Tbilisi Court Bans Georgian Condoms for Depicting Religious Symbols

Tbilisi City Court has fined Georgian condom producing company AIISA with GEL 500 and banned four of its condoms from the market for unethical advertising.

The company was also tasked to withdraw the advertisement and the distributed items, as they had “violated the morality and dignity of society.”

Tbilisi City Court judge, Lasha Tavartkiladze, found the following imagery on the condom packaging unethical and offensive to the religious feelings of a particular group as well as national dignity:

1. Queen Tamar, a Medieval ruler of Georgia who has been sanctified by the Georgian Orthodox Church, with an inscription – Gate of Thrones in Tamar;

2. A left palm, with a condom on two fingers. The court considered this as representing the Blessing Right Hand by which the clergymen of the Orthodox Church depict the cross;

3. A photo of a panda with the text – Would Have a Wank but it’s Epiphany. As the company itself explains, these are lyrics from a Georgian band’s song;

4. Packaging that refers the 12th Century Battle of Didgori between King David the Builder and Seljuk Turk forces, which in Georgia is regarded as a historic turning point and respected both by the State and the Church.

The owner of AIISA company, Anania Gachechiladze, believes the court verdict contradicts freedom of expression and endangers the democratic state and society.

She says she will appeal the court verdict and if the upper instance court upholds the decision of Tbilisi City Court, she plans to address the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasburg.

“This is censorship and restriction of freedom of expression. I am not going to remove the production from sales until the case is considered by all instance courts,” Gachechiladze stated.

Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI), which protects Gachechiladze’s interests, says the judgment is not in line with the Constitution of Georgia.

“We believe that the court’s judgment contradicts the Constitution of Georgia, the Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of Georgia and the case-law of the European Court. Therefore, we believe the court’s judgment limiting freedom of speech on account of protecting religious freedoms and national dignity is a dangerous precedent of censorship,” the NGO stated.

The lawsuit against AIISA was filed by Tbilisi City Hall, which, on its own, was addressed by the far-right and nationalist group, ‘Georgian Idea,’ asking for an “adequate reaction” regarding the packaging of the condoms.

AIISA condoms also depict prints of various famous persons, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Stalin, Adam and Eve and many quotes from Georgia’s famous poem – The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, written in the era of Queen Tamar.

On March 20, the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church released a statement regarding the company, saying AIISA had insulted religious feelings and naming their actions “blasphemy.”

Moreover, a rally against the company was held in Georgia’s western city of Kutaisi, where protesters demanded proper punishment of the company representatives.

A similar rally was held in Tbilisi on April 19, when the students of Georgia’s Theological Seminary, run by the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church, gathered at the old building of Parliament and called on the state to “protect Christian society from insults.”

By Thea Morrison

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