hold a march, which resulted in large-scale violence. The state did not protect civilians again — violent groups physically assaulted more than 50 journalists, broke into the Pride office in Tbilisi, ransacked the offices of non-governmental organizations. In a few days, one of the beaten journalists, Lekso Lashkarava, died;
  • Given the events of the previous year, March of Honor was not announced for 2022. Other events planned within the framework of the Pride Week took place against the background of the mobilization of violent groups, although the police did not allow them to enter the territory;
  • The March of Honor was not planned even within the framework of the 2023 Pride Week. The Pride festival announced on July 8, which was supposed to be held in the close territory of Lisi Lake, was dispersed by violent groups before the start. Despite the fact that the state gave security guarantees to the organizers, videos taken on the spot show how a high-ranking Ministry of Internal Affairs official leads one of the leaders of the violent Alt-Info to the raided festival area and, in fact, reports that Tbilisi Pride representatives are no longer there.

In most of the listed cases, the state did not provide security and made decisions in favor of the perpetrators. It should be noted that in some cases there is also a decision of the European Court, which says that the state did not take appropriate measures. We also remember a number of events that clearly show systemic oppression:

  • Amendments made to the constitution to the detriment of the queer community and the definition of the family as the union of a man and a woman;
  • The disappearance of the LGBTQI group from the national strategy for the protection of human rights;
  • Failure to reflect specific oppressions and challenges in the action plan;
  • Separation of “People’s Power” from the ruling team and public homophobic and anti-Western statements;
  • A number of homophobic discriminatory statements of former Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, including at an international conference in Hungary;
  • The homophobic campaign started against Lazare Grigoriadis, etc.

And that’s not all – these events were preceded and followed by the homophobic statements of Georgian Dream representatives. Therefore, the new homophobic initiative is not unexpected – it is another clear manifestation of the political homophobia of Georgian Dream, which, according to many activists and political experts, also serves electoral interests. For years, this political team has nurtured specific groups with aggression towards queers, to which disinformation campaigns have been added to increase irrational fears among the population instead of acceptance towards LGBTQ+ people. It is likely that these fears are managed by the pre-election campaign of Georgian Dream – the “face of the enemy” has already been created, now the voters should be offered “protection” from them.

ილუსტრაცია: მედია აპრილი / ნატალია ავალიანიIllustration: Aprili Media / Natalia Avaliani

Note: We also remember May 17, 2012, when under the previous government, the right guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia – freedom of assembly, and on which there is also a decision of the European Court of Human Rights, was violated. Also, we remember the homophobic and transphobic statements and actions of former and current politicians, but the official campaign against human rights was initiated by the current ruling team, and it is they who have the most power at this stage, compared to other political groups, because they are in power and officially represent the Georgian people.

What We (Don’t) Know about the Homophobic Initiative

It is ironic that Mamuka Mdinaradze started the first briefing on February 29, at which Georgian Dream delayed the draft law restricting freedom of expression, with a lie, as if rights are protected at a high level in Georgia “regardless of the lifestyle of any person”. The fact that the rights of LGBTQI+ people are restricted is confirmed legally, in researches and publicly – we have seen live how the state does not protect the community. Along with the lie, this was the first homophobic phrase that Mdinaradze uttered that day, because he tried to present sexual orientation as a “way of life”.

Soon after, the majority leader moved on to anti-discrimination laws, which are often used to cover up their own homophobia. It is even more ironic that he continued this sentence as follows: “We all agree on the principles that it is not the business of anyone, especially the government, to judge anyone.”

Then there was the manipulation of the results of international studies and the assertion that the result of all this is “LGBT propaganda”, which we have already said many times and will repeat again, that it does not exist . The term “LGBT propaganda” was created by propagandistic narratives and aims to mislead people, as if representing the queer community, talking about their problems and rights will change someone’s orientation.

