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WOMEN’S RIGHTS / Statement

Recent cases of murder of women are alarming and require from state thorough strengthening of preventive work

Social Justice Center responds to the increasing cases of femicide and calls on the Government to radically strengthen policies aimed at systemic prevention of violence against women.

Despite the strict criminal justice policies on violence against women and domestic violence, the rate of murders and attempted murders of women remains high. At the beginning of 2024, severe cases of femicide were reported. It became known through media sources that on New Year's Eve in Batumi, a 36-year-old woman was killed by her husband, and on January 9, a husband killed his 27-year-old wife in Tbilisi. The circumstances of the murder in Batumi reveal that the man often drank and quarreled with his wife.

The circumstances of the murder case in Batumi reveal that the man often drank and quarreled with his wife. He was convicted several times, the last time in 2020, he was serving a sentence for a drug crime. According to the Prosecutor's office, the husband committed the crime on the grounds of jealousy and gender intolerance.

Based on the factual circumstances of the case, it is established that the 36-year-old woman was a minor (15 years old) when she married the accused, and they had two children. The neighbors mentioned in the conversation with the media that recently, the husband and wife often had conflicts, and the neighbors numerously saved the woman from violence. However, they have never reported to the police.

The circumstances of the murder case in Varketili reveal that the 27-year-old woman was wounded by her 30-year-old husband, and the woman died in the hospital. As it turns out, the husband and wife had a four-month-old child, and they had no conflict before the incident. From 2018 to 2022, 183 cases of murders and attempted murders of women were recorded. 66 of them were qualified as femicide. Out of the 66 specified cases, 34 cases were found guilty. The highest rate of femicide is recorded in Tbilisi (23 cases) and Kvemo Kartli (14 cases). In 37 cases, the victim of femicide was an ethnic Georgian, in 17 cases an ethnic Azerbaijani, and in 4 cases an ethnic Armenian.

According to the Public Defender Office of Georgia, 13 murders of women were recorded in 6 months of 2023, which, unlike 2022, exceeds the data of attempted murders of women with 54 percent and indicates a worsening of the situation in terms of femicide.

According to the statistical data, the age of victims of femicide and attempted femicide ranges from 18 to 60 years, although the highest rate is recorded in the 30 - 40 age category (28 cases). The given data also establish that the victims of femicide and accused persons are spouses or ex-spouses in most cases. According to the recent national research on violence against women in Georgia, [1] 18.2% of women have experienced either form of violence against women in the last 12 months. The rate of violence through the lifetime is higher, 50.1% of women have experienced any form of violence against women. Also, 26.5% of women in partnerships have experienced violence throughout their lifetime. Frequently, women experience more than one form of violence. Taking into consideration the high rate of femicide and attempted femicide, it is essential to adopt effective legal response and for crime prevention, to create adequate mechanisms, to examine systemic causes and circumstances of committing this crime, and to fight against underlying causes.

  • Weak prevention of violence

Unfortunately, in our country, the mechanisms for preventing violence against women, and especially femicide cases, are essentially weak. There are preventive mechanisms for femicide, such as protective and restrictive orders, electronic monitoring mechanisms for perpetrators, behavior correction programs, and 112 mobile applications that have activated chat systems and SOS buttons.[2]

According to the law, the following preventive mechanisms can be evoked: a study of root causes of violence, research, informative-educational campaigns, awareness raising on the responsibility of perpetrators, and rights guarantees for the victims, etc. However, these mechanisms are not applied frequently or are late and ineffective.

