Georgia Praised by CEDAW for Empowering Women, Questions on Domestic Violence, Gender Inequality

OHCHR

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Georgia, commending the State on mechanisms to advance efforts towards equality and women’s empowerment, and raising questions on initiatives undertaken to combat domestic violence and inequality between men and women in the labour market.

A Committee Expert commended Georgia for introducing a plethora of mechanisms, plans and actions to advance efforts towards equality and women’s empowerment, including the Gender Equality Council and the Gender Equality Department of the Public Defender’s Office.

One Committee Expert commended Georgia for many initiatives made to combat gender-based violence, including the introduction of the gender-based motive within the Penal Code. What was the State party’s assessment of each initiative to prevent gender-based violence? Regarding domestic violence, what accounted for the tripling of restraining orders? Were they effective in preventing gender-based violence? When would the referral mechanism for victims be finalised? What steps had been taken to increase the quality and access of services to victims such as crisis centres?

Another Committee Expert asked if there were plans to make private companies disclose the women to men salary ratios, to narrow the gender pay gap? Were there plans to increase the minimum wages? Was paid maternity leave valid for all types of employment? What measures were being taken to enable mothers to continue working? What measures were being taken to increase affordable childcare services? Could data be provided about harassment cases at work, and the outcomes of different procedures?

The delegation said Georgia had made significant progress in the fight against domestic violence and violence against women. Several amendments had been made to legislation, including extending the prison sentence for domestic violence. Up to 2021, 6,000 cases of domestic violence were investigated and 5,000 people were prosecuted. The State was actively working on preventative mechanisms, including a risk assessment document, which assessed the risk of expected violence. The 112 mobile application was a method to contact the police faster.

A lot had been invested in ensuring the Labour Inspection entity had both the human capacity and financial abilities to provide proficient oversight in reducing the gender pay gap, the delegation said. Minimum wages were not currently provided by Georgian legislation. Georgia was working with social partners and would discuss the national minimum wage. Recent changes in labour legislation improved the concept of parental leave, allowing leave to be taken by either the mother or the father. When it came to targeting harassment at work, labour inspection was considered one of the key entities. There had been 27 complaints in 2022 regarding harassment.

Introducing the report, Niko Tatulashvili, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, said in 2017, Georgia ratified the Istanbul Convention, confirming the country’s commitment to combatting violence against women and domestic violence. While women’s participation in political life remained low, the 2020 electoral reforms brought some improvements in this regard. For the first time, the principle of compulsory gender quotas was established in the Georgian election legislation about electoral lists, in particular, a mandatory quota related to gender balance in the party list was defined for party registration and participation in the elections. Mr. Tatulashvili drew attention to the deteriorated human rights situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia occupied by the Russian Federation, where killings, inhuman treatment and discrimination had been witnessed.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Tatulashvili said it was an honour to participate in the discussion. There were challenges; gender equality could not be achieved only by adopting laws, but also required a mental revolution which took time. Mr. Tatulashvili thanked the Committee Experts for their time and questions.

Ana Peláez Narváez, Chair of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue with the Committee which had provided further insight into the situation of women in Georgia. The State was encouraged to take efforts to implement the recommendations made by the Committee, which would benefit all women and girls in the country.

The delegation of Georgia consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Education and Science; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the Ministry for Reconciliation and Civil Equality; the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs; the Agrarian Issues Committee; the General Prosecutor’s Office; the High Council of Justice; the Government of Georgia; and the Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-fourth session is being held from 6 to 24 February. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 9 February, to review the tenth periodic report of Norway (CEDAW/C/NOR/10).

Report

The Committee has before it the sixth periodic report of Georgia (CEDAW/C/GEO/6).

Presentation of Report

Before the head of delegation of Georgia took the floor, Yamila González Ferrer (Cuba) made the solemn declaration as a new member of the Committee.

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, said that the Constitutional amendments of 2017 had had a significant impact on the State policy on gender equality, in particular an article which envisaged an obligation for the State to improve the protection of gender equality. In 2017, Georgia ratified the Istanbul Convention, confirming the country’s commitment to combatting violence against women and domestic violence. In line with international commitments, Georgia had strengthened its national institutional framework and created strong institutional mechanisms on gender equality, consisting of three key bodies: the Inter-Agency Commission on Gender Equality, Violence against Women and Domestic Violence at the Human Rights Council of the Government of Georgia; the Gender Equality Council of the Parliament of Georgia; and the Gender Equality Department of the Public Defender’s Office. In September 2022, the Government approved the second National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights in Georgia for 2022-2030, with a whole chapter devoted to gender equality. Two separate national action plans were launched for 2022-2024, including on women, peace and security and for the elimination of violence against women and domestic violence.

