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Special Rapporteur on violence against women finalizes country visit to Georgia

Georgian version

TBILISI (19 February 2016) – At the end of a five-day visit to Georgia, which took her to Tbilisi, as well as to the Kakheti and Shida Qartli regions, Ms. Dubravka šimonović, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, delivered the following statement:

 “I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to the Government of Georgia for extending me an invitation to visit the country and in particular to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose Ministry was in charge of organizing the official programme. This is the first official visit by this mandate on the elimination of violence against women, its causes and consequences in the country and I am grateful to all the stakeholders I met during my five-day visit, including national and regional authorities, independent human rights institutions, representatives of the civil society organizations, villagers, internally-displaced women and representatives of the United Nations entities (in particular OHCHR, UN Women, UNHCR and UNFPA) and I wish to extend my thanks to women survivors of violence who met with me to share their stories and concerns.

I will present my preliminary findings that will be developed further and elaborated in a set of concrete and action-oriented recommendations in the report that I will present at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, in June 2016. It is my hope that today’s preliminary findings and final recommendations, mostly addressed to the Government of Georgia, as the primary duty bearer of the obligation to act with due diligence to prevent and eliminate violence against women and will be of use to all stakeholders.

My findings are based on this country visit and built the assessment of the implementation of the comprehensive framework of this mandate under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW), which establish that violence against women is a form of gender-based discrimination and a human rights violation. There are also built on the recent recommendations of the CEDAW Committee to Georgia, on actions needed for the elimination of discrimination and violence against women, the views under the Optional Protocol of the CEDAW Convention in the first case of violence against women with regard to Georgia (X and Y v. Georgia No 24/2009), whose recommendations point out systematic deficiencies related to the implementation of the legislative framework and specific measures on violence against women. I am also taking into consideration the recent examination of Georgia by the Universal Periodic Review, which took place last year.

This country visit is happening during a promising time, during which the Government and soon the Parliament will consider the ratification of the Istanbul Convention as the new European instrument addressing violence against women and domestic violence. Georgia envisages important legislative amendments to harmonize its national legislation with the Istanbul Convention, by which at the same time, strengthens the implementation of the CEDAW Convention that mirrors the same obligations to prevent violence against women, to punish the perpetrator, to provide adequate services for coordination and implementation of laws and policies and reparation including compensation to survivors of violence against women and girls.

The Ministry of Justice has taken the lead in amending 17 specific laws, to be in line with the Istanbul Convention. I strongly encourage the Georgian Parliament to speedily ratify the Istanbul Convention.

During the past few years Georgia, has made several significant improvements of its legislative framework on violence against women with a particular focus on domestic violence.

The Government demonstrated its willingness to improve women’s situation in general and to address domestic violence in particular. Nevertheless, despite a list of laws, policies and institutional measures adopted to combat violence against women, including the 2006 Law of Georgia on Elimination of Domestic Violence, Protection of and Support to Its Victims, the 2010 Law of Georgia on Gender Equality and the 2014 Law of Georgia of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. Despite the establishment of the Gender Equality Council within the Parliament, and the establishment of the Gender Equality Adviser in the Office of the Prime Minister, among others, there is no specific legislation on gender-based violence and a lack of a comprehensive national mechanism within the executive branch to coordinate and effectively implement and monitor gender equality policies.

The implementation of those laws is challenged by societal attitudes by entrenched patriarchal attitudes and gender stereotypes, makes gender-based violence tolerated, where domestic violence is considered a private matter and not a public concern, in most parts of the country.

Training and awareness raising
There is an urgent need to promote prevention and continue the awareness raising campaigns conducted on women and girls’ rights among the population, including men and boys on the unacceptability of gender-based violence, including early marriages, in order to prevent such cases.

I was informed that there are currently trainings being delivered to police officers who are now more proactive in issuing restriction orders and would like to encourage the continuation of increase of women as police officers, who can play a key role in detecting and providing all necessary information to victims of violence, so that they handle cases with gender-sensitivity, thus avoiding risks of re-victimization or perpetuation of the cycle of violence. I encourage the Government to continue to train the police officers throughout the country, in order to put an end to this practice. Social workers and other professionals, including doctors  and teachers have also a key role in detecting and reporting cases of violence.

I also consider appropriate reminding the importance of training the members of the judiciary, including judges and prosecutors, on the international and regional women’s rights instruments, including the CEDAW Convention and good practices to ensure at the domestic level that laws are applied from a gender dimension, in accordance with international standards and norms.

