A culture of silence too often surrounds gender-based violence and discrimination. As the global reckoning on sexual harassment and abuse that began with the #MeToo movement continues, in certain parts of the world, particularly in the countries of the former Soviet Union, survivors of gender-based violence and discrimination are facing increasing efforts to silence them. This is often done by defamation lawsuits, infringing survivors’ right to freedom of expression when they speak out publicly against their abusers. Georgia has become no exception to this trend.
On 23 June 2021, Equality Now submitted an amicus brief at the Supreme Court of Georgia – the case in which, as a result of the defamation complaint by an influential public figure, the Tbilisi City Court and the Court of Appeal infringed the right of the survivor to speak out about her experiences of sexual harassment. This has been particularly worrying since the fact of sexual harassment had already been established by the anti-discrimination mechanism of the Public Defender’s Office of Georgia and the survivor was speaking her truth. The amicus brief argues that the emerging use of defamation lawsuits in Georgia against survivors of sexual harassment to silence and retaliate against them is in violation of international human rights law and that the right to speak about the experiences of violence, harassment, and discrimination is integral to the right to live free from violence.
Equality Now looks to the Supreme Court of Georgia to uphold the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments Georgia is bound to that protect the rights of women survivors of gender-based violence and discrimination, including their right to talk publicly about their experiences of abuse. Through this case, the Supreme Court of Georgia can set a good precedent for countries in the region in the effort to combat violence against women as well as promote equality under the Constitution of Georgia and ensure the rights of women are upheld.
The survivor is represented by the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association – an NGO protecting and promoting human rights and freedoms in Georgia.
This case follows concerning attempts in Russia and Kazakhstan to silence women’s rights activists, including multiple defamation cases against Dina Smailova, a prominent activist in Kazakhstan.
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