Public Defender’s Statement on International Women's Day

March 8 - International Women's Day, another opportunity to recall the history of the development of women's rights, evaluate the results achieved and highlight the challenges.

In recent years, important steps have been taken by the Government, civil society, human rights defenders, activists and international organizations to address gender inequality in Georgia. Legislation relating to violence against women and domestic violence has been improved, sexual harassment in private and public spaces has been banned, and legislative guarantees for women's political participation have been improved, in the form of quotas.

Nevertheless, the challenges and problems in practice far outweigh the results achieved and require immediate intervention and response by the State. Women and girls, including persons with disabilities, representatives of religious and ethnic minorities, rural, sexually abused, transgender, bisexual, lesbian women continue to struggle daily for equality.

The cases of sexual violence against girls are alarming, as evidenced by the recent high-profile cases. In this regard, the Public Defender has been pointing to the systemic inaction of the State, inefficient and uncoordinated response, lack of qualifications and proper rehabilitation services for years. Unfortunately, in most cases that become known to the public, the response and involvement of the relevant agencies is late. It is also crucial to provide public support for victims of sexual violence and to create a safe environment for them.

The effective implementation of reproductive health and rights of adolescents, including access to comprehensive education on sexuality in order to increase their awareness and prevent similar cases, is also important.

Elimination and prevention of domestic violence is a priority for the Public Defender. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the risks of domestic violence increased significantly, while the rate of identification of cases decreased. Unfortunately, the statistics on gender-motivated killings (femicide) are not declining from year to year and remain alarming. In particular, in 2020, 24 women were killed, 15 out of which contained signs of domestic crime, while 9 cases had other motives. In addition, there were 27 attempted murders of women, 17 of which were committed on the grounds of domestic crime.

This trend suggests that the steps taken by the State to prevent femicide are insufficient and require more complex intervention. The prevention of early marriage and the effective management of specific cases remain problematic.

Making public sexist statements also remains problematic, which reinforces the already existing negative gender stereotypes and stigmas in the society and, therefore, significantly hinders women's political participation. In terms of proper realization of labour rights by women, regulation of payment during the maternity leave in the private sector remains to be a legislative gap. At the same time, women's pay for equal work lags behind men by 36%. An important challenge is sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Public Defender reiterates and calls on the State to take effective steps to achieve real equality for women, as existing inequality and oppressive practices significantly hinder improvement in women's rights in the country. It is essential for the State to see the needs of individual groups of women and to respond to their interests with appropriate legislative and institutional guarantees.

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