According to the statistical data of 2018-2022, in 11 cases of femicide, the accused man was already convicted for violence against the victim, or a restraining order was issued against him. However, the only purpose of issuing a restraining and protective order is to temporarily separate the abuser from the victim, and it is not intended to correct the behavior of the abuser. The elaboration of behavior correction programs for abusers started recently in our country, and they are mostly active in the prison and probation systems. However, participation in such programs is voluntary for the accused and probationers. There are no behavior correction programs for those abuses against whom the restraining order was issued.[3]  

As for the electronic monitoring systems for abusers, part of which was enacted in 2019 and monitors high-risk abusers (so that they do not approach the victim), it was used in 16 cases in 2022 and 15 cases in 2021.[4]

The women with the experience of violence do not often address the system for protection. The national research on violence against women in Georgia also indicates that 38.2% of women have never said to anybody about the violence from their partner, and they apply to informal social networks for protection and address to the formal criminal institutions, like police and court, only in critically severe cases. Most of the femicide cases are of those not identified by the formal institutions, so the state must increase its efforts to increase trust towards police among women.

  • The drawbacks in investigation and court hearings

Along with the weakness of preventive mechanisms, despite the increased legal response to cases of femicide, there are still gaps in investigation, prosecution, and judicial review. Namely, proper criminal legal qualification of the case remains challenging, demonstrated in the accusation of a less strict crime when legal and factual circumstances indicate the more severe crime. According to the research conducted by the Public Defender, there are cases when, instead of femicide, the case is qualified as intentional severe harm to health[5].

Furthermore, the investigation is often not held with relevant courtesy, for which important evidence is not identified or applied, and the case is finished with acquittal. Plea agreements are also problematic in femicide cases. Also, the identification of gender motives and application of Article 531 of the Criminal Code during the case hearing remains problematic. Namely, in the case of gender-motivated crime, under paragraph 3 of Article 531, the judge has to aggravate the sentence by at least one year. However, according to the PDO research, the court rarely uses this mechanism.[6]

According to the PDO, improper assessment of risks by the court remains a problematic practice and commitment to more severe femicide attempts by the abuser who was released on bail. Also, the application of a conditional sentence by the court towards the accused person without proper guarantees to prevent the reoccurrence of a femicide attempt is problematic.[7]

  • Weak programs address the empowerment of abused women

The supportive services for abused women remain weak. Currently, seven crisis centers and five shelters function on state funds. It is noteworthy that only the Tbilisi crisis center works for 24 hours. Others offer service only during working hours, from 9 till 6. This does not allow a large number of women living in rural areas to receive services continuously. Costs related to medical care are problematic in crisis centers. The package of medical services within which victims of violence can receive this service is often insufficient. Crisis centers lack long-term support services, which in some cases results in victims returning to violent environments.[8]

The services provided by the shelters have plenty of challenges. The monitoring results of the Public Defender show that the funding of the shelters from the state is scarce, and within the allocated resources, it is not possible to meet all the needs of the service recipients, including Improvement of infrastructural situation, Improvement of sanitary and hygienic nodes, purchase of sufficient and appropriate personal hygiene items for mothers, including essential hygiene items [9]  There are few psycho-social rehabilitation, employment and educational programs for victims, as well as recreational and cognitive activities. Long-term support for abused women and meeting their social, housing, and employment needs is also a problem. After living in the shelter, service-recipients often do not know where to continue living and how to meet the financial and material needs of themselves and their children. Obviously, due to the services available for victims, it is often difficult for women to leave the cycle of violence and fight with legal mechanisms.

Here, the problem of the shortage of social workers and their quality work in the country should be mentioned separately. According to the research conducted by the Social Workers Association of Georgia in 2022, 835 social workers were employed in 2022, and only 265 of them had a university education.[10] The existing number of social workers is also very minimal, and it is planned to increase their number, although this process is delayed. For example, by 2022, the number of social workers in the Ministry of Health should be 345, and the Ministry of Education - 110. According to the above-mentioned research, in 2022, the number of social workers in the State Care Agency under the Ministry of Health will be 272, and in the Ministry of Education, 58. The overload of social workers is also problematic. The law of Georgia defines the maximum number of cases of social workers at 50, while it is internationally recognized that regardless of the place of employment, the number of cases of social workers should not exceed 8-18.[11] According to the 2019 audit report, there were seven social workers per 100,000 inhabitants in Georgia. This data is 1850 in the EU countries.[12] The systemic challenges in this area of social care clearly show the low priority of care policy for the state. Obviously, this situation has a direct impact on the rights and social status of abused women. According to the special Report of PDO, the engagement of social workers of State Care Agency in individual cases is low, as well as in the monitoring of the case and provision of individual needs of service-recipients. Furthermore, the rehabilitation service of the victim placed in the shelter is fragmental and inconsistent, including due to the lack of additional support services, they do not meet the needs. [13]

  • Absence of a systematic policy to deal with gender-based violence, which would encounter its structural causes.