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the Government of Georgia had continued to pursue and enforce rigorous policies and measures against gender-based and domestic violence. Throughout the crisis, emergency assistance and consultation hotlines continued to work non-stop, including the victims of human trafficking hotline.

During the pandemic, the population was informed through social media and television on the strict State policy and enforced legal instruments for combatting domestic violence, as well as the ways to refer such cases to the police. During the pandemic, criminal proceedings, including on the cases of violence against women, were carried out with no setbacks. Witness and victim interrogations were successfully held remotely during this period. The Government of Georgia paid special attention to awareness raising activities. Training was provided for policemen on the issues of combatting violence against women and/or domestic violence. Also, awareness-raising activities on the Convention and its Optional Protocol were carried out regularly by the Ministry of Justice.

In 2019, legislative amendments were introduced to the Georgian legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace and in public life. Changes were also made to the Labour Code of Georgia concerning sexual harassment issues in the workplace. In November 2022, the Government approved the rules and amount of compensation for victims of violence against women, authorising them to receive compensation from the State. Combatting violence against women and domestic violence was one of the most important priority areas for the Government. Since 2018, specialisation was mandatory for the prosecutors and investigators of the Prosecutor’s Service of Georgia, who worked on domestic violence and gender-based violence cases. While women’s participation in political life remained low, 2020 electoral reforms brought some improvements in this regard. For the first time, the principle of compulsory gender quotas was established in the Georgian election legislation about electoral lists, in particular, a mandatory quota related to gender balance in the party list was defined for party registration and participation in the elections.

Mr. Tatulashvili drew attention to the deteriorated human rights situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia occupied by the Russian Federation, where killings, inhuman treatment and discrimination had been witnessed. It was particularly concerning that international human rights organizations were constantly denied access to the occupied regions. There were grave human rights consequences stemming from Russia’s occupation of Georgia and the Government of Georgia was committed to utilising all available instruments to address the human rights abuses in the occupied regions. The Georgian delegation stood ready to constructively engage in the upcoming dialogue with the Committee.

EKATERINE SKHILADZE, Deputy Public Defender of Georgia, said that achieving gender equality remained a serious challenge in the country. Georgia had yielded some positive results in recent years, including the development of legislation and institutional mechanisms. However, stereotypes and discriminatory practices were deeply rooted in society and often resulted in the violation of women’s fundamental rights. An important step was the introduction of gender quotas, as a mechanism to strengthen women’s political participation. However, it was insufficient to achieve equality in political participation as women still faced many barriers, which required the adoption of all means by the Government, including awareness raising campaigns.

Another important issue was the lack of comprehensive sexuality education, which was not fully integrated into school education. Despite the criminalisation of forced marriages, relevant State bodies were mostly unable to identify cases of engagement of underaged girls. The rates of child marriage and engagement were alarming; 479 girls were registered as underage parents in 2020, 476 in 2021 and 189 in the 6 months of 2022. The scale of violence, murders and attempted murders of women was also alarming and the rate of attempted murders was much higher. These statistics indicated a need to improve prevention of and response to the cases of violence against women and domestic violence in practice, among other measures. The Public Defender’s Office hoped there would be significant improvements in gender equality in Georgia.

Questions by Committee Experts

GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Georgia, commended Georgia for ensuring significant poverty reduction in the country, despite many challenges, including the pandemic. Georgia had made significant progress in adopting legislative and policy frameworks and strengthening institutions on women’s rights. However, there were still gaps in legislation which needed to be addressed, including the definition of rape. Issues were still present in remote areas, and it was vital to increase the visibility of the Convention, and access to justice. Were legal aid schemes available for access to justice for victims of gender-based violence? How would the State party improve the visibility of the Convention? Would Georgia consider the strengthening of the law on gender equality and the adoption of a comprehensive law on gender-based violence?

Responses by the Delegation and Follow-up Questions and Answers

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, said all State institutions were included in awareness-raising efforts. At the municipal level, the Gender Equality Council localised national strategies and action plans, with constant support from Parliament. To combat sexual violence, public awareness raising campaigns were being conducted about the helplines and the State care agency services that were available, provided in eight different languages. Free legal aid was provided to victims of violence. The Government had approved a human rights strategy which had a separate chapter on gender equality, and covered gender equality throughout other different chapters. Two standalone action plans had been adopted on violence against women and on the women, peace and security agenda.

