TBILISI, DFWatch–There were demonstrations in 22 cities and towns all over Georgia on Tuesday to highlight the problem of violence against women.
24 women have been killed this year in Georgia, and there are many reports of family conflicts, when women are victims of violence and harassment.
According to the Georgian Women’s Movement (GWM), which was started recently, the police hotline 112 has received 5,448 calls in 2013 about domestic violence, but the figure is unlikely to reflect the real number of cases, since many are afraid to raise their voice and report the violence.
Despite the high number of police notifications, 212 restraining orders were issued in 2013, GWM members say.
“We are particularly concerned that part of the Georgian society considers domestic violence “an internal family matter” and/or justifies violence against women based on arguments about patriarchal norms and traditions,” GWM representatives write. “In these circumstances, the role and responsibility of the government and civil society becomes crucial.”
On November 25 – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – a 16-day campaign is launched against gender violence. It aims to express solidarity with the victims of gender violence, and to raise awareness among people about the problem.
“Violence against women is a problem and a crime of our society. Women are being harassed among our relatives, friends. There is physical, psychological, economic violence,” organizers of Tuesday’s rally say. “No one is sheltered from violence, since it can happen in all social circles without exemptions.”
Baia Pataraia, one of the GWM activists, said at a rally in front of the old parliament building in Tbilisi that hundreds of women participated in organizing these events on Tuesday.
“Murders, femicide united us. This is a moment when it is not right to be silent and so we decided to unite against violence against women,” she said. “The changes we want to achieve are not a subject for only the government, but every single member of society.”
During the rally, participants signed a petition addressed to the government condemning any kind of violence against girls and women.
It reads that instead of a strong and systematic confrontation against violence, the government’s reaction is fragmented and full of errors and they focus only on criminal law, while violence against women requires a complex approach and providing ways to assist victims.
Those signing the petition demand that the government acknowledges the urgency of the problem and takes responsibility in fighting against gender inequality.
“We require from the government to have a timely and effective policy in order to eliminate violence against women and gender inequality,” the petition reads.
It goes on to suggest solutions.
Hundreds of people who participated in the rally in Tbilisi were able to sign the petition under the blue tent set up in front of the parliament building. The petition is also posted online and everyone can sign it.
The actress Nata Murvanidze read the text of a manifesto published by Georgian Women’s Movement.
The manifesto states that violence against women has become a systemic problem, as women are killed in every social group – city, village, family, educational facilities; however before they die, women and girls go through many incidents of harassment and discrimination.
Posters brought to the rally bore messages like “Stop violence against women”, “Being silent today is a crime”, “My sister should live free of fear”.
The rally continued in front of parliament for more than an hour despite the heavy rain and cold. Sheltered under colorful umbrellas people listened to the speakers addressing them. Meanwhile, there was a white board with the message ‘Violence against women is a crime’, where participants could symbolically leave their handprint in different colors.
A woman dressed in black came to the rally crying, showing everyone a picture of her daughter, who she said was a victim of violence. She came all the way here to protest it and to pay tribute to her beloved daughter.
Dozens of youth came riding bicycles and took a ride all the way from Rustaveli to Chavchavadze Avenue to mark the day for the elimination of violence against women.
The Public Defender on Tuesday responded to the issue of violence against women by writing that Georgia has not been able to protect life of women in Kobuleti, Lambalo, Zestaponi, Dvabzu, Tbilisi and other places.
“We weren’t able to brake stereotypical ideology, weren’t able to perceive natural positives of gender equality and spreading it among people,” the statement reads.
It goes on to say that there has been no response to an address to parliament to invite government representatives and discuss this problem, plan common national action strategy.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Tuesday wrote in a statement that violence against women is a problem which the government won’t be able to solve alone; all of society needs to unite against it.
“There is a great tradition of respecting women in Georgia and frequent incidents of violence against women is incompatible with this tradition and is a shame,” he wrote.
It is ‘categorically unacceptable’ to justify violence against women in the name of traditions, culture and religion, the PM continued.