Special Report on Impact of Covid 19 on Children’s Rights in Georgia
On April 18, 2022, the Public Defender of Georgia presented a special report assessing the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on children’s rights and the measures taken by the State. The report was prepared with the support of the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (UNICEF ECARO), the UNICEF Georgia Office and the European Network of Ombudspersonsfor Children (ENOC).
Protection of children’s rights has encountered new challenges in almost every direction due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The special report assesses the impact of measures taken by the State in the context of the pandemic from March 2020 to May 2021 in three main areas of children’s rights: protection from violence, right to general education and alternative care.
The results of the study made it clear that the measures taken by the State to prevent the spread of the pandemic aggravated the rights situation of children in Georgia. In particular, children’s risks of being abused or witness abuse increased during the pandemic, while the mechanisms for detecting such cases further decreased. Despite the increased risks, there has been no significant increase in referrals to the state agencies.
The study revealed serious problems relating to the effective inclusion of children with disabilities and children with special educational needs in the educational process, quality of education, access to the Internet and technology, etc.
When enforcing the regulations developed for the management of the pandemic, the State did not provide adequate support to child care institutions. The measures taken by the State severely restricted the face-to-face communication of the juveniles in state care with their families, friends and social workers, as well as their access to various psychosocial services.
At the opening of the online event, the Public Defender briefly reviewed the findings of the study and noted that from January 2020 to June 8, 2021, the number of cases of child abuse referred by the Office of Resource Officers to the Agency for State Care decreased by 197 compared to 2019, while the number of cases of child abuse referred to the Ministry of Internal Affairs increased only by 47 compared to 2019. Most of the cases concerned early marriage and the risks of early marriage.
"We believe that the findings of the special report and the recommendations developed on the basis of the findings will be interesting for the relevant agencies in terms of identifying and addressing the challenges posed by the Covid 19 pandemic, as well as planning measures for future crises and considering the best interests of the child. In addition, it is especially important to listen to the opinion of children and ensure their involvement when making any decision relating to them," - said the Public Defender.
Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in Georgia, also delivered a welcoming speech at the presentation.
The results of the study were presented by Ketevan Sokhadze, Head of the Department of the Rights of the Child of the Public Defender's Office, Goga Khatiashvili, researcher on violence against children and their psychosocial rehabilitation, Mariam Janiashvili, expert on children’s right to education, and Nana Gochiashvili, researcher on the rights of children placed in state care.
Representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations, diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia and experts working on the above-mentioned topics took part in the discussion of the report.