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“Break the cycle of silence and acceptance of violence against women” – UN expert urges Georgia

GENEVA (24 February 2016) – United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences Dubravka Šimonović today welcomed Georgia’s significant improvements to its laws on gender equality and violence against women, but warned that deep changes are still needed in society’s attitude towards gender-based violence, including domestic violence and early marriages.

“There is an urgent need to break the cycle of silence and acceptance of violence against women as a private matter and to secure the right of each and every woman and girl to the right to live a life free from violence,” the UN expert said at the end of her first official visit* to the country.

Ms. Šimonović  noted the adoption, in recent years, of new laws on gender equality, non discrimination and domestic violence and welcomed the plans to further revise a number of laws including on domestic violence law in order to put them in line with the international and regional standards. She called for a speedy ratification of the Istanbul convention, the European agreement addressing violence against women and domestic violence.

The human rights expert said that women victims of violence in Georgia still face multiple challenges in their search for protection, justice and rehabilitation due to entrenched 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,” she said. “Women victims of domestic violence, who decide not to keep this scourge taboo, are forced by the community – in particular in rural areas – and/or the police, to remain with their perpetrators and are not only revictimized, but at risk of new assaults”.

The expert encouraged to continue to train the police officers and reminded the key role of social workers and other professionals, including doctors and teachers in detecting and reporting cases of violence. She also reminded the importance of training the members of the judiciary, including judges and prosecutors on the international and regional women’s rights instruments.

Ms. Šimonović called for the collection of official data on femicides, noting that, currently only the Office of the Public Defender of Georgia collects such data, and reminded her call made on States for the establishment of a Femicide watch.

The Special Rapporteur called for the creation of more State-run shelters for victims of violence against women and their collaboration with the crisis centers. She warned that victims still face a number of obstacles to access any of the three existing shelters. Women have to obtain the status of victim from the Interagency Council for Prevention of Domestic Violence in order to seek refuge in a State-run shelter. There is no such requirement for the crisis centers that provide immediate safe place for women.

“There is an urgent need for more shelters and crisis centers throughout the country, in particular in rural areas,” Ms. Šimonović said. “Many of the women who live in the shelters have no education and low skills and are therefore unable to access the job market which would render them economically independent and in a position to leave the shelter and/or to find an accommodation.”

“Furthermore, there are no measures to empower women, who have to leave the shelter, that will allow access to housing and/or employment, which render them more vulnerable to return back to the cycle of violence,” she noted.

Regarding the issue of forced girl child marriage, marriages are mainly arranged by parents and girls have not expressed full, free and informed consent, or who are below the age to give such consent, the Special Rapporteur said that “these girls are extremely vulnerable to violence and lack economic independence to leave their abusers and a strict enforcement of the law that prohibits such marriages would be necessary”.

Ms. Šimonović also urged the Georgian authorities to look at the links between violence against women and other forms of discrimination: “Women belonging to ethnic minorities and/or living in rural areas, as well as internally displaced women are extremely vulnerable to gender-based violence.

During her five-day visit, the expert met with Government authorities, civil society representatives and other stakeholders in Tbilisi, as well as Kakheti and Shida Qartli regions. She also visited a shelter for victims of domestic violence, met with internally displaced women, and met with individual victims of gender-based violence and minority women.

The Special Rapporteur will present a report with final findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2016.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement:
English: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17073&LangID=E
Georgian: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/EoMStatement19Feb2016_Georgian.doc

Ms.Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015, to recommend measures, ways and means, at the national, regional and international levels, to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences. Ms. Šimonović has been member of the CEDAW Committee from 2002 to 2014. She headed the Human Rights Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia and was the Minister Plenipotentiary at the Permanent Mission of Croatia to the UN in New York. She was also Ambassador to the OSCE and UN in Vienna. She co-chaired the Ad hoc Committee (CAHVIO) of the Council of Europe that elaborated the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention).She has a PhD in Family Law and published books and articles on human rights and women’s rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Georgia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/GEIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms. Karin Hechenleitner Schacht (+41 22 917 9636 / khechenleitner@ohchr.org) or Ms. Nathalie Stadelmann (+41 22 917 9104 / nstadelmann@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
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