Women and COVID-19 in Georgia

 

We inteviewd Lila Yiannakaki-Karabalis, president of International Women’s Association, Georgia, an Organization that supports women, children and elderly people who are at risk due to poverty, poor health and disabilities.

 

IWA Georgia is a safety net for expats  women who arrive in Tbilisi, helps them to settle down, find their interests, mix with Georgian women and learn about the culture and richness of their hosting country. It is also a charity NGO who supports grass root organizations with focus on women and vulnerable groups of Georgian society.

 

 

 

General information on COVID-19 in Georgia

 

As of April 24,2020

 

·         Confirmed Coronavirus Cases:  425

 

·         Recovered:  111

 

·         Fatal outcome:  5

 

·         Under Quarantine: 5126

 

·         Under Hospital Supervision: 579  

 

State of Emergency was declared in Georgia first on March 21, for a month duration, until April 21, however the Parliament of Georgia approved Governments decision to prolong state of Emergency until May 22.   Curfew after 9pm to 6 am is at place and the duration is not defined yet.  Car restriction which was declared right before the Easter holidays will be continued until April 27. Besides, several main cities of the country are closed, meaning that no one can enter and leave it, as are Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Zugdidi, and some cities are fully under quarantine, like Bolnisi

 

Domestic Violence in Corona time

 

All the data below are based on a publication of IDFI – Institute of Development of Freedom of Information, local Georgian NGO, with the title: The impact of new coronavirus pandemic on domestic violence and violence against women

 

 Violence against women tends to increase during every type of emergency, including epidemics. Cases of domestic violence have risen globally by a third since lockdown (for instance, in France, reports of domestic violence increased by 30%, in Argentina – by 25%, in Cyprus – by 30%, in Singapore – by 33%. Besides, increased cases of domestic violence have also been reported in Canada, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and in other states as well.). The number of women and girls facing abuse has also dramatically increased in almost all countries. The risks of violence can be exacerbated by different circumstances such as pandemic-related fear, stress and/or economic insecurity that may become a provocative factor for abuser. Herewith, victims spend more time in close contact with abuser family members that makes the escape difficult – victims may not be able to separate and call the law enforcement body.

 

At this stage in Georgia, there are no statistics published on domestic violence cases during the new coronavirus pandemic. On the one hand, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, considering the spreading rates of the pandemic, the number of reporting cases of domestic violence have not increased. On the other hand, organizations working on the issues of violence against women and domestic violence note that more women contact them for legal assistance regarding violence since the state of emergency was declared. This may be caused by the fact that victims live in the same space with abusers and as a result are unable to call the law enforcement body, however, using alternative means, such as social network may be