It should also be noted here that in the studies that Mdinaradze provides, it is not written that the number of LGBTQ+ people in some countries has increased as a result of “LGBT propaganda”. No credible and authoritative organization says this because it is not true. The truth is that in many countries more people are speaking openly about their identity. The “increase in the number” of LGBTQIA+ people can be related to this. All this can be the result of more education, awareness and relatively improved legal status. What Georgian Dream calls “LGBT propaganda” are actually fundamental human rights, which are protected by the Constitution of Georgia. This initiative itself is hate propaganda that will make the lives of LGBTQ+ people worse and rights will be more restricted than today.

Another manipulation of Mdinaradze was as if “pseudo-liberals” are trying to introduce the terminology of “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” in Georgia. This is a well-learned lesson from Russia, as you will soon see. Then, Mdinaradze did not answer the questions about the content of the bill and called on everyone to actively participate in the process. After that, the homophobic rhetoric on the part of other members of Georgian Dream became more active and a number of propaganda stories were prepared on official channels.

In the following days, Mdinaradze “warned” us that those who dared to protest against these changes were being watched in particular. Accordingly, the official channels bothered a number of opposition parties and non-governmental organizations for an interview on the non-existent draft law and even talked about preparations for non-existent actions. To put it simply, the governing team used all means to negatively portray the people who would separate themselves from the homophobic bill, which they considered to be the “salvation of the future generation”, among potential voters.

After about a month of waiting, on March 25, Mamuka Mdinaradze appeared again at the party office to talk about this initiative. The bill was not presented this time either, but he told us more details, including that they want to change the supreme law of the country, the constitution, along with other laws to achieve these discriminatory goals. Before we get into the content of this initiative, it is necessary to know that the constitutional amendments in the parliament are not only divided by the votes of Georgian Dream deputies and also need the support of the opposition, for which the parliamentary opposition has not shown readiness at this time. Mdinaradze himself said that they do not expect their support and expressed hope that, if not now, the changes will be accepted in the new parliament. This means that they either hope to get a constitutional majority in the 2024 elections, or they are waiting for other homophobic associates in the parliament.

When presenting the initiative, Mdinaradze used discriminatory terms, referred to queer people as having “non-traditional orientation” and presented human identity as a “current and lifestyle”. Aprili Media completely disassociates itself from homophobic content and form and only offers the initiative in the form in which it was presented due to high public interest.

According to Mdinaradze, the first amendment will concern Article 30 of the Constitution of Georgia, in which the definition of marriage is defined – the third paragraph “on family values ​​and protection of minors” will be added. According to Mdinaradze, the first five points are “conditions of order” that serve “awareness and appropriate correct attitude”, while the last three “prohibit popularization during assembly, production and distribution in educational institutions”:

  1.  According to the legislation, only such a relationship similar to marriage can be regulated, which provides for the union of one genetic man and one genetic woman of at least 18 years of age.
  2.  Adoption or foster care of a minor is allowed only by married spouses or heterosexual persons in accordance with the constitution and legislation of Georgia.
  3.  Any medical intervention related to changing a person’s sex is prohibited.
  4.  The document issued by the state or local government indicates only the female or male gender that matches his genetic data.
  5.  Any decision of a public authority or a private person that directly or indirectly restricts the use of gender-based concepts is invalid.
  6.  Gatherings aimed at promoting same-sex family or intimate relationships, incest, adoption of a minor by a same-sex couple or a non-heterosexual person, or foster care related to gender reassignment medical intervention or the non-use of gender-specific concepts are prohibited.
  7.  It is prohibited to distribute a work, program or other material with such content, which is aimed at promoting same-sex family or intimate relationships, incest, adoption or foster care of a minor by a same-sex couple or a non-heterosexual person, medical intervention related to sex change, or the non-use of gender-specific concepts.
  8.  It is prohibited to provide information in the educational process of public or private educational institutions that is aimed at promoting same-sex family or intimate relationships, incest, adoption of a minor by a same-sex couple or a non-heterosexual person, or foster care, medical intervention related to sex change, or the non-use of gender-specific concepts.

Mdinaradze explains the need for constitutional changes with the need for solid guarantees. What if the “pseudo-liberal power to come to the government” and abolishes laws, but it will be difficult for them to change the constitution.