The delegation said the Gender Equality Council had worked actively on several important topics. All the United Nations organizations in Georgia were actively involved in drafting all action plans. A renewed concept on gender equality had been adopted in the past year, as well as a new State concept on women’s economic empowerment. This document was the first holistic document in the country which viewed the economic empowerment of women from a long-term perspective. Georgia had made great progress compared to previous years.

GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Georgia, said the Committee had noted the different training sessions and campaigns, and said it was important to put special emphasis on the Convention and its Optional Protocol. Would there be regular training sessions focused on the Convention for the judiciary and law enforcement?

In response, the delegation said that with guidance from United Nations Women, the gender equality law was being revised. It was hoped that there would be a new draft of the law available during the year. Training on gender issues strengthened the capacity of policemen in dealing with cases of gender-based violence. The Convention was covered during this training. In 2022, trainings were held on femicide, and training activities were conducted for specialised prosecutors, which also covered international legal instruments, including the Convention and its Optional Protocol. Continuing the education of judges and court staff on violence against women and other related crimes remained a high priority for Georgia. Training was provided to the judiciary on these issues, and the Convention was part of these training modules. Future trainings in this field were planned for the upcoming year.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert commended Georgia for introducing a plethora of mechanisms, plans and actions to advance efforts towards equality and women’s empowerment, including the Gender Equality Council and the Gender Equality Department of the Public Defender’s Office. What were the plans to strengthen the work of these entities? Why were the words “gender-equality” removed from certain high profile job titles? How did the local gender entities function and coordinate? Would the State party consider adopting a separate strategy on gender equality? How did the new national action plan meaningfully increase women’s participation in peace processes and how would non-governmental organizations be engaged in this plan?

Another Committee Expert commended Georgia’s efforts in implementing the Convention, which were quite extensive. Could data be provided on how the gender-specific legislation had been applied at all levels? What other temporary special measures were planned to accelerate equal access to public positions for women belonging to disadvantaged groups? Could the State party demonstrate its understanding of temporary special measures as conveyed in the Convention, which covered a wide range of actions? Could examples be provided?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the meetings between the Gender Equality Council and State institutions had intensified in recent years, and non-governmental organizations and international organizations were always present. The purpose of these meetings was to coordinate the process of implementation with the involvement of line ministries. A national referral mechanism on violence against women had been adopted, with the first draft prepared with the involvement of non-governmental organizations. The position of human rights advisors who worked on gender equality issues was introduced in the 2013 period when there was no gender-equality inter-agency commission. The human rights advisors worked across gender equality issues as well as many other issues. Every activity within the national action plan had its own agency, budget and timeframe. This would improve the process of implementation. Georgia was working on obtaining statistics at the national and local levels.

Quotas were introduced in 2020 which gave Parliament the opportunity to ensure women’s participation by 25 per cent, with a goal to reach 30 per cent by 2028. The quota period was being extended for one more term at the local and central level. The national bank also introduced a 20 per cent gender quota for the boards of the national banks. Enterprise Georgia, the national economic programme, issued grants with quotas for women set at 40 per cent.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert commended Georgia for many initiatives made to combat gender-based violence, including the introduction of the gender-based motive within the Penal Code. What was the State party’s assessment of each initiative to prevent gender-based violence? Regarding domestic violence, what accounted for the tripling of restraining orders? Were they effective in preventing gender-based violence? When would the referral mechanism for victims be finalised? What steps had been taken to increase the quality and access of services to victims such as crisis centres? How was the State party building capacity with judges and law enforcement personnel to compensate gender stereotyping? What steps was the State party taking to harmonise legislation in line with the Convention and the Istanbul Convention? What was being done to improve access to justice for vulnerable women? What measures were being taken to improve responses to cases of femicide? What was being done to raise awareness on this issue? What steps were being taken to criminalise femicide?

