(statement presented in the pre-session within the UPR)
This statement is delivered on behalf of four non-governmental organizations of Georgia: Tanadgoma, Human rights education and monitoring center, Identoba and Hera XXI. These organizations work on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues through research, advocacy and service provision.
The statement addresses three issues.
The first issue is: 1. Discrimination and violence based on gender and sexuality
On May 2, 2014, the Parliament adopted the Law of Georgia on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination. The Orthodox Church and radical religious groups were strongly opposed to the inclusion of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. As a result, the law does not grant the Ombudsman’s Office, as a national antidiscrimination mechanism, any effective instrument for the restoration of rights. Pursuing cases in courts is also complicated since Courts are unprepared for such cases.
Patriarchal attitudes and prejudices regarding gender roles and stereotypes in the society are at the root of highly prevalent violence against LGBT persons and sex workers, as well as domestic violence in Georgia:
- LGBT persons suffer from sexual violence in prisons and bullying in educational institutions. They cannot enjoy their constitutional rights, as demonstrated by a massive attack on LGBT activists on May 17, 2013, wherein the state was unable to take adequate measures to ensure their right of freedom of assembly.
- Women sex workers experience high levels of discrimination and violence and are also less likely to get protection from the police – often the very perpetrators of this violence, including blackmailing, money extortion, and unprotected sex. They are at a higher risk for health problems, with a lesser chance of accessing good health care due to stigma.
- Growing numbers of women are murdered by their husbands or partners and experience psychological, physical, economic and sexual violence.
The state does not have any particular strategy or vision against hate crimes. There is a strategy for combating gender-based violence, but the mechanisms for its implementation, as well as, investigation are weak. The Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs avoid their obligation to effectively investigate hate incidents and crimes.
We recommend that the State of Georgia do the following:
- Create and implement effective strategies against hate-motivated crimes, including: creating specific, clear guidelines on the investigation of homophobic and transphobic crimes; establishing a separate law enforcement unit to investigate hate crimes and its equipment with relevant knowledge and sensitivity; compiling comprehensive statistics on hate-motivated crimes; and preparing a sustainable and systematic course for law enforcement agents, including prosecutors and judges.
- Equip the Office of the Public Defender with effective instruments against discrimination, including the ability to fine the perpetrators of discrimination. State institutions should adopt and effectively implement special anti-discrimination policies.
- Adopt effective, relevant, and non-discriminatory measures to ensure the safety of LGBT people in the penitentiary system, and avoid their segregation and marginalization.
- The Ministry of Education and Science should adopt effective policies against homophobic and transphobic bullying at schools and universities.
- Put in place an effective, accessible and non-discriminatory complaint mechanism to address acts of violence against women sex workers by police officials as well as their inaction towards violence perpetrated by others.
- Create a sufficient number of adequate shelters with victim-oriented rehabilitation services for the victims of domestic violence.
- Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights
During its first UPR, Georgia accepted a recommendation to implement adequate reforms in the health sector. Some positive developments have taken place, including the National Strategy 2011-2015 on Health Protection of Georgia. One of the Strategic directions listed in this Strategy is the “improvement of maternal and child health,” but the section does not contain any references, strategies, or monitoring procedures related to the provision of family planning services. Access to and use of sexual and reproductive health services remains quite limited, especially for internally displaced women, women with disabilities and HIV/AIDS, young women, and women living in mountainous regions. Abortion and Contraception are not covered by health insurance and are not affordable for many. In 2014 mandatory waiting period for abortion has increased from 3 to 5 days.
We recommend that the State of Georgia do the following:
- Create a new national Health strategy, which prioritizes family planning and safe abortion services for health promotion, in order to fulfill the state’s obligations under international treaties and agreements.
- Ensure that sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion and contraception services and information, are available, accessible and affordable to all women and girls without discrimination, especially those in the rural areas, living with HIV, and sex workers.
- Revise Article 139 of the law on health Care to remove the medically unnecessary waiting period for abortion, as recommended by the World Health Organization.
- Develop and integrate a comprehensive high educational program for medical institutions on communication skills related to sexual and reproductive health.
- Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Education
The Georgian educational system lacks Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights education, which puts young people at risk of early and forced marriage, exposes them to infections, increases rates of abortions and domestic violence. CEDAW concluding observations of July 2014 recommends to “Introduce age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health and rights education, including on responsible sexual behavior, at all levels.” In 2014, Ministry of Education and Science started working on the Healthy Lifestyle Education curriculum. However, due to opposition from the society at large as well as some Orthodox groups, the standard elaborated thus far does not include major topics on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
We recommend that the Ministry of Education and Science do the following:
- Develop and implement comprehensive curriculum on reproductive health and rights, considering the cultural context and students’ ages.
- Provide special training programs for teachers, which include modules on sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and girls’ rights to education and family planning.