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Victims of domestic violence and their rights


Lana Giorgidze

In accordance to the 2014 Report of the Public Defender of Georgia, achieving gender equality still remains a serious challenge in the area of human rights protection in Georgia. Society still lives in stereotypical environment, where in most cases violence against women in families is justified, the number of early marriages is high, women constitute a minority at the level of decision-making and cases of the violation of rights due to gender identity and sexual orientation are frequent.

In 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia published the statistics data on domestic violence in 2007-2014 in Georgia. In 2007-2014 (January-June) 1102 cases of violence were registered including 2223 persons. Most of the offenders are men – 1014, while the number of women is 82. In the mentioned period 1010 women were subject to domestic violence and 117 men. From the types of domestic violence physical assault is a most frequent case (47, 2%) as well as psychological pressure (42,8%) and other types of violence number of -10 %. 

In accordance to the 2015 World Report of Human Rights Watch, at least 23 women died in the first 10 months of 2014 due to domestic violence that causes serious concerns. According to data from the Education Ministry, 7,367 girls stopped going to school from 2011 to 2013 because of early marriage.

The Public Defender’s Special Report 2016 - Women's Rights and Gender Equality proves that the problem is still urgent in the country and needs more intensive work. 

In accordance to the report, the grave situation surrounding the legal status of women, and of gender equality more generally, in Georgia remained essentially unchanged during the reporting year.

“Given the increased rate of case identification, more importance should be placed on state efforts to ensure victims have access to effective services and are protected from repeat acts of violence. The cases studied in the report period reveal that the services for victims of violence clearly need improvement, especially in terms of supporting the social and economic empowerment of victims, i.e., supporting victims’ independence and employment. Those objectives cannot be achieved only through the functioning of shelters,” the Public Defender’s report reads. 

When working on the 2016 report, the Public Defender requested statistic data from the responsible institutions on gender based violence cases, including prevalent forms of violence, about effectiveness of the protection mechanisms and in general about the identification and evaluation of tendencies in the violence against women and domestic violence. 

“It is noteworthy that, unlike in 2015, during preparation of this report the Public Defender’s Office was not immediately provided with the requested information. The related delay highlights the fact that the keeping of statistics does not constitute part of the regular working process and attention is not paid to statistical trends during day-to-day activities,” the special report reads.

The PDO, based on their study, also revealed that there is no united data base in the MIA to record the identified violence facts at least to analyze and evaluate the facts of violence and forms of relations in accordance to their repeatedness and duration. Consequently, there is no mechanism of violence risk assessment, which makes impossible to monitor effectiveness of the used protective mechanisms, to plan and implement preventive measures. 

The Public Defender’s 2016 Report also provided information about the revelation of the female genital mutilation, which had been tabooed problem for many years. According to the Public Defender’s recommendation, these issues require coordinated, coherent, and needs-based response from the State. 

Violence is any action or verbal activity which may insult, damage a person or violate his/her rights. 

The violence suppresses the will of the person, infringes his/her personal inviolability, dignity and freedom, which are basic human rights.  

The main forms of violence are:

Physical violence – may be: pushing, beating, biting, burning, sputtering, wounding, and more;

Psychological/emotional violence: shouting, threatening, degrading, irritating, ignoring the feelings of the spouse, and more;

Economical violence: denying the spouse to give the money for food or cloths; refusing the woman to participate in the decision making process when it is connected with financial procedures;

Sexual violence: when the man treats a woman like a sexual subject; criticizes during the sexual intercourse; doubts that the woman has sexual relations with other person; avoids and refuses to have sexual intercourse; forces to have sexual intercourse with others; forces to have sexual intercourse with him after quarrel or beating; treats her like property and demands sexual intercourse with him because she belongs to the husband; checks cloths to find traces of betrayal on them. 

The Georgian NGOs, who actively work on the issues related with the violence against women, told humanrights.ge that most often women apply to them for help when they are victims of physical violence. 

“Cases of physical violence are most often reported but it does not mean that this form of the violence is the most common. When identifying different forms of violence, the law enforcement bodies request high standards of verification from the women that is not correct in my opinion. A woman, who is a victim of violence, first of all is concerned about her security and is not focused on the collection of evidence. 

Every woman should know that victim shall collect all evidence about violence and the state shall raise their awareness about it. The law enforcement officers must not additionally traumatize the victimized woman and raise doubts about her story. When the victim cannot prove the fact of violence, everybody thinks she is fabricating the story that is very insulting. 

Physical violence is the most frequently identified and addressed fact but it does not mean that other forms of violence do not happen; but the women do not hope that those facts will be investigated,” Ana Arganashvili, representative of the Partnership for Human Rights, said.

Head of the legal aid service at Human Rights Center Tamar Avaliani said mostly the victims of physical violence apply to Human Rights Center for help.