The briefing left many unanswered questions. It’s hard to figure out what each clause means and what they limit or prohibit? What type of sanction-punishment should we expect for “violation”? For example, how should they enforce the 4th and 5th points on the indication of gender according to “genetic data” in the documents, when the European Court found a violation of the legal recognition of gender in Georgia?

The first five points are reservations against human identity, as a result of which, for example, transgender people may be restricted from accessing hormones and the transition process in general, which is not easy and people in Georgia face many obstacles and restrictions on this path.

The last three points refer to assembly and dissemination and are expected to affect freedom of expression, including not only protest actions, but also media, literature, cinema, theater, etc. Mdinaradze noted that there will be no ban on works of artistic content that refer to the rights of gay people. According to him, the law will write down in more detail what “popularization” is, and they are discussing how to properly evaluate “popularizatino” so that there is no risk in the rights section.

However, what guarantee do we have that, like Russia, films and TV series will not be banned on Georgian television or rental sites, or books will not be censored?! Will we be able to see such movies and series as: “My Wife’s Girlfriends”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Modern Family”, “And Then We Danced”, and so on?

Will we get to the point where the use of LGBTQIA+ symbols will be punishable? We don’t have an answer to that either. To the question, whether it will be forbidden to hold Pride or use flags, Mdinaradze answered that only if it is considered popularization. Who can judge whether this or that action is “popularization” or not? We don’t have an answer to that either, and Mdinaradze’s comment doesn’t provide more clarity, on the contrary.

“As a result of the correct assessment that we talked about, and I will not go back to legal principles, if their assembly serves to protect rights, expression of freedom or freedom of speech, neither their assembly nor any other assembly can be prohibited. But if any gathering, you want it to be about Pride and you want any of the people, if 2-3 people decide to gather and popularize and publicize this topic, in this case it will be prohibited. Let’s talk about the rest of the details during the law,” said Mdinaradze.

Tbilisi Pride believes that the ruling party cannot offer solutions to real problems for the Georgian people, therefore it chose hatred as the axis of the pre-election campaign. According to them, in recent years we have seen numerous attempts to manipulate LGBTQI issues, which expelled many members of the community from the country, and left the remaining ones to poverty, violence, degrading treatment and loss of life, and the recent rhetoric of the ruling party is part of this trend.

“They’ve been through this, we know”

ილუსტრაცია: მედია აპრილი / ნატალია ავალიანიIllustration: Aprili Media / Natalia Avaliani

Would you be surprised if we say that we have heard and read similar statements and restrictions before? There are only a few differences: it was said in Russia, and instead of Mdinaradze, Kobakhidze and Ivanishvili, Putin and his team said it. It is true that the government responds to criticism of pro-Russianness with attacks and “warned” us in advance not to try to label this initiative as a Russian law, but read it and compare it yourself.

Russian Experience

The law prohibiting “LGBT propaganda” was adopted in Russia in 2013 and initially prohibited “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. At the time, Putin said that this was not about banning the use of the LGBT flag, that he himself knew and worked with members of the queer community, and there was nothing alarming about it. He talked about famous gay musicians and referred to them with respect.

The law provided for different amounts of fines for citizens and legal entities. Also, it was envisaged to suspend the right to activity of legal entities for up to 90 days. For example, citizens were fined from 50,000 to 100,000 rubles, officials – from 100,000 to 200,000 rubles, and legal entities – up to one million rubles for “propaganda” using the media or the Internet.

In 2014, Putin again claimed that he does not recommend LGBT people and their relationships, but “propaganda”:

“It’s a completely different thing — banning specific relationships or banning the propaganda of these relationships.”

Do you see the similarity with Mdinaradze’s rhetoric? But that’s not all – Putin also said that people of “non-traditional orientation” do not feel like second-class citizens in Russia, because they are not discriminated against in any way. The same thing is confirmed by Georgian Dream.

“This has nothing to do with persecuting people because of their sexual orientation. These are two big differences,” Putin repeated, and in a few years he started persecuting people for joking about his sexual orientation.

