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Every Fifth Woman Suffers from Domestic Violence

March 26, 2008
Eka Mchedlidze, Tbilisi

Domestic violence is one of the frequent and increasing problems not only in Georgia but worldwide. Many organizations work toward solving this problem and one of them is the Georgia based non-governmental organizations National Network of Protection from Violence (NNPV(Photo)).

Ms. Nato Shavlakadze, the chairperson of the NNPV: “People apply to our organization over issues of domestic violence. The applicants are predominately wives who have been abused by their husbands. They are often accompanied by their children who are also victims of domestic violence. Physical violence is most often accompanied by psychological abuse and in combination it is especially  serious. Although many organizations are working on the problem, the number of cases in Georgia has not been reduced. It is still remains a serious social problem and this is in spite of new laws enacted deal with the problem. However, now the topic is at least more in the open and being discussed.

-What is envisaged under the law about the domestic violence?

-The Law on Domestic Violence was adopted a year ago. Although it should be look at closer, it has already played important role in protecting victims of domestic violence. The main mechanisms that are envisaged in the law are protection or restrictive orders to protect the victims. It is noteworthy that the adoption of the law greatly assisted the policemen with their work. Unlike previous years the working of the police has become more efficient.

-Can physiological abuse be a legal motive for the victim to appeal to the court against the abuser?

-Of course psychological abuse is one a form of violence. Generally, Georgians started to learn their rights thoroughly and as a result more and more people started appealing to the court. Most courts are working in the right direction and understand how serious the problem is. 

Women suffer the most from violence. Officially every fifth woman has been a victim. Psychological harassment might result in divorce or the psychological death of its victim; sometimes those inflicted even commit suicide out of despair. For the most part for people to even speak openly about this subject is shameful. There are some who think this problem is more than it actually is and discount the problem as being artificially created. However, it is fact that this problem greatly impacts upon the psychic and can affect negatively the future life of the impacted person. The respondent in this article is just one among many women with similar problems. We do not identify her for the purpose of allowing her to keep confidential.

“I have been married for many years with children.  Before and after marriage I have been working professionally. I have a good salary and a good standard of living.  Both my husband and I come from good families but in the end this fact has become the reason for our terrible plight. I love my husband and he loves me too. However, we are not the solve members of the family and are independent as we still depend on my in-laws. We live in their house and this is in spite of the fact that my husband and I have enough income to live independently, and without support of others.

I can say for the most part that the entire family abuses me psychologically. Under the influence of his parents my husband is always in opposition to me. He is permanently persuaded that I have no right to have my own opinion, attitude, money, etc. My in-laws consider that a daughter of a “decent family” should not act as I do.”

For example, it is completely unacceptable for them the fact that I work; despite the fact that I work for a quite serious organization, though my in-laws are well educated people. My husband seriously argues with me and over when I come home a bit later than expected. He does not take into consideration that I work overtime. He has similar attitude about my work but you can easily imagine what his reaction will be if I visit my friends or go to the café with my colleagues. The problem appeared after my father-in-law complained about my irresponsibility in front of the children. They come home from school at five in the afternoon and I am able to finish my job only one hour later. However he forgets that I am working an extra hour for the good of the family.

Having read the periodic issue of the NNPV, “Samani” I discovered many other stories that are rather similar to the one just described. Thus, we would like to offer you some extracts from the letters published in the “Samani” in commentary.

Marina Tabukashvili, Coordinator of Women’s Program at the Foundation “Open Society-Georgia”:
“When a child sees all the time that his/her mother is being shouted at and abused, I think, s/he realizes that they can also treat their mother in such a way. However, the child might support either the victim or the abuser. Based on the choice, the results are even worst. Also, the abused woman can turn on the child out of frustration. All these destroy the famous dynamics and now the “abuser becomes bad and the victim is good.” Surveys have demonstrated that the victimized women often beat their children.

Another serious problem is when mother-in-laws abuse their daughters-in-law.

Central Asian countries are still seriously facing such a problem. Thus, arguments between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-laws are a problem that is not only characteristic for Georgia.

When fathers die in a patriarchal family their sons often acquire serious attitude towards their mothers following marriage. That means, they ignore their wives and admire their mothers more. This situation causes serious concern but as we have already mentioned, culture, education and behavior are those factors that should be taken into consideration. 

Another circumstance that exacerbates the situation in Georgia can be reflected in the law that deals with property rights. The victim cannot live without the help of the abuser. There is no where to turn; she has to endure the harassment or end up in the street. She cannot be accepted by her parents’ family because of lack of resources and spouse abuse centers are few, and these are only a stopgap measure at best. Nobody can remain in a shelter for ever. I call upon everybody to think about marriage contracts beforehand. It is the only mean that will save the woman from ending up in the street.

The law does not aim to send the violator to prison. We also condemn the idea of getting divorced after every little argument. In this case, we should realize that the abuser is also a human being and he must also be also assisted. The abuser should attend a special program after what he will change his behavior.”

“Georgian Law on the Prevention Domestic Violence, Protection and Assistance of the Victims of Domestic Violence” was adopted by the Georgian Parliament nearly two years ago; however official statistics do not exist how efficient has the law worked and what are the real results it has had since its adoption.

Experts working on the field make similar assessment: Domestic violence in Georgia is still intensive and a problem that must be urgently faced. Victims of violence are women and the abusers consider their action as something normal in their lives, which is rooted in family traditions. The man is the head of the household and he is the boss over the woman and children. 

However, specialists claim it is wrong attitude and for a marriage to be strong there needs to be mutual respect which is necessary for a good relationship. That means the above-mentioned explanation of the abuser’s behavior completely contradicts with Georgian traditions because no tradition can be based on physical or emotional hostility. Unfortunately, abusers cannot realize their own mistakes. They often make fatal mistakes. In order to avoid similar situation there are special organizations where abusers can seek help.  They will be assisted by special programs that are organized for them.

The practice revealed that most abusers have drug or alcohol related problems.  However, there totally healthy and normal people too who abuse their wives, and this does not depend on economic or social class. The vast majority of Georgian men do not agree to attend training programs and only a small part of them consider that they need help.  Sometimes these people can control their behavior. As it has already been mentioned, the problem is urgent not only Georgia but worldwide.  However the passion that society expresses in dealing with the problem depends on the intellectual and developmental level of the various stakeholders.