Georgia has come a long way when it comes to gender equality. Most recently, this progress was commended by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which concluded the consideration of the sixth periodic report from Georgia in February. The Committee noted the “plethora of mechanisms, plans and actions to advance efforts towards equality and women’s empowerment, to combat gender-based violence, and domestic violence.”
However, despite the significant progress, there are still gaps which, according to the head of Georgia’s mission to the Committee, Niko Tatulashvili, require “a mental revolution,” in addition to laws and other necessary mechanisms. The notion of mentality also came up during a recent Global Voices podcast interview with the authors, Maya Talakhadze and Ekaterine Khositashvili, of an upcoming report within the scope of the “Defeating Gender Inequality” project in Georgia.
The project is a joint initiative between the Disruption Network Lab and the Regional Development Hub-Caucasus. Joining them on the podcast was Emmy Thume, a journalist from Germany who visited Georgia in September and published a story about domestic violence in the country. Together, the three speakers shared their thoughts on the state of gender (in)equality in Georgia, the research findings of the report, and next steps. Find the full podcast interview accompanying this story here.
The origins of the report
In an interview with Global Voices, Maya Talakhadze, who heads the Regional Development Hub-Caucasus, the partner of Disruption Network, said the idea for the research was born at the start of the COVID pandemic at the time when women were forced to stay home with the perpetrators of abuse and violence. Eventually, four main themes were identified for the report: sexual harassment in workplaces, domestic violence, economic participation, and political participation of women in Georgia.
Each of these themes yielded both negative and positive findings, said Ekaterine Khositashvili during the interview. For instance, since 2019, Georgia has passed a series of amendments to existing laws and codes regarding sexual harassment at work, introducing the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace and public life. According to Ekaterine, despite the legal framework and mechanisms protecting victims of sexual harassment at work, the rate of sexual harassment appeals has been low.
Out of twelve ministries in Georgia, five so far have introduced sexual harassment reporting mechanisms. What was interesting, however, as a result of our research, we were able to identify that were only two cases of sexual harassment instances reported through the mechanism in place.
While it was unclear why the numbers were so low, Khositashvili said the likelihood of reputational damage may have played a role. “The respondents mentioned they were hesitant due to opinions of colleagues as well as career opportunities in the future,” explained Khositashvili.
Hesitation around reporting sexual harassment extends beyond public institutions. This is also the case for victims of domestic abuse and violence. For instance, while victims can apply for housing in shelters, they often hesitate to do so. “They think they are not strong enough to use these opportunities and instead think of societal opinions and perceptions. So while the law provides victims opportunities to protect their rights, due to societal pressure, victims cannot enjoy these rights,” added Khositashvili.
The latter is something Emmy Thume noticed during her time in Georgia as well. “In the interviews I did with lawyers and women who run shelters as well as activists, all across the board, [they] mentioned mentality and the patriarchal mindset, making it harder for women to tell their own truth and seek justice,” recalled Thume.
According to the findings of the report:
- Violence against women and domestic violence remain significant challenges in the country. The data showed that the rate of criminal prosecution in cases of violence against women and domestic violence is significantly higher than the rate of beneficiaries using services for the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence, which may indicate the low awareness of female victims of violence on the available state services;
- The limit of beneficiaries in shelters for victims of violence does not respond to the rate of domestic violence in the country, which can be a deterrent factor for potential victims;
- According to statistical data, the number of issued restraining orders increased, and the cases of femicide decreased.
- Femicide remains a crucial issue, which indicates, among other things, the need to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement officers on the topic of violence against women.
One way to raise awareness of gender (in)equality in Georgia has been focusing on literature and films, said Talakhadze in an interview with Global Voices.
The main reason we decided to include feminist literature and move screenings as awareness-raising tools was because gender inequality is much deeper and bigger than law, and these channels [films and literature] provide us with insights about what we need to do more to empower each other. I am not saying that reading is some kind of magic that makes you stronger or powerful, but it does help. It gives insights. And it's not just reading or literature. There are other things that help us shape our opinions, position and our willingness to defend ourselves, and use our rights.
And the feedback has been positive, explains Talakhadze — at least from those participants who attended these events.
But these efforts must go hand in hand with government-funded work to raise awareness, explains Khositashvili. “While we found out that the communication strategy carried out by the government works, we must also work directly with the people here in Georgia through culture, literature, and movies. We need to use other means of communication because what the government does is just one side, while civil society should be focused on parallel activities.”
As for recommendations and ways to move forward, ensuring that women are aware of existing services and legal remedies; encouraging women to report cases of harassment at work spaces; strengthening economic opportunities for women (especially vis-a-vis existing state-funded economic programs); early education programs (as young as kindergarten and primary school); and simplifying the language of laws to make them more accessible for all are all viable options for achieving greater gender equality.
None of these recommendations and suggestions can work unless there is a united effort to break down deeply rooted stereotypes. Legally, Georgia is on the right path to eliminate these and other forms of restrictions and violations; however, in practice, there is still a long road ahead.