Domestic Violence - Myth and Reality

Speakers at the debates

On 1 December 2010, the Heinrich Boell Foundation South Caucasus Regional Office and UNIFEM hosted a public debate titled “Domestic Violence - Myth and Reality”.

Speakers included:

  • Tamar Sabedashvili – Gender Advisor, UNIFEM Georgia;
  • Irina Japaridze – Project Manager, UNIFEM Georgia;
  • Rusudan Pkhakadze – President, Women’s Counseling Center "Sakhli" (Home);
  • Mari Meskhi – Director, State Fund for Protecting and Supporting Victims of Trafficking.

What is domestic violence? What are the reasons behind violence against a woman in the family, and what forms of violence can be distinguished? Does society understand what violence in the family or outside it is? Is a victim able to prevent violence right from the beginning? Could a woman be a provocateur of violence? Who tends to become victims of domestic violence? How important is social background in this issue? Why are the media not interested in this problem? How do local media cover it? What kinds of assistance are offered to citizens by the State Fund? How are the shelters organized? Is it easy to admit the fact of domestic violence? How does Georgian legislation protect victims, and how effective is a “restraining order”? What is the policy of the state towards the issue of domestic violence, and where can solutions be found? These questions were discussed at the debate, which a large and interested public joined.

The organizers presented a film about domestic violence produced by the Women’s Counseling Centre "Sakhli" (Home) in 2006. After, the speakers informed participants about the results of several studies undertaken by the UN Population Fund recently. In Georgia, every eleventh married woman is a victim of physical violence; 35.9% of respondents said that they experienced various forms of violence by a husband or a partner who intended to control their behavior. According to the survey, 78.3% of women believe that facts of domestic violence should not be punishable; 34.1% justify beating of a wife by a husband and say that a good wife should not give a reason for it.

The discussion was a part of the 16-day campaign to combat domestic violence against women.

Georgia passed legislation on domestic violence and imposed “restraining orders” against perpetrators; there are shelters where women who are victims of domestic violence can find refuge.

According to Mari Meskhi, the law distinguishes forms of violence: physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and coercion, but these forms are often closely related. Rusudan Phakadze argued that violence is the same everywhere, it has no borders, but it should be noted that in Georgia psychological abuse occurs more frequently and is much stronger than elsewhere.

Participants discussed whether the issue of violence depends on social background. Speakers highlighted some progress made by Georgian society in combating domestic violence, but concluded that much has to be done in order to improve women’s conditions.