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Caucasus: LGBT rights are human rights


Mapping the political and cultural context in relation to LGBT issues in the Caucasus was the goal of the meetings organized in Milan in late July by the departments of social anthropology, social psychology and sociology of several Italian universities. One of the aims was to draw the practical consequences of the visibility (or not) of these identities in the public spaces of the different countries of the region.

Do the contexts of political violence, the rise of nationalism, latent wars or a context of legal advances affect the existence, access to healthcare and even the survival of individuals at the heart of social change, and who are often poorly perceived by all Caucasian societies?

The societal anchoring of patriarchal culture maintains a negative view of homosexuality. This transgression is therefore seen as a real threat to the cohesion of society. Nevertheless, the place granted to sexual minorities in public space reveals the imposition of a conformist, nationalist pressure in the face of an identity and sexual conformity.

But at the same time a group of "activists" or defenders of LGBT rights emerged, redefining the public space, while defining individual, but also collective emancipation, since this emancipation involves a complex questioning of society as a whole.

In the words of Judith Butler, the "vulnerable bodies" of LGBT individuals exist, but their value and existential, social and political dignity are not recognized.

As Jürgen Habermas underlined, the exclusion of the "lower" layers, mobilized culturally and politically, already provokes a pluralization of the public sphere and this is of extreme importance in all of these countries.

The patriarchal character of the family, which formed the nucleus of these societies, is also the place of formation of psychological experiments.

Since feminist or women's rights advocates have stressed their exclusion from the public sphere, there is a real understanding of the need for a universalization of civil rights, but also of the fact that feminist and LGBT rights movements are intimately linked. Feminists often question sexuality and gender diversity, especially in Georgia. The exclusion of women and of what is "feminine" from the public and political sphere is not contingent, but is thought in a determined way. For the moment, we are faced with the absence of a common language between a public sphere representing traditional power and a repressed "counter-culture". Ideally another "culture" would be accepted. Minorities within minorities shed light on general social and political dynamics.

The analysis of the situation of sexual and gender minorities remains systematically too close to Western models. The dynamics of these countries do not meet the same categorization criteria for various reasons: visibility, rejection, denial, lack of behavioral homogeneity regarding sexuality and prevention, etc.

The LGBT identity of these countries seems to be built between the injunctions of a social control that oppresses them (but seems to be a complex identity grid) and Western examples that are all the more difficult to grasp that they are themselves evolving and that most associations or NGOs are funded by Western sources.

But a personal identity is being built, outside the various community or Western conformisms. Specific weapons of resistance to fight the doxa's hold, new forms of expression and symbolic actions are set up and must therefore be supported.

The search for identity in a degraded or violent social context can lead to extreme behaviors, especially through the adoption of risky sexual behaviors. The expression of desire through sexuality is an expression of self. It is not a risk-taking exercise in order to get out of an overly-structured daily life or an unrealistic optimism about current treatments. Sexuality results from a social construct and participates in symbolic and social representations. LGBT activists, who define themselves as homosexual and live openly despite the difficulties they encounter, adopt less risky sexual behaviors. But those who obey, in one way or another, the injunction to extreme masculinity use few condoms. The virilization of sexual intercourse has the effect of non-use of the condom. In a sought after heterosexuality, one "copies" the heterosexual men of these countries who rarely use condom, except for sex with prostitutes (although this is not a generality).

These social and mental factors must be taken into account because they are consequential to risk-taking. It is often a question of getting out of this "femininity" associated with weakness, the endangerment of the nation, an unacceptable vulnerability in many of these countries, for example in Armenia, which is let us not forget in a state of latent war with Azerbaijan. That said, sexuality, as an unconscious mechanism of defense in a world of extreme valorization of heterosexuality and patriarchy, requires a more in-depth analysis.

Nevertheless, in some of these countries, there is a renegotiation of patriarchal norms from within the societies and many points of convergence between intersectional civil struggles. LGBT people, far from falling back on an identity-based communitarianism, put in place various individual or collective strategies to defend their self-esteem, their rights and those of civil society. These strategies allow to counter the obvious risk of "desidentification", a psychosociological concept developed by Jose Esteban Munoz, which consists in subverting the codes of the dominant culture. If it is a tactic of survival, it is nevertheless one of resistance, which must sometimes be marked and direct.

These Caucasian LGBT, women's or feminist movements call for an ever-present reflection on universalism and the production of differences by the dominant norms. At present, there is no parity of citizen participation in these countries. This is not a matter of delay in practical fulfillment, but a matter of implicit exclusionary mechanisms that are reflected in the democratic functioning itself.

These "counter-publics" put in place a new conceptual tool from which members can interpret their own identity.

This is a great emancipatory potential. This allows us to understand that LGBT struggles are not at the end of "the range of struggles". They are not only part of the cultural field, but also of the social, economic and material fields, since they cannot be treated without analyzing the economic and political power relations, which underlie the production of differences.


Welzer-Lang Daniel. Masculinité. Etat des lieux. Eres. 2011

Strong David A. The impact of sexual arousal on sexual risk taking: A qualitative study. Taylor & Francis Ltd. 2005

Munoz José E. Disidentifications: Queers of color and the performance of politics. The University of Minessota Press. 1999

Butler J. Frames of war. When is life grievable? Verso. 2009

Bhabha Homi K. The location of culture. Routledge. 1994

Brown R. What do i care? Perceived ingroup responsibility and dehumanization as predictors of empathy felt for the victim group, 2009

Crocker. Major. Social stigma and self esteem: The self-protective properties of stigma. Psychological Review. 1989

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