Another Committee Expert said Georgia was a source country for sex trafficking, adding that the level of identification of victims was low. What about international surrogacy legislation which could be used for child trafficking? Would there be a new action plan on trafficking? How many court decisions on trafficking had been registered over the past five years? What was the visibility of the hotlines? How many non-governmental organizations were in operation for victims of trafficking? How were victims of trafficking reintegrated back into society? What innovative instruments had been created by the Government to combat trafficking in women and girls? Had the Government thought about establishing shelters solely for child victims of sexual violence?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said Georgia had made significant progress in the fight against domestic violence and violence against women. Several amendments had been made to legislation, including extending the prison sentence for domestic violence. Up to 2021, 6,000 cases of domestic violence had been investigated and 5,000 people had been prosecuted. The State was actively working on preventative mechanisms, including a risk assessment document, which assessed the risk of expected violence. A restraining order was issued for 30 days, and violation of the order resulted in prison sentences. Victims must cooperate with the police to utilise electronic surveillance. The 112 mobile application was a method to contact the police faster. The Office of the Witness and Victim Coordinator aimed to facilitate the rehabilitation of victims. Since 2019, this service had provided services to more than 7,000 victims of domestic violence.

In 2022, two new guidelines were developed for specialised prosecutors, which included identifying a gender-related motive in relevant cases. Regarding the prevention of femicide, a large-scale public information campaign was launched in 2022, entitled “No to Femicide”. The campaign saw prosecutors hold information sessions throughout Georgia to raise awareness about femicide. Prosecutors also visited shelters and met female victims. In 2021, around 350 cases of crimes committed against women and girls were filed before courts. Five shelters and five crisis centres were operational, and provided a variety of services to victims, including health care and psychosocial support. An important legislative change had removed the requirement of obtaining victim status to access services by the State.

The political will of the Government to combat human trafficking was still there. In December 2022, the new action plan for 2022-2024 to combat trafficking was adopted. The approach was based on four pillars: preventing the crime, prosecuting it, providing services to victims, and enhancing cooperation with partner countries. Proactive identification was a key priority of the Government. For that reason, six mobile groups actively identified the high-risk areas where potential human trafficking cases might take place. Residents’ permits were provided to foreign victims of human trafficking to ensure they could receive the legal status to stay within the country. Pimping had been criminalised in Georgia since 2018, which was another legal remedy to prevent sexual exploitation.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert noted that women’s representation in executive leadership and Parliament remained relatively low. What measures, apart from quotas, were being taken by the State to increase the number of women in leadership positions? Would the stipulated end dates minimise the impact of the quotas? Would the State consider implementing quotas beyond 2032, and consider increasing the quotas to 30 per cent? Would the State party take measures to combat stereotypes and sexism towards women in public life? What was Georgia doing to ensure that gender-specific political violence was prohibited and that perpetrators were investigated?

Another Committee Expert welcomed that the registration data for formerly recognised stateless persons was maintained, and the number of stateless persons had been steadily decreasing since the introduction of the stateless procedure. Were there any plans to revise domestic legislation regulating citizenship, and ensure the rights of stateless persons were fully respected in line with the Convention? What measures were taken to grant nationality to all children?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said it remained to be seen whether the quotas would be continued after 2032. Trainings were continuously conducted within State agencies to raise awareness on gender equality. More than 12,000 people had been trained between 2018-2020. In 2018, certain gaps were identified, and a new law was drafted on broadcasting, which aimed to preserve cultural identity and establish an effective mechanism to prevent the spread of hate speech among others. To effectively use the gender mainstreaming tools, training was undertaken for civil servants and on women’s economic empowerment. Out of 339 judges in Georgia, 181 of these were female.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert asked for further elaboration on the issue of gender-specific political violence, and what steps had been undertaken to address this specific issue?

Another Committee Expert noted with concern that only half as many girls as boys with disabilities were in education. Would the State party create temporary special measures to address the dropout rates of girls with disabilities? Could the State party inform on the Covid-19 interventions? How were the missed days of school being addressed?

One Committee Expert asked if there were plans to make private companies disclose the women to men salary ratios, to narrow the gender pay gap? Were there plans to increase the minimum wages? What measures had been taken to get women into science, engineering, mathematics and technology fields of work? Was paid maternity leave valid for all types of employment? What measures were being taken to enable mothers to continue working? What measures were being taken to increase affordable childcare services? Could data be provided about harassment cases at work, and the outcomes of different procedures? What measures had been taken to ensure that domestic workers could be covered by the social protection schemes?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said access to equal education was a priority for Georgia. In 2021 and 2022, the subject standards of the national curriculum had been revised. Sexual and reproductive health issues were covered in the training course for teachers. Effective language teaching support programmes were made available to students for whom Georgian was not their mother tongue. There were still challenges in mountainous regions, and the Ministry of Education was working on alternative measures of education for these locations. Research was underway to study the barriers of access to critical education and develop policies for ensuring equal access to preschool education.

