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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considers report of Georgia

Committee on Elimination of Discrimination  
Against Women 

8 July 2014

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Georgia on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Manana Kobakhidze, Head of the Gender Equality Council, Parliament of Georgia, introducing the reports, said that Georgia had signed the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women on 19 June and adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law in May 2014, which explicitly prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.  Gender equality, protection of women’s rights and prevention of domestic violence featured as main priorities in the National Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan to 2020, approved in June.  Following the 2012 general elections, 11 per cent of the members of the Parliament were women.  The Government had increased public spending on healthcare, education and pensions, from 7.1 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2012 to an estimated 9.6 per cent in 2014.

Committee Members commended Georgia for the steps taken to establish the normative and legal framework of gender equality and non-discrimination, and expressed hope that this would increase protection for three groups of vulnerable women, namely internally displaced women, women in detention, particularly for drug related offences, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  Other issues raised by Experts included the very harsh legal treatment of drug users, women’s access to justice, use of special measures to close the gender gap in public and political life, gender stereotypes, and trafficking in persons.

The delegation of Georgia included representatives of the Gender Equality Council of the Parliament, Committee on European Integration of the Parliament, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Corrections, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from Occupied Territories, Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equity, Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Supreme Court, Central Electoral Commission, National Statistics Office, State Fund for Protection and Assistance of (Statutory) Victims of Human Trafficking, Georgian Public Broadcaster, and the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Ms. Kobakhidze, in her closing remarks, expressed appreciation for the work of the Committee Experts in the implementation of the Convention throughout the world, and reiterated the high concern for the rights of internally displaced persons and of the population living in the administrative boundary line zones.
 
Ismat Jahan, Committee Vice-Chairperson, in her concluding remarks, commended Georgia for its efforts and encouraged it to address the recommendations which would be issued by the Committee.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Wednesday, 9 July at 10 a.m. to consider the fifth periodic report of Lithuania (CEDAW/C/LTU/5).
 
Report

The combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Georgia can be read here: CEDAW/C/GEO/4-5.
 
Presentation of the Report
 
MANANA KOBAKHIDZE, Head of the Gender Equality Council of the Parliament of Georgia, said that on 19 June Georgia had signed the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, which would enter into force on 1 August 2014.  Georgia had adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law in May 2014, which explicitly prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender identity in both public and private sectors, and imposed responsibility not only on public institutions but also on legal entities and individuals.  Gender equality, protection of women’s rights and prevention of domestic violence featured as main priorities in the National Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan to 2020, approved in June.  The Gender Equality Council had been established within the Parliament and was tasked with ensuring coordination of the work on gender issues and monitoring of the implementation of the Action Plan for the implementation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security.  The Parliament had adopted in January 2014 the National Action Plan on Gender Equality 2014-2016 which aimed to combat gender stereotypes and violence against women, mainstream gender perspectives into programmes and policies, abolish negative gender stereotypes, guarantee equal access to justice and balance the participation of women in decision-making positions.  Maternity leave policy had been amended in January 2014, effectively increasing maternity remuneration and extending maternity leave from four to six months, while the status of single mothers would be introduced into the Civil Code and they would enjoy additional benefits once draft amendments to the Labour Code and the Law on Social Assistance were adopted.  
 
Georgia had reduced by 54 per cent maternal mortality rates and a further reduction in maternal losses required improvements in the regionalization and standardization of perinatal care.  A comprehensive analysis of selective abortion had been initiated in close partnership with the United Nations Population Fund.  The Government faced serious challenges in the occupied regions of Georgia where heavy restrictions on the freedom of movement had been imposed, including on most vulnerable populations and persons in need of urgent medical assistance.  Up to half a million internally displaced persons and refugees continued to be deprived of their fundamental right to safe and dignified return.  The 2013-2015 National Action Plan on Elimination of Domestic Violence prioritized the capacity building of law enforcement officers who had been receiving regular training since the criminalization of domestic violence in 2006, while 200 prosecutorial staff would be trained by the end of 2014.  Combating trafficking in persons remained one of the top priorities and measures undertaken and included setting up of trafficking inspection mobile groups, a special anti-trafficking unit under the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Adjara, and a task force composed of acting investigators and prosecutors, while the trafficking article of the Criminal Code had been amended and was now more unambiguous and clear.  Following the 2012 general elections, 11 per cent of the members of parliament were women.  The Government had increased public spending on healthcare, education and pensions which in 2012 represented 7.1 per cent of the gross domestic product; 8.6 per cent in 2013 and an estimated 9.6 per cent in 2014. 
 