“Mostly, victims of physical violence apply to us for help. However, we had several cases of psychological violence too, when women, during years, endured oppression from the husbands or partners. We offer different legal services to them, inform them about the mechanisms – they can apply to police and request restraining order, as well as protective order which is issued by the City Court – these orders are administrative legal mechanisms. Victims mostly request restraining orders. Divorce and alimony is the mechanism of the civil law. As for the mechanisms of the criminal law, the latter includes involvement of the prosecutor’s office and police. 

We had cases, when victims applied us for restraining and protective orders but finally dropped the litigation. I remember about 4 cases for the past one year when the victims of domestic violence reconciled with their husbands. 

There are cases, when police officer is either friend or relative of the harasser or the police officer himself is harasser; in similar situation the victim is left without protection and the restraining order is not issued. Police just warns the harassers. The organization worked on several femicide cases, when the police officers had just warned the harassers about the possible punishments for the violence but several hours later the harasser killed the woman. We believe the police officer shall necessarily issue the restraining order in all cases,” Tamar Avaliani said. 

Lawyer of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association Tamar Dekanosidze said there is no definition of femicide in the Georgian legislation that is legislative miscarriage. 

“Femicide is classified as intended murder. The murder of the woman does not envisage gender specific aspects though the murder of the woman is substantially different from other murders. The only possibility is to classify the femicide fact under the acting law but add discriminative motive to it, which does not happen in practice. 

Every day, about 1300 -1500 women apply to the central and regional offices of GYLA for help. Majority of them are victims of physical violence. In other cases, the women refrain from applying organizations for help. When the violence reaches extreme form, the women apply to different organizations for help,” Tamar Dekanosidze said.

The state provides the victims of domestic violence with state shelter, where they can stay up to 3 months. There are three independent ways to determine the status of the victim:

victim status granting permanent council;
Restrictive Order;
Protective order.

For the consultations citizens can call the hot line 116 006.

Representative of the Partnership for Human Rights Ana Arganashvili said the state shelters for the victims of domestic violence are empty and nobody asks why…

“I have information that the shelters are empty and nobody goes there; nobody inquires why… if the victim does not go to a shelter, it means she needs something different. Lack of services causes miscarriages in the justice system. Since they did not empower the women at least with the consultations with psychologist, the woman refuses to report police and give testimony. Punishment of the violator is priority and good prevention but here is the question, how the woman will live particularly if she has children but does not have job and income to keep the family. The state shall pay attention to similar issues. Prosecutors and investigators cannot work with the woman effectively when no psychologists, social workers and employment agent work with the women. 

PHR provides the women, who went through violence, with legal aid. We do not call them victims of violence because the attitude has changed. Majority of our cases are litigated against the state inactivity. We want the State to increase their accountability in front of the citizens,” Ana Arganashvili told humanrights.ge.

Besides the remarks and recommendations of the PDO and local NGOs, during her visit in Georgia in 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonović told local media there is no specific law on gender-based violence in Georgia; the executive authority does not have comprehensive state mechanism to work on the gender equality policy in coordination and effectively implement and monitor it. 

According to the UN Special Rapporteur, patriarchal attitudes and gender stereotypes which make gender-based violence tolerated; Domestic violence is considered a private matter and not a public concern, especially in rural areas.

To eliminate the current legislative miscarriages and raise public awareness, Human Rights Center commenced a new project on August 1, 2018 Support to the Prevention of Violence against Women in Georgia. According to the information disseminated by the Center, the project will last 8 months and different activities will be implemented. 

“Within framework of the new project, Human Rights Center will cooperate with the social workers of the shelters, police officers, community leaders, civil activists and victims, who will exchange information about the obstacles they encounter in their daily work.  The project will be implemented in three regions – Kakheti, Shida Kartli and Kvemo Kartli, where the level of domestic violence and femicide is higher than in other regions; and also in Tbilisi, where the level of domestic violence and femicide is the highest,” the press-release reads. 

The organization believes the project will have direct positive impact on the women and girls, who are or may become victims of domestic violence and femicide. The project will promote increase of effectiveness of the legislative mechanisms against domestic violence and femicide, which will guarantee defense of women’s rights, including their right to life. Within framework of the project, more effective mechanisms will be elaborated (recommendations about the mechanisms) and they will be advocated through participation of all key actors of the process.

Besides Human Rights Center, many other NGOs or local media organizations work on awareness raising of women about their rights. However, this problem will not be resolved without active engagement of the state and real steps, that is shared position of all local and international nongovernmental organizations. 

This article was prepared in the frame of the project “Support to the Prevention of Violence against Women in Georgia, which is implemented by Human Rights Center with financial support of the U.S. Embassy Tbilisi under Democracy Commission Small Grants Program. The contents of this article are those of the Human Rights Center and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of State.

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