by Eka Maghaldadze
On July 29, 2012, a woman walking past a park on Moskovi Avenue in Tbilisi heard the sound of a cellphone. It was ringing again and again near the badly beaten body of Jhujhuna Inashvili, 28, who had been killed by her ex-husband.
Lasha Mipchuani, 33 committed the murder. He beat his ex-wife and then smashed her head with a stone. Mipchuani went home, and after his mother asked about blood spots on his trousers, he told her what he did. His two daughters heard him say it and went into shock.
Mipchuani and Inashvili were already divorced for more than five months, but he still was trying to see her. Iana Inashvili remembers that her sister was not really afraid of her husband’s threats, even when he was beating her while they were living together. she thought he would not harm her any more.
"What will he do? Kill me?" Inashvilli remembers her sister saying.
“I did it because I loved her,” Mipchuani told the court.
The criminal case is investigated under case number: N010021112001
The victim’s mother, Tamar Inashvili, also says that quarrels, shouting and beatings were common in their family. Even the neighbors sometimes helped the victim to deal with her drunk husband. After 10 years, she finally decided to divorce, but because she was poor, she chose to leave her two daughters with her mother-in-law.
A growing number of discussions, protest meetings and other activities have been held in Tbilisi and other cities of Georgia on the topics of violence against women and gender-based killings. Several civil society organizations and feminist groups blame the government for the increase in these crimes. In response, the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced several times that they are fighting domestic violence and they will train police on these issues.
But philosopher Lela Gaprindashvili doesn't think that a couple days of police training will change anything. “There is a need to criticize their own beliefs, cultural and traditional attitudes, based on the information they are getting in these trainings. Seminars should be permanent and the results measurable,” say Gaprindashvili.
People involved in protests recommend that the government should work on gender sensitive legislation and implementation of it, raise awareness about gender equality, guarantee effective mechanisms of prevention, and require strict punishment for those who commit gender-based crime.
Baia Pataraia, a lawyer and the member of the “Independent Group of Feminists”, thinks that investigations of such crimes are often not conducted appropriately because even policemen do not look at them seriously and do not react to domestic conflicts as they should.
Pataraia gives an example of statistics for signing restraining orders, which are filled out by police who see domestic violence.
In 2012 there were 307 restraining orders, and in 2013 only 204. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2013 alone there were registered 1,578 cases of domestic conflict, almost seven times more than the number of restraining orders that were signed.
Pataraia also points out that Georgian society is facing social changes. Women have just started fight for their rights, independence and freedom of choice, and they are starting making their own decisions about their lives.
“But they are still facing problems from husbands, brothers and fathers. Often they face aggression and violence, which sometimes ends with death,” says Pataraia.
According to the World Health Organization, violence against women occurs in all social and economic classes, but women living in poverty are more likely to experience violence. A number of theories state that men in difficult economic circumstances (e.g. unemployment, little job autonomy, low socio-economic status or blocked advancement due to lack of education) may resort to violence out of frustration, and a sense of hopelessness:
“It is clear that poverty and its associated stressors are important contributors to violence against women, but more research is needed to fully understand the connections between them. At the same time, poor women who experience violence may have fewer resources to escape violence in the home,” is how the WHO explains this circle of violence.
“The main reason for violence is the idea that it is acceptable. Social problems, poverty, life conditions or alcohol are supportive factors, but not the reasons. Women are more vulnerable to poverty, but why do they commit very few murders, and why are they the victims in almost every case? Our culture is full of approaches which are transmitted via education, but that are not also based on equality principles, and violence against women is part of our everyday relationships,” says Gaprindashvili.
Research on domestic violence in Georgia (Chitashvili and others, 2010) shows that according to public perception, women should be obedient to husbands, should endure domestic violence from a husband or partner, and that divorce is perceived as a tragedy. According to one poll, 78% of women think that domestic problems “should stay in family”; 52% of women thinks that if a man treats a woman in a bad way, other members of the family should not interfere; 30.7% of women think that domestic violence is very personal and the law should not intervene; and 34% of women consider that beating wife is justified in some circumstances.
As feminists see it, violence against women is institutionalized through family structures, social and economic frameworks, and cultural and religious traditions. As a result, many people do not recognize that violence against women is in fact a crime, which often leads to impunity.
This problem is not unique to Georgia. One study from the European Union Daphne Programme (Community Action Programme to Fight Violence Against Women and Children) indicates that there are approximately 3,500 intimate partner violence-related deaths every year in Europe. Women account for more than 77% of all victims of intimate partner and/or family-related homicide, with women between the ages of 35 and 44 at noticeably higher risk.
Gaprindashvili underlines the responsibility of all society -- media, public, NGO sector -- but especially of the government.
“We all should feel responsibility for the murders which are the result of acceptable violence towards women in our culture. But government is responsible and has the resources to prevent that kind of cases,” claims Gaprindashvili.
According to women's rights activists, steps that need to be taken include development and implementation of strong legislation; gender sensitive law enforcement policies and protocols; promotion of awareness at the grassroots level; support for individuals and families experiencing violence; realization of women’s social, economic and political rights; and educating men and boys, and women and girls.