Be advised that drinking and getting naked in public may soon be strictly prohibited in Georgia, so adjust your plans accordingly.
For reasons unknown, the country's ever-reforming interior ministry has proposed a law to impose hefty fines for “morally offensive public behavior." Since the authors of the law did not bother to provide an operational definition of “morally offensive public behavior,” the project has raised many questions and eyebrows.
Many Georgians assumed that a public kissing ban was underway. In this fairly conservative country, public displays of affection other than hugs and kisses (the latter often for greetings or farewells) are rarely encountered, unless someone is really looking for it.
But an ongoing conflict over values (as seen recently with the May 17 attack on an anti-homophobia rally in Tbilisi) prompted some to fear the worst. A wave of protest spread across social networking sites and threatened to spill into the streets in the form of a mass act of protest-kissing.
Interior ministry spokesperson Nino Giorgobiani finally had to intervene (via Facebook) with an attempt at explanation. She said that the law does not consider “dating and kissing” as morally inappropriate. Rather, a good example of what the law will try to prevent is public nudity, Giorgobiani said.
But Tbilisi is not Munich, and there is no practice of naked picnicking or Frisbee tournaments here. Police did not specify why, of all things at hand, they prioritized tackling the non-existent problem of public nudity or why they wanted to propose such legislation.
The main concern is that the ambiguous wording leaves it to police officers and judges to decide what constitutes indecency, or even nudity.
Hardly everyone is on the same page on this matter in Georgia and abroad, commented Levan Berdzenishvili, one of the few MPs from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition to criticize the proposal. If the law has to pass, then it would require an appendix with a roster of acts that are considered morally inappropriate, he advised, Netgazeti.ge reported.
(Berdzenishvili himself has experience with definitions on smutty legislative matters. Earlier this year, when a kindred legislative idea of banning condoms in the vicinity of schools was floated, he enlightened a committee hearing that certain condoms have functions well beyond just preventing the transmission of STDs. )
Yet while lawmakers debate just how indecent the tolerated indecencies can be, one aspect of the proposal -- tighter regulations on the public consumption of alcohol -- is clear. And, in many Georgians' opinion, more useful, too. Walking around with an open alcohol container or placing vodka shots on the hood of a car is not uncommon in Georgia, and there exists far less room for debate there.