On March 30, 2017, the Ministry of Justice of Russia posted a photo of Putin wearing makeup against a rainbow background to the federal list of prohibited “extremist materials”. The authorities said that the picture hinted at the president’s “allegedly non-standard sexual orientation”.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Already from this time restrictions in art began. For example:

  • In 2017, “Beauty and the Beast” was shown with a 16+ restriction due to “propaganda” signs;
  • In 2019, the word “date” was changed to “dinner” in The Avengers to hide the episodic character’s orientation;
  • In 2019, gay scenes were cut from the movie “Rocketman” directed by Elton John, which is why the singer called Vladimir Putin a hypocrite. However, this was only the beginning.

In 2019, the President of Russia also claimed that they have a very equal attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community, “really calm and absolutely impartial”. It was emphasized that the prohibition of “promotion of homosexuality” was aimed only at protecting the interests of minors.

As you can see, similar to the claims of the Georgian authorities, Putin repeated many times that Russia adopted the law to protect minors: “Let a person grow up, become an adult and determine his own destiny. It’s just not necessary to bow to anything – that’s what we’re against.” Protecting children from early marriage and pregnancy seems to have been a low priority, as the television show “Pregnant at 16” was very popular in Russia.

Long before Georgian Dream, Russia developed and spread the propaganda of “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”. For example, Putin made a promise in 2020 that this will not happen as long as he is the president, and the mother will be called mother and the father will be called father. Mdinaradze also talks about the same thing.

After so many claims and excuses, in June 2020, the Legislative Council in Russia adopted a proposal for changes to the law, the purpose of which was to “prohibit the promotion of non-traditional values” among the entire population, not only among minors.

“There has never been and never will be anything related to the restriction of rights based on race, sexual orientation, nationality or religion,” Putin said as he tried to justify another set of rights-limiting changes.

It is not news that the Russian population is vulnerable to the Kremlin’s propaganda. In this case, too, the long hate campaign worked – according to the data from the research organization Levada Center in 2021, only a third of Russians said that LGBTQ+ people should have equal rights, and more than a third expressed “annoyance and fear” towards the queer community.

The project of changes was prepared in Russia in two years, in 2022 the law was tightened and “LGBT propaganda” was completely bannedspecifically, the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations”, transition and pedophilia [it should be noted that pedophilia is a crime and it has nothing to do with sexual orientation – Aprili Media editorial]. Also, “propaganda” in social networks, media, cinema, advertising was banned. Simply put, censorship was imposed. For example, according to the law, films in which the “propaganda” of queer relationships, pedophilia or transition can be seen are no longer given a distribution certificate. In case of violation, there are fines, and websites disseminating such information are included in the register of prohibited sites and blocked.

The severity of the restrictions did not end here. In 2023, the criteria of “propaganda” were written into the law, even if one of them was met, the website would be blocked. for example:

  • If the material published on the website is aimed at creating a positive image of people with “non-traditional” sexual relations, causes interest in “non-traditional” sexual relations and helps change negative attitudes to positive ones, the website will be blocked.

After the tightening of the law, a part of cinemas and online cinemas submitted to self-censorship. For example, in the popular teen drama Euphoria, one episode was shortened by 18 minutes and most episodes by 5-10 minutes. The word “gay” was removed from the Russian-language dubbing of the TV series “Sex in the City”, and the story of gay men was changed in “White Lotus”. “Call Me by Your Name”, “Brokeback Mountain” and other films in which queer relationships appear have disappeared from Russian video services. Russian media wrote that these films were included in the prohibited list of Roskomnadzor, and cinemas were warned in advance, as well as in 2022 libraries were sent a list of books that should be removed from sale and sent to be recycled.

The persecution of the queer community went beyond the scope of this law: with another discriminatory law, similar to which Georgian Dream was going to adopt in Georgia, the so-called organizations providing assistance to the queer community were included in the register of foreign agents. Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has passed two new repressive laws against the LGBTQ+ community, and homophobic and transphobic rhetoric has become one of the main resources of the propaganda media. Human rights defenders claim that the number of hate crimes has increased.

Gradual restrictions, a long discrediting campaign, fines and censorship were not enough for Putin, and on November 30, 2023, the Supreme Court recognized the non-existent “International Public Movement of LGBT People” as extremist and banned the use of their symbols.

