Purposeful
5 min readMay 24, 2024

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Last month, we sat with our Europe and Central Asia regional young feminist advisors in Tbilisi, Georgia, holding each other close and strategising fast in the urgency of a rapidly shifting far-right political landscape — one we are seeing repeatedly across the globe, where fundamentalist systems of oppression are converging on girls’ bodies and their lives. Just days later, the situation worsened, as Georgia’s parliament adopted a ‘Foreign Agent’ law in its third and final reading.

This is authoritarian law playing out. It stamps on the human rights to freedom of expression, it restricts civil rights groups from operating, and it’s already playing out in sinister ways with our grantee-partners and activists across the Caucasus on the absolute frontlines of the so-called family values agenda. This is the systemic hardening of conservative patriarchal norms to generate anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQI+ and anti-reproductive rights sentiment, and despite the president’s veto, the ruling party has enough members to override it and see the law come into full force in less than a month. The Dalan Fund, reports;

“Nearly daily, the government of Georgia is orchestrating riot police attacks with tear gas and rubber bullets, beating and detaining peaceful protesters. Before the final hearing, the police had already started raiding activists’ homes, spreading posters targeting and insulting activists, and intimidating demonstrators, including teenagers, via personal phone calls.”

What this looks like for one of our grantee-partner’s unregistered group, Lesbian Resistance, is stark, under a constitution that plans to outlaw what it terms LGBTI ‘propaganda’. A member of the group shares:

“Anything that looks like public visibility in the queer community, same-sex relationships, gender transitioning or the idea that there are more than two genders puts us at extreme risk and will be prohibited. The situation is dire and there are already risks to our physical, mental and cyber security.”

The law will require any group receiving 20% or more of their funding from international sources, to register, declare themselves and be deemed fit to operate. The freedom of association will be removed, the right to participate in ongoing political activities will immediately be restricted, and for those that are unregistered or who resist, the fine is set at $9,400 USD — repeated until the group registers or declares itself bankrupt. The Global Resilience Fund direct funding is a lifeline for our grantee partners, as is broader feminist funds support to girls and young feminist organisers across the region.

The window of opportunity is thin. The most critical time for organising and international pressure to withdraw the law is now.

For weeks, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in some of the largest demonstrations in Georgian history. Included in these, have been the queer young feminist activists in our advisory and network. This week, they shared of the state violence against them, their pain, and acute anxiety.

“Suddenly this tear gas appeared. They started using water cannons and shooting teas gas balloons randomly in the mass of people. We had no masks to protect ourselves. They have started calling people, threatening they will let government officials know. They are also calling our parents. They called my father to ask if he knew one of his girls was a feminist activist. My dad was threatened with his job. They are literally calling everyone — just really regular people, even those not involved in activism.”

At a protest last week, a national broadcaster filmed one of them being beaten and some journalists were seen taking statements about the violence but so far nothing is being shown. The groups continue to draw hope from the mounting international political pressure for global sanctions, but things are changing so rapidly that on the 17th May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, while the world proclaimed solidarity, none of those in our network felt safe to leave their homes. One shared;

“While I am typing, activists are being beaten not only at the demonstrations, but in front of their houses and detained unlawfully. Today the LGBTI organisations offices were targeted, and we saw neighbourhoods being flooded by posters showing faces of LGBTI defenders named as traitors. A couple of organisations have activated security protocols — they have left their offices and closed them down. Over the past three weeks, the Georgian government has used all the well-established practices of Russian dictatorship. They are doing whatever they can to physically and morally break us.”

On these calls with our advisors, we continue with rapid-response funding as a political act and in unwavering solidarity. Grantee-partner needs are simple and urgent — money for masks and safety kits, food, and transportation to mobilise, funding to pay court fines for those arrested, money for lawyers and legal assistance as the cases are mounting, and resources to support their digital security.

Our grantee-partners are organising in crisis-mode just to keep going. Their tenacity to push for justice and freedom is a direct testament to their collective power and a cry to us all. This is not a single-issue struggle. None of this is random — what’s happening today in Georgia is not isolated. These geographically diffused crises are birthed by the same forces of oppression, exploitation, and extraction — this violence, so interconnected, so rooted in the structures of global capitalism and colonialism.

Tell your friends what is happening on the ground. Amplify these truths in all corners of your networks. Call on all funders to step up support like never before and see this list of crisis response funders through Dalan Fund and Women’s Fund Georgia. Find out more about the Global Resilience Fund from Purposeful, and donate through this Paypal link from Lesbian Resistance where donations directly support their queer community members’ safety and security needs, covering costs for protective gear, medical expenses, rent, shelter, psychological support, and fees in case of administrative detention.

“We need resources to respond to this crisis, but crucially we need them so we can still keep moving forward and for our dreams not to be broken — this is only the beginning and ahead of us is a long fight.”

Our struggle is one struggle, until the day that we are all free.

wearepurposeful.org

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Purposeful

A feminist movement-building hub that amplifies girls’ voices, resources their resistance, builds solidarity and catalyses collaborative philanthropy.