Women and girls need to be more empowered, in particular those pertaining to disadvantaged groups, and education, including education on gender equality is essential to address violence against women and achieve substantive gender equality. In that sense, gender equality should be added in the curricula at all levels of education and I was pleased be informed by the Ministry of Education that the will exists to include this issue in the curricula. I would strongly encourage the Government to also include sexual and reproductive rights education in the curricula.

Data on violence against women
During my visit, I saw that there is no unified statistical data on violence against women.

Some data on different forms of violence against women and girls, as well as on sexual violence, including rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence have been shared with me. According to the Office of the Public Defender of Georgia, in 2014, 34 women have been killed, out of which 13 intimate-partner femicides were registered in Georgia. I recognize the efforts made in the area of collection of data on femicide and would like to reiterate the call I had directed to all UN Members States to establish a “femicide” or “gender-relating killings” watch through which member states, including Georgia, would release every year on 25th of November, International Day on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the number of femicides or gender-motivated killings of women per year, disaggregated by age and sex of the perpetrators, as well as the relationship between that perpetrator and the victim or victims. Information about the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators should also be collected and published. On the basis of such information, each case of femicide should be carefully analyzed to identify any failure of protection in view of improving and developing further preventive measures.

Protection, justice and rehabilitation
It was reported to me that women victims of violence face multiple challenges in their search for protection, justice and rehabilitation. For instance, 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. Even though it seems that there has been a decrease of these police de facto practices, perpetrators are still asked to sign a ‘warning letter’ – devoid of any legal value – through which they make the commitment not to exercise violence against their partner.

In many cases, women who report cases of violence to the police are still asked ‘what did you do to cause such violence?’ showing the remaining persistence of stereotypes, as well as the difficulties to initiate a case without the need for the victim to submit an application. There is no ex officio prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence, leaving in the victims’ hands the burden to decide whether they wish to initiate a criminal procedure or not.

Despite an increasing number of restriction orders issued the last couple of years – valid for a maximum period of one month – victims still have to face several obstacles. One of them is to receive the status of victim from the Group for Determining Domestic Violence Victim Status of the Interagency Council for Prevention of Domestic Violence. Without such status, they remain ‘alleged victims’ of violence, which has several implications for them. The status of victim allows them to seek refuge in one of the State-run shelters among the three State-run shelters existing in the country. In the meantime, they have to rely on the crisis centre only operated by civil society organisations. However, I was informed that the first State crisis centre would open this spring in the capital and I strongly recommend extending these centres to the rural areas.

I believe important to stress that there is an urgent need for more shelters throughout the country, in particular in rural areas. I heard that 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 temporary special measures or temporary measures that will allow women who have to leave the shelter access to housing and/or employment, which render them more vulnerable to return back to the cycle of violence.

I am concerned about the low number of protection orders, allowing an increased protection to victims – up to six months. Pro-active issuance of protection orders by the police and Public Prosecutors is needed and should be connected with restriction orders and the risk assessment of each case.

In rural areas, sexual and gender-based violence, in particular domestic violence is mostly considered as a private matter and women are less keen to report such abuses. In addition, those living in rural areas and escaping from their perpetrators, have to leave their villages and communities to live in shelters, which are only located in urban areas.

Early/forced marriage
I was also informed about cases of girl child marriages. In some cases, early marriages are caused by the fear of the abduction of the girls, in particular in rural areas, in which the vast majority of girls are married before the age of 18 and even 16. As a consequence of their marriage, they drop out of schools. These girls are extremely vulnerable to violence and lack economic independence to leave their abusers and a strict enforcement of the law would be necessary. Other harmful practices that were reported to me, albeit to a lesser extent, include virginity testing and sex selective abortions.

The multiple forms of discrimination and how they intersect with violence against women need to be further looked at. Women belonging to ethnic minorities and/or living in rural areas, as well as internally displaced women are extremely vulnerable to gender-based violence, but also, lesbian, gay, transgender victims are additionally discriminated.

Participation of women in political and public life
Taking into consideration the low number of women in the Parliament, I support the adoption of the law on mandatory quotas, specifying a minimum participation of 30% of women. I am also looking forward to the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will take place in October this year and hope to see more women elected as members of the parliament.

There is a real turning point for Georgia to fully integrate international and regional standards into its legal system and to establish a holistic and comprehensive national framework, as well as mechanisms to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. 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.”

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.

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