Questions from the Experts
 
A Committee Expert commended Georgia for the progress achieved in setting the legal standards and frameworks for gender equality and non-discrimination; the Expert expressed concern about the lack of enforcement measures and sanctions for the perpetrators, and asked about the relationship between the generic 2010 law on gender equality and the more specific 2014 law on the elimination of all forms of discrimination; women’s access to justice; and the mandate and the capacity of the Gender Equality Department in the Office of the Public Defender.
 
Another Expert expressed hope that the new anti-discrimination law would provide protection to the three groups of particularly vulnerable women, namely internally displaced women, women in detention, particularly for drug related offences, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  Was the law already in force, did it include sexual orientation, and what measures had been taken to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and human rights defenders from violence and smear campaign?  What measures were being considered to change the legal treatment of drug users?
 
The gender machinery only existed at the legislative level and its elements were separate, noted another Expert and asked the delegation about the intended establishment of the Human Rights Council, its resources, mandate and coordinating role. 
 
Experts also asked about the applicability of the Convention in the national law, the knowledge in the country and among the professionals about its provisions, and if the provisions of the Convention could repeal a discriminatory law.
 
Responses by the Delegation
 
Both the anti-discrimination law and gender equality law contained definitions of discrimination, and the purpose of the anti-discrimination law was to eliminate all forms of discrimination on any ground, including sexual orientation and gender identity.  The law prohibited all forms of discrimination, direct or indirect, and introduced the new notion of multiple discrimination, which was also prohibited.  It provided special measures which would not be considered discriminatory, and aimed to address inequalities in the areas of pregnancy, maternity and disability.  The Office of the Public Defender was authorized to examine complaints and cases and undertake independent examination, prepare recommendations to institutions on required action and prepare opinion on legislation.  The onus of the proof had shifted from the applicant to the respondent and any person could lodge a complaint to a court for acts of discrimination.  The new 2015 State budget had envisaged additional funding to finance the Office of the Public Defender for the implementation of this law; the budget was now before the Parliament.
 
Even if Georgia did not have a stand-alone gender machinery, the Gender Council within the Parliament did bring together the relevant ministries and had in place an action plan for the sectors concerned. 
 
Concerning mandatory sterilization for transgender surgeries, the delegation said that sterilization was only performed with the informed consent of the patient.  With regard to medical treatment of women in detention, the delegation said that the strong political commitment to strengthen the status of detainees was backed by resource provisions; medical care in places of detention had been expanded and women and men enjoyed the same standard of care.  Several ministries were working together on the care package for drug users and Georgia was also reviewing the legislation with a view to prepare short and long term amendments of the law.  Among first priorities would be differentiation of the volume of drugs for private and trafficking purposes.  Coverage of methadone replacement therapy for intravenous drug users had been expanded.
 
Paid maternity leave had been increased from four to six months, and could also be taken by men; termination of employment was prohibited since the moment of notification of pregnancy.  The March 2014 law on internally displaced persons provided a definition of an internally displaced person and brought their protection in line with international standards, including in the area of housing.
 
The Government did face challenges in the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other human rights standards in the Russian-occupied territories of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia, where it was unable to exercise effective control.  Georgia emphasized the human rights obligations of Russia - the occupying power - under international humanitarian law and other human rights treaties it was a party to.
 
A gender budget was very rare and very few countries could afford it.  Georgia had nominated a person who would receive training in this regard and undertake the drafting of the gender budget next year.  Statistics on domestic violence were public and available through the Office of the Prosecutor.
 
The Convention could have a direct effect in the domestic law, as per the relevant provision laid down in the Constitution.  No complaints had been received on the basis of the new anti-discrimination law, but there was a developed court practice on violence against women and domestic violence.  Civic education was a compulsory part of the national curriculum and included human rights, human trafficking, and international and national human rights related laws.  The State budget issued grants to non-governmental organizations for awareness raising on the Convention and other human rights treaties.
 
Questions from the Experts
 
The indicators that the Committee used in assessing the compliance of States with the provisions of the Convention were not only in what State did, but what the State achieved in the practical realization of the rights of women; Georgia must show results and not stop at legal frameworks on paper.  The law on gender equality and the anti-discrimination law provided a legal basis for the application of special measures, but they were only used to increase the participation of women in elections.  A Committee Expert asked the delegation to comment on the necessity of providing special measures, obstacles to their implementation, and on the use of special temporary measures to address the situation of women suffering multiple discrimination.
 
