Georgia has begun thinking of banning abortions after influential Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II pitched the idea in his Easter sermon on May 5.
Many churches may be pro-life, but in this devotedly Christian country, which cherishes the church leader above any other public figure, words from the patriarch can carry as much power as papal bulls once did in Europe.
During his sermon, the patriarch called on the government to stop the “terrible sin” of abortion and “filicide,” aside from a few circumstantial exceptions. He blamed both Bolshevik “atheists” from the past and modern liberal philosophy for the prevalence of abortions.
Georgia tops the South Caucasus for abortions, with 408 performed per 1,000 live births, according to a study by the World Health Organization, the Caucasus Research Resource Centers reported. (By comparison, the European Union rate is 222.)
Georgian government officials, who cannot hold a candle to the patriarch in terms of public support, quickly gave the nod to the church on considering an abortion ban. Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili responded by saying that baby-boosting legislation is in order. He carefully suggested, however, that to improve the country’s bleak demographic situation, the main focus should be on economic incentives rather than abortions.
The US military may have explored gay defense strategies, but Georgian prosecutors allege that Georgia's military police once made ample use of a disturbing strategy of its own -- gay honey traps to seduce socially prominent men and then blackmail them into "cooperation" with President Mikheil Saakashvili's government.
The Prosecutor’s Office claims that the military police, under their former chief, Megis Kardava, secretly filmed the private lives of homosexual men to coerce them into becoming secret agents. The recruited hommes fatales would then ensnare male targets into having sex with them and record it on camera, the allegation goes. The military police even supposedly took the trouble to hire apartments to make many reels of such rendez-vous, which would mean that Georgian taxpayers would have paid for the trysts.
Politicians, showbiz celebrities and other public figures were among the victims, according to General Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili, who said that his office started looking into the matter after one victim complained to the police.
Prosecutors said that they are looking at a very large stash of, well, gay porn, and are pressing charges against top military police officials.
“To make sure these videos don’t become public, the blackmailed victims of the conspiracy were agreeing to publicly voice their support for the political regime and take part in the publicity events of the previous authorities,” the Prosecutor's Office said.
A draft bill from Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition that would limit minors’ access and exposure to sex paraphernalia has brought some adult-themed debates recently to Georgia’s parliamentary floor.
The bill proposes to ban the sale and advertising of items of a sexual nature in stores that sell children’s apparel and toys. It would also prohibit the sale of such goods in schools and other institutions that serve youth under 18 and in stores located near such facilities.
But, divided on just about anything -- from foreign policy to law-and-order matters -- parliament has not yet reached a cross-party consensus on what kinds of goods actually can be considered sexual.
“People get aroused by very different things,” knowingly remarked parliamentarian Zurab Japaridze at a recent committee hearing, Liberali.ge reported. “What kind of props people use during sex games is a very personal thing… and the state should not be regulating this.”
Japaridze and fellow members of President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement have requested the Georgian Dream coalition, which initiated the bill, to provide a hit list of items that would be restricted under the amendment.
And so the work began: sex toys – yes; porn – yes; condoms -- here things get a little tricky. Some parliamentarians proposed to make a distinction between condoms that serve the sole function of preventing sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy, and those that also enhance sexual experience.
The latest and perhaps the most bizarre case are allegations that the once-all-powerful Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili doctored a passport to travel with a Saakashvili-led delegation on November 30 to Armenia.
In testimonies published by the interior ministry, airport passport control officials assert that the ID presented by Merabishvili contained his photo, but somebody else’s ("a certain Levan Maisuradze") name.
Only after the snafu was pointed out to a Merabishvili aide, did the ex-prime minister pull out "his real" passport, they claim.
Merabishvili has denied that he tried to pass a false passport, and charged that the interior ministry, which later questioned him, was being turned into a "repressive machine" for the selective prosecution of critics.
Merabishvili, Georgia's last prime minister, now works as the secretary-general of Saakashvili's United National Movement.
Responding to the fake-passport allegations, the president, in turn, termed them "so absurd . . . that it is hard for me to even make a comment about this."
Meanwhile, online commentators point to various holes in the government's line of argument.
The generally puritan Caucasus saw an unlikely protest rally in Tbilisi the other day. This time it was not another political pow-wow to call for ousting the government; rather, it was about the right to kiss.
Responding to an alleged PDA crackdown by Tbilisi park security guards, Georgian blogger and civil rights activist Giorgi Kikonishvili had called on sympathizers to take action through a Facebook-promoted event called “We Love and We Make Out.”
“If kissing is a crime, then let’s commit that crime,” Kikonishvili wrote.
In case you're wondering, Georgians are not a particularly kiss-averse crowd. A peck on the cheek is a standard form of greeting or farewell between male and female friends alike, but cranking those kisses up a notch, and on the street, is another matter.
Kikonishvili and other supporters believe that Tbilisi's park administrations arbitrarily interpret a law that ambiguously limits displays of affection in public. “The government should be very careful when it interferes with the matters of decency and morality because decency and morality are highly subjective concepts,” Kikonishvili told the pro-opposition Maestro television channel.
Before the protest began, the event's Facebook page was already awash with comments by pro and anti-public-kissing factions.The campaign quickly crossed over into mainstream media.