In 2013, Georgia established basic labour rights, and changes were made during the reform of the Labour Code in 2020, which established Labour Inspection as an entity overseeing the norms provided by labour legislation. This reform had been highly successful. A lot had been invested in ensuring that Labour Inspection had both the human capacity and financial abilities to provide proficient oversight in reducing the gender pay gap. Minimum wages were not currently provided by Georgian legislation. Georgia was working with social partners and would discuss the national minimum wage. Recent changes in labour legislation had improved the concept of parental leave, allowing leave to be taken by either the mother or the father. When it came to targeting harassment at work, Labour Inspection was considered one of the key entities. There had been 27 complaints in 2022 regarding harassment. There was a referral mechanism, where Labour Inspection referred cases to the Public Defender’s office. The delegation said that Georgia had joined Generation Equality to raise women’s participation in technologies, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert said Georgia was one of only a few countries in the world which allowed international surrogacy on its land. What share of the profit was handed to the surrogate? Who funded health services to surrogates when needed? What was being done to make contraception accessible to girls and women? What was being done to ensure that the new pre-abortion report did not deter women from abortion? What were the number of legal abortions? What were the rates of pregnancies and abortions in minors? What was being done to minimise pregnancies in minors? Pregnant women were sometimes forced to have an abortion if the sex was unacceptable to their family. When would the State party tackle these kinds of issues? What was being done to assist women with substance addiction? What was being done to ensure HIV positive women could seek health services? What health services were provided to trans women?

Another Committee Expert commended the State party for undertaking the first gender finance assessment. However, poverty remained rampant and unemployment was much higher among women than men. Why were women not the key target of economic plans? Could the delegation specify the vision of the women’s economic empowerment strategy? Which institution was responsible? What support was provided to agricultural women?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said Georgia had a universal health care programme, which provided accessibility to health care services and was fully funded by the Government. Maternal health was also funded and primary health care was a key priority of the Government. A primary health care reform had been initiated to respond to the needs of vulnerable groups, including women. By 2030, it was envisaged that all women would have access to pre-natal care. In 2022, the Government approved a national health strategy which included a specific focus on ensuring access to health care systems for women with disabilities. The health care strategy ensured that people with disabilities were considered and that their needs were reflected within the strategy.

The State fully funded pregnancy consultations, as well as supplements required during pregnancy. Surrogate mothers received the same access to health care services during their pregnancies. Health care services during pregnancy, including for minors, was a standard procedure. However, there was a referral system for cases of pregnancy in minors, to involve social workers in the case. Cases of pregnancy in minors were responded to individually.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert asked how the results of various initiatives taken for the benefit of rural women were assessed? Had these initiatives led to a high number of women landowners or women having access to loans? What was being done to reduce the time spent by women and girls living in rural areas on non-remunerative tasks? How successful had awareness raising campaigns on human trafficking been? What actions would the State undertake to reduce the levels of discrimination experienced by women of marginalised groups? What strategies were being pursued by the State party to pursue a non-discriminatory legal framework?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that 10 municipality training modules just for women had been held. New programmes were being created to decrease the burden of care for rural women, including home care for the elderly. The capacity building of rural doctors was a key priority in order to address the needs of rural populations. Information was provided to those living in rural areas to prevent human trafficking. Since August 2016, a land registration reform was being implemented, which allowed free registration of land and plots. These new amendments allowed women to become the co-owners of lands along with their partners. These measures had resulted in an increase in the number of female landowners. In 2014, 7,000 women were registered as landowners; this number had doubled by the beginning of 2023. Georgia was cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme to support rural women.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert said Georgia was among the countries with the highest rates of child marriage in Europe and Asia. What measures were being taken to implement the law which forbade marriages below the age of 18 without any exceptions?

Closing Remarks

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights Issues and head of the delegation, said it was an honour to participate in the discussion. There were challenges; gender equality could not be achieved only by adopting laws, but also required a mental revolution which took time. Georgia was working towards this. Mr. Tatulashvili thanked the Committee Experts for their time and questions.

ANA PELÁEZ NARVÁEZ, Chair of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue with the Committee which had provided further insight into the situation of women in Georgia. The State was encouraged to take efforts to implement the recommendations made by the Committee, which would benefit all women and girls in the country.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2023/02/experts-committee-elimination-discrimination-against-women-0

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