Violence against women has deep roots in Georgian society, in which the patriarchal agenda and social norms are still dominant. Most of the violence cases against women in Georgia are committed by women's intimate partners or family members. Most of it is done by women's intimate partners or family members. After the incident of violence, it is particularly difficult for women to disclose such cases to talk about them openly due to the accompanying negative attitude of family members and society since the practice of blaming the victim is unfortunately common in society. Socioeconomic status is an important factor in the prevalence of violence. According to the 2022 National Survey[14], poverty clearly increases the risk of partner violence.[14]  According to the results of the mentioned study, women living in households with a poor economic situation experience violence from their partners more often. Therefore, the policy on violence against women needs to address family social and economic vulnerability issues as important structural causes of violence.

Moreover, it is obvious that the existing patriarchal system, where gender roles are hierarchically distributed, normalizes violence against women. Abusers often use violence against women in the family as a tool to maintain the man's power over the family. Therefore, policy on violence against women should take into account the importance of working with men and boys to support gender equality.

  • Requests:

In light of this, the Social Justice Center calls for the Government to:

  • Strengthen the priority of policy on violence against women and double its effort, resources, and work in the following directions: 1. Timely identification and prevention of violence against women; 2. Increase trust towards policy among abused women; 3. Timely and effective investigation and gender-sensitive justice. 4. Long-term social and economic empowerment of abused women; 5. Long-term and effective programs for behavior correction of violent persons.
  • Analyze systemic social and cultural causes of violence against women and respond to them with educational, stable social, and informative policies; amongst them, it is essential to intensify work with men and boys to support gender equality.


Footnote and Bibliography

[1] National research on violence against women  in Georgia; 2022,  https://georgia.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/2023-12/updated_vaw_geo_web4-3.pdf

[2] National research on violence against women  in Georgia;  https://georgia.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/2023-12/updated_vaw_geo_web4-3.pdf

[3] 2022 Parliamentary Report of Public Defender of Georgia, pg. 203, https://ombudsman.ge/res/docs/2023033120380187763.pdf

[4] National research on violence against women  in Georgia; 2022, available at: https://georgia.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/2023-12/updated_vaw_geo_web4-3.pdf

[5]  Public Defender Office of Georgia, Giorgi Gotsiridze, Gvantsa Kharatishvili, Analysis of femicide and attempted femicide cases in 2021, Tbilisi, 2023, available at: https://ombudsman.ge/res/docs/2023071314513662215.pdf

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] Support Services and Mechanisms for Abused Women in Georgia - Analysis of Needs and Challenges, Social Justice Center, 2023, available at: https://socialjustice.org.ge/ka/products/dzaladobagamovlili-kalebistvis-mkhardamcheri-servisebi-da-mekanizmebi-sakartveloshi-sachiroebebis-da-gamotsvevebis-analizi

[9]  Special Report on the Monitoring of Mother and Child Shelters, Public Defender, 2022, available at:  https://ombudsman.ge/res/docs/2022101315180382770.pdf 

[10]  Social Workforce Survey, 2023, Georgia Association of Social Workers

[11] Khvtisiashvili, 2020, "Case count standard in social work and Georgian reality," https://www.swunion.ge/?p=127&lang=ka   

[12] Audit report on the effectiveness of protection and prevention mechanisms against domestic violence, 2019.

[13]  Special Report on the Monitoring of Women and Child Shelters, PDO 2022,  available at:  https://ombudsman.ge/res/docs/2022101315180382770.pdf 

[14]National research on violence against women  in Georgia; available at: https://georgia.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/2023-12/updated_vaw_geo_web4-3.pdf

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