Since no information about such an organization has been found, experts believe that any human rights movement and activists who use LGBTQ+ symbols, make donations or otherwise support the community, are at risk of criminal prosecution. According to their own assessment, this is how Vladimir Putin’s election campaign started. Director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), Ivan Zhdanov, said that it was an attempt by the government to divert the public’s attention from real problems: “creating mythical enemies and discriminating against the population on various grounds.”

Putin won the 2024 elections in a way where he did not even call the election campaign a campaign, he did not even mention the words “elections”, “voting” and “candidate” at the meetings. He didn’t need to, because he got rid of his real opponents a long time ago, and he created the “enemies” that the Russian people should “defeat” with his support, even before the elections – in the form of Ukraine, the West, liberals and the queer community.

According to the results of Russian Field’s 2023 survey, in the last few years, the attitude of Russians towards the LGBTQIA+ community has become more negative:

  • 62% of respondents support legal restrictions on queer people.
  • Two years earlier, only 42% of Russians were categorically against the idea of ​​equality between heterosexual and homosexual people, and in 2013 – only 19%.

“We are quite tolerant towards people of non-traditional sexual orientation. We just don’t single it out and we don’t think it’s right to single it out. Let everyone live as adults as they should. No one restricts them in anything,” says Putin already in 2024, when the queer community in Russia is fully discriminated against and still tries to prove that it protects minors and does not restrict or harm LGBTQ+ people.

Russia’s experience shows us that the law announced with the motive of protecting children eventually became an instrument of maximum restriction and discrimination of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Eugene Feldman

Hungarian Experience

As in the case of the “Agents Law”, in response to criticism, Georgian Dream will definitely say that a similar law is valid not only in Russia, but also in Hungary, a member state of the European Union. That is why it is important to have information about the events developed there.

Let’s start with the fact that democratic values ​​in Hungary have been called into question many times, and the current Prime Minister of the country, Viktor Orbán, who has a good relationship with the former Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, is considered Putin’s main ally in Europe. It is quoted and praised by violent groups in Georgia as well. Therefore, presenting Hungary as a successful European example is still not a strong argument – despite the fact that the country is a member of the European Union, it is ruled by Orbán. It is also significant that despite the similarity between the policies of Orbán and Putin, there are not as many restrictions in Hungary as in Russia, and the result of a similar law turned out to be the opposite of Russia.

For more than 10 years, Orbán has been violating the rights of queer people. A year after coming to power, in 2010, his party adopted a new constitution banning same-sex marriage.  In December 2020, queer couples were banned from adopting, and in May 2020, legal recognition for transgender and intersex people was revoked.

The issue of the anti-LGBT bill became active in Hungary during the pre-election period, when Orbán’s party found itself in a vulnerable position with the united opposition for the first time. Orbán then positioned himself as a defender of traditional Hungarian values ​​from “LGBT propaganda”.

In 2021, the Hungarian government, led by Viktor Orbán’s party, Fidesz, amended the law on pedophilia and child protection. The reason he stated was that he wanted to limit children’s exposure to materials that “promote” homosexuality, “changing sex” in the media or public space [“changing sex” is an incorrect and discriminatory term. Transition is correct —Aprili Media editorial]. Violation of the law is punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

The law contains an article that prohibits or severely restricts the use of information about homosexuality and transition in media and educational materials for audiences under 18 years of age. Among other things, the legislation was criticized for equating pedophilia with homosexuality, as the stated purpose of the law was to protect children from sexual abusers.

The law restricts minors’ access to books, films, and other cultural products that “promote and promote transsexuality, homosexuality, or depict a deviation from the [gender] identity assigned to the sex assigned at birth.” The document also restricts sexuality education in schools, where only government-approved instructors are allowed to teach the subject.

Due to the fact that the population of Hungary does not have limited access to all kinds of critical and disfavored information of the government, unlike in Russia, government propaganda did not work effectively here. According to a representative survey conducted in 2021 by Amnesty International Hungary and the Háttér Society:

  • 73% of Hungarians reject the government’s false claim that gays and lesbians abuse or harm children.
  • A clear majority of the Hungarian public (74.5%) believes that transgender people should be able to transition and have their gender legally recognized;
  • 59% support queer marriage.

