On September 6, an online edition Geworld.ge posted an interview with Archpriest Guram Gamtsemlidze titled “How can the West teach us to respect women, when they cannot distinguish men from women?!” Speaking about the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, adopted by the Council of Europe in 2011, in the context of legislative obligations undertaken by Georgia under the Association Agreement, Archpriest Guram Gamtsemlidze said that the Istanbul Convention “is a targeted attack against Georgian traditions, identity and everything national.”
Guram Gamtsemlidze, archpriest: “It [the European Convention adopted by the Council of Europe on May 11, 2011] is yet another attack against Georgian traditions, identity and everything national. I do not see anything new and surprising in it. Actually, they know better than us historically how much the women were respected in Georgia, be it a wife, a mother or others. But they put it as they need… Now, someone will probably say that the facts of violence have become too frequent recently; there were frequent cases, when a husband beat or wounded a wife to death and so on. It is a usual crime. Relevant structures exist to prevent similar crimes and they have to address this issue.”
The allegation that the Istanbul Convention is directed against Georgian traditions and identity is groundless, because it aims at preventing any forms of violence against women.
The Istanbul Convention – Purposes and Obligations
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is the most comprehensive international agreement in terms of preventing violence against women, which was signed by Georgia on June 19, 2014. The Parliament of Georgia ratified the Istanbul Convention on April 5, 2017 and it entered into force on September 1, 2017.
The purposes of the Convention are to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence; to contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women.
The Parties to the Convention note that women and girls are often exposed to serious forms of violence such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, forced marriage, crimes committed in the name of so‐called “honor” and genital mutilation, which constitute a serious violation of the human rights of women and girls and a major obstacle to the achievement of equality between women and men. Moreover, women and girls are exposed to a higher risk of gender‐based violence than men. Therefore, the member states are aspiring to create a Europe free from violence against women and domestic violence.
In order to ensure effective implementation of its provisions by the Parties, the Convention sets out the following obligations:
- To collect disaggregated relevant statistical data at regular intervals on cases of all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention.
- To implement relevant measures on raising awareness about violence against women and domestic violence that implies inclusion of relevant teaching materials in the curriculum, training of professionals, participation of the private sector and the media. Such measures are one of the important factors to prevent violence against women and domestic violence.
- To provide shelter, legal advice, medical and psychological counseling as well as of running hotlines and other essential services for the victims of violence.
- To ensure that payment of compensation is regulated by legislation.
- To criminalize particular intentional conduct defined by the Convention (e.g. forced abortion, forced sterilization, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, etc.).
Statistical data on violence against women and domestic violence in Georgia
According to the special report prepared by the Georgian Public Defender’s Office in 2015 to study the existing state services for the victims/survivors of domestic violence and protection mechanisms, 17 women were killed as a result of domestic violence in 2014. Moreover, female homicide increased by 62% in 2014 compared to 2013. The cases of killing a wife by a husband increased by 57% and crimes committed against women in the family (killing) increased by 53% compared to the previous year.
TABLE 1. Domestic Violence Statistics
TABLE 2. 2013-2014 comparative date.
The special report also notes that in order to prevent violence against women and to establish gender equality, it is essential to change the policy, as well as to collect aggregate statistical data and to work on raising public awareness. In addition, the role of social workers in the response to domestic violence incidents remains unclear; while, due to the nature of the problem, involvement of law enforcement agencies is not always sufficient and requires support by relevant professionals.
Implemented legislative amendments
A number of legislative amendments have been implemented to bring national laws in line with the Istanbul Convention. In particular:
- If previously the Law of Georgia on Elimination of Domestic Violence, Protection and Support of Victims of Domestic Violence regulated the violence against women only within families, it will now apply to the violence against women outside families. Thus, a woman will be protected in a family and beyond, because she will be able to apply for protection mechanisms, shelter and compensation regardless of whether or not she is a victim of domestic violence.
- A definition of violence against women has changed and now it involves all forms of gender-based violence that entails or may entail physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm and suffering. It also implies threat of violence, coercion or illegal deprivation of liberty, no matter where it may take place – in public or private life. It also provides a new definition of an abuser, according to which an abuser may be a family member or other person, who commits physical, psychological, economic, sexual violence or coercion towards a woman.
- According to the amendments to the Criminal Code of Georgia, forced sterilization and female genital mutilation will be subject to criminalization. Criminalization of such actions is important especially as numerous similar crimes committed against young girls have taken place in Georgia recently.
- Article 34 of the Istanbul Convention obliges the Parties to the Convention to criminalize stalking. Accordingly, Article 1511 was added to the Criminal Code of Georgia envisaging criminal liability for stalking.
- According to the amendments to the Law of Georgia on Police, the Police shall immediately notify a female victim of violence of the release or escape from the penitentiary institution, as well as a short leave from the prison facility of the person having committed violence against her.
- Abusers are prohibited to carry privately owned weapons, as well as are restricted or prohibited to carry service weapons.
Prepared by Dali Kurdadze