Another Expert asked about action taken to eliminate gender stereotypes, including in the media and school curricula, support to non-governmental organizations working on addressing harmful traditional practices, legislative review currently conducted by the Parliament to ensure the harmonization of national laws with the Istanbul Convention, inclusion of marital rape in the law on domestic violence, and the measures to confront the increase in femicide.  The effective implementation of the law on domestic violence was necessary to deliver results, noted the Expert and asked about the current coordination and implementation mechanism.
 
Georgia was a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in persons, mainly for sexual exploitation purposes.  Despite the efforts, there were serious gaps in legislation and its implementation, and victim identification remained a challenge.  What was being done to increase investigation and prosecution of cases, improve victim protection and strengthen cooperation with non-governmental organizations?
 
Responses by the Delegation
 
The quota system was hard to implement because of the patriarchal society which opposed it; despite the lack of quotas, 11 per cent of members of Parliament were women and they won through a competitive process.  The support of male politicians for the representation of women in party lists was still insufficient.
 
On mechanisms to combat and prevent domestic violence and protect the victims, the delegation reiterated that combating domestic violence was a top priority and a Working Group had been created within the Ministry of Interior which had elaborated an emergency short-term strategy which envisaged work with the media and non-governmental organizations, special training for police officers, and investigation of cases.  The 2012 amendment of the Criminal Code criminalized domestic violence, widened the concept of family members and introduced non-physical violence in the definition of domestic violence.  The Istanbul Convention would be ratified in autumn, but the relevant amendments of the national legislation were underway. 
 
A 24/7 help line was available for victims of trafficking in persons while shelters were available in urban and rural areas and provided various forms of assistance to the victims.  There were two phases in which the status of victims of trafficking could be granted, the first was at the beginning of the investigation and the second was by the Permanent Working Group via a victim identification questionnaire.  Once identified, the victims were transferred to the State Fund for Protection and Assistance for rehabilitation and compensation.
 
There were special measures in place to support the housing and livelihood of internally displaced persons, while the European Union grants for small business development would prioritize women and female-headed households.  Other special measures to address the gender gap in the country included a lower age of women for pension, social protection schemes which favoured single mothers and a complete income tax exception for female headed families.  The Criminal Code criminalized rape and it did not make a difference whether a perpetrator was a husband or a boyfriend.  Use of official power to commit any kind of sexual violence was an aggravated crime.
 
The capacity of the labour inspectorate was very weak, but in cooperation with a host of international and multinational partners, Georgia would be soon holistically revisiting the labour inspection and gradually introducing expansion of the capacity of the inspectorate.  There was no regulation of migration labour at the moment so a comprehensive draft law had been developed, which would introduce very basic regulation to ensure that every citizen of the country seeking employment abroad would enjoy protection from trafficking.
 
Mobile groups had been set up to address prostitution and were visiting places at high risk of prostitution and sexual exploitation, such as bars, discos, hotels, casinos and others.  The Law on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings had been adopted in 2006 and its amendment later on had expanded its scope to also include trafficking in children.  Trafficking in human beings was criminalized by the Criminal Code, and the draft amendments would enlarge its scope and remove some of the ambiguities.
 
Questions from the Experts
 
According to the Global Gender Gap Report, Georgia ranked 97 out of 136 States regarding women’s participation in politics in 2013 and, despite laws and measures, no progress had been made since 2006 to increase the number of women in public and private life.  What were the root causes of this situation and what was being done to accelerate women’s full participation in politics, including through the introduction of quotas?
 
The delegation was asked about measures in place to ensure access to education of girls without Georgian nationality or without documentation, and to prevent the drop out of children from disadvantaged social groups; about research into reasons of girls’ drop out and what steps were undertaken to address early marriages; the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations to diversify educational choices for boys and girls; and about advancing the representation of women in academia.
 
Women were generally disadvantaged in the labour market as evidenced by low employment rates and lower salaries, and the term “feminization of poverty” had been used to describe the situation of women.  The principle of equal pay for equal work had not been embedded in the national legislation.  Would new acts on the  elimination of all forms of discrimination define sexual harassment and would it be applicable in the workplace?  Lack of protection for women during pregnancy and motherhood was another issue of concern; was Georgia considering the ratification of International Labour Organization Convention 183 on maternity protection.
 
Since 2007, every household living below the poverty line received free health coverage, which was commendable, but the Committee was concerned about limited access to contraceptives, especially among vulnerable groups.  Would the budget be increased to improve family planning services and make contraceptives accessible and affordable?  The rate of reduction of maternal mortality was too slow and there was a concern about data collection related to maternal deaths.  Another issue of concern was the high abortion rate which constituted one of the main methods of family planning; of particular concern were sex selective abortions.
 
