During a protest against the lack of government support during the COVID 19 pandemic, a transgender woman set herself on fire in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

Transsexuals and transgender people are among the most discriminated and excluded groups in Georgia, and this is aggravated in the current crisis. The incident occurred at the end of April, when several transgender activists* gathered in front of the city hall in Tbilisi to draw attention to their fate.

Fortunately Madona Kiparoidze did not suffer any life-threatening injuries because she managed to get her burning jacket off.

She was arrested and taken to hospital. During the arrest Madona Kiparoidze called out

“I am a trans woman and I set myself on fire because the Georgian state does not care about me.”

Many members of the transgender community are left with only sex work due to lack of legal recognition and discrimination in the labour market. The social distancing measures and curfews during the COVID 19 pandemic therefore hit this group particularly hard. Virtually overnight, they have been deprived of their livelihood. “We can’t even pay our rent. What are we supposed to do”, another demonstrator told the TV station Pirveli.


We do not show the recordings as video – they can be found on the Facebook page of tvpirveli


Support from the young Pride organisers


Tamaz Sozashvili, one of the founders of Tbilisi Pride, blamed the government for the incident. Shortly after it happened, he twittered that the government’s “immobility and ignorance” towards transgender people during the pandemic was the cause of this desperate act.

The Eastern European Coalition for LGBT+ Equality already declared in a statement issued on 6 April that the risk of job loss and homelessness “disproportionately affects members of the trans-community”. Often even the most basic needs cannot be met. Added to this is the risk of discrimination and harassment by law enforcement officials:

“While transsexual and gay sex workers are exposed to both health and economic risks, they also face a higher risk of harassment and violence from law enforcement agencies (already biased against these groups), who may become overzealous in raids in cruising areas under the pretext of enforcing curfews and other restrictions on public gatherings.

Such an assault occurred just hours after Madona Kiparoidze set herself on fire.



Serious allegations against the police


Sesili Tsomaia had left her apartment on April 30th, about two hours after the curfew began, to look for a pharmacy. She was not feeling well after learning of her friend’s self-immolation, she told the Georgian news agency On.ge. Tsomaia was stopped by the police and was first verbally harassed and humiliated. Then the police officer in charge suddenly struck her. She was arrested and dragged several meters down the street. “Afterwards, while I was in handcuffs, the police officer in charge came and kicked me in the back,” Tsomaia said. The Georgian State Inspector has opened an investigation against several police officers in Tbilisi for “exceeding official authority by force”.

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