The European Commission, which oversees the compliance of member states’ national legislation with EU rules, called on Hungary to explain why the ban on LGBTQ+-themed material was necessary to achieve the main aims of the law. They did not accept Budapest’s arguments and started a lawsuit because this law violates fundamental human rights and several single market regulations.

“This Hungarian bill is a shame. It clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and goes against all the fundamental values ​​of the European Union: it is human dignity, it is equality and it is fundamental human rights. Therefore, we will not compromise on these principles,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen in 2021.

Despite this, Hungary refused to back down, so the Commission took the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which has the power to amend national legislation, in July last year. 15 countries joined the lawsuit, including Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and others.

The example of Hungary assures us that similar laws can be interpreted in many ways and eventually such initiatives lead to restrictions on freedom of expression and media.

In 2023, Budapest Pride wanted to show promotional material about the planned events on television. The media council of the country reclassified the video from an advertisement of a social purpose to an allegedly educational material, therefore, it considered it unsuitable for children. The animated video clip was banned during the day and was shown only at night.

In the same year, a bookstore was fined 30,000 euros for having the award-winning graphic novel “Heartstopper” in the children’s section. This is a coming-of-age story about teenage boys Charles and Nick.

According to certain interpretations of Orbán’s law, such books must be covered or wrapped to “prevent the younger generation from inadvertently being exposed to pro-LGBT material” if they walk past the book or accidentally flip through it. Hungary’s largest bookstore chain, Libri, has decided to start packaging all books containing LGBTQ+ characters so that customers cannot open them in bookstores.

This is what books with LGBTQIA+ characters look like in Budapest bookstores — Bernadett Szabo / Reuters

In 2024, a photograph called “Homosexuality” was hidden behind a special sign in the museum, which shows two naked men touching each other’s shoulders.

Photo titled Homosexuality (center) at the exhibit was fenced to prevent minors from seeing it, according to the government’s “child protection” law — Lili Rutai / RFE/RL

This law received mixed reactions in the country. Life for transgender or gay people in Hungary is still not easy. Incidents of violence continue, but reports of homophobic attacks are relatively rare.

As the International Bureau of Radio Tavisupleba writes, since the law came into effect, not only are more people interested in gender and sexual identity issues in Hungary, but public support for the LGBTQ+ community and interest in LGBTQ+ communities in art and culture has increased.

  • According to a 2023 Ipsos poll, 47% of Hungarians support queer couples being allowed to legally marry;
  • And 20% think they should be allowed to get some kind of legal recognition, but not marriage.

Pride events are still taking place. According to the organizers, 35,000 people participated in Budapest Pride in July 2023. The march passed peacefully and according to their data, only about 30 people gathered to protest.

But this does not necessarily mean that members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not feel threatened. According to the 2022 survey, only 12% of LGBTQ+ students feel safe at school, while nearly 75% of adults say they have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace.

In the experiences of Russia and Hungary, we can see not only similarities, but also expected dangers – both in terms of tightening the law and its interpretation. Especially in light of the fact that it is difficult to predict what will remain in the final version of Georgian Dream initiative.

This homophobic initiative of Georgian Dream restricts fundamental human rights, therefore, it is against European values.

  • Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • Article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union allows measures to be taken to combat this type of discrimination.

Russian and anti-Western propaganda often uses and will continue to use the wrong argument, as if the West is taking away traditions or at least “Georgianness”. In fact, one of the advantages of the West is that they respect the national identity, traditions, and culture of all countries and help financially to preserve all this. No one from our country is asking us to give up and deny our identity, on the contrary – in order to become full members of the Western structures, we must respect the freedom, rights, identity of all people, whether we like them or not, and others must respect our identity, whether they like it or not. Of course, if we do not christen the limitation of human rights, oppression and discrimination as our identity, because there is nothing respectable and appreciable in that, especially since legends about the “tolerance” of the Georgian nation still exist.