Responses by the Delegation
 
The head of delegation agreed that 11 per cent of representation of women in the Parliament was not enough and said that it was important to continue dialogue with the political parties and the society stakeholders on steps to increase the participation of women in political and public life
 
Under the Law on General Education, stateless children and refugees were entitled to receive schooling; stateless children could access school upon obtaining a proper residency permit.  The Ministry of Education was developing a policy to address early school drop-out and understand the reasons behind it.  Everyone, including ethnic minorities, had the right to education, and the State language was taught as a second language in ethnic schools; language teaching was very important to ensure civic education. 
 
A comprehensive employment policy was being elaborated and included the setting up of a Labour Observatory which would provide reliable data about the labour market and so inform the policy.  Women received 55 to 60 per cent of the income of men; no measures were being taken so far to address this income gap.  Sexual harassment had not been criminalized as yet, but Georgia was gearing to amend its legislation to this end.  The Labour Code contained a clause on non-discrimination on the basis of pregnancy; if violated, the victims could use the complaint mechanism created by the new anti-discrimination law
 
Despite all the progress, abortion remained a choice of family planning, especially in rural areas.  A very comprehensive regulation on abortion was scheduled to enter into force in September 2014.  Georgia recognized that pre-natal sex selection was a problem in the country and was working with the United Nations Population Fund to identify the number of selective abortions and the factors that substantiated the practice in the country.  The universal health care introduced in 2013 represented a significant financial undertaking, so any further expansion of the coverage, namely the provision of contraceptives, must be carefully considered; there was a will to ensure access to contraceptives for the most vulnerable.  The Millennium Development Goal target on maternal mortality would be missed; measures to reduce maternal deaths included strengthening of prenatal services throughout the country and measures to improve the accuracy of data on maternal and infant mortality.
 
Questions from the Experts
 
Half the female population lived in rural areas which required gender mainstreaming in all rural programmes.  The delegation was asked about strategies to address the needs of rural women in all areas, the measures to promote equal representation of rural women in political decision-making, particularly at the local level, and actions taken to protect women’s land and economic rights and promote the establishment of cooperatives to promote the participation of women in agriculture.  Ethnic women were among the most vulnerable categories of the population and the Committee inquired about measures to ensure that common law prevailed over traditional and customary laws, and the provision of services to women in their own languages.
 
Responses by the Delegation
 
Agricultural and rural development had been a priority since 2012, and the policies aimed to ensure women’s full access to control and own assets and natural resources, equal access to financial resources and full and equal participation in decision-making.  In July 2012, the new law on agriculture cooperatives had been established and so far 91 cooperatives were in place.  The participation of rural women in community meetings had increased, and in those meetings they raised a number of issues of concern to them, including the water problem in the villages, and the need for medical centres and for kindergartens.  Municipal budgets were being allocated to respond to those needs.
 
Questions from the Experts

The Committee reiterated its concerns about early and child marriages and asked whether Georgia intended to conduct comprehensive research into the scale and consequences of early and child marriages; whether there was an intention to remove from the law the provision that parental consent to marriage suppressed the legal age to marry;  clarify the Criminal Code with respect to sex with children younger than 16 years of age; and ensure the registration of all marriages, including those concluded in the church.  Would the law recognize intangible property such as pensions, to be included in the community property?
 
Shelters for the elderly were a matter of priority, noted another Expert. 
 
Responses by the Delegation
 
There were two shelters for the elderly; clearly it was not enough and the efforts continued to increase the budgetary allocation for this purpose.  The head of delegation said that detailed answers to the questions related to marriage, including early and child marriages, would be submitted within 48 hours.
 
Concluding Remarks
 
MANANA KOBAKHIDZE, Head of the Gender Equality Council of the Parliament of Georgia, in her concluding remarks thanked the Committee Experts and expressed appreciation for their work in the implementation of the Convention throughout the world.  Georgia was looking forward to their comments and recommendations and highly valued every issue raised by the Experts today, which would be shared with the authorities.  The rights of internally displaced persons and the rights of the population living in the administrative boundary line zones were of high concern to Georgia.
 
ISMAT JAHAN, Committee Vice-Chairperson, in her closing remarks, commended Georgia for its efforts and encouraged it to address all the recommendations which would be communicated though the Permanent Mission.  The Committee took note of the commitments to ensure gender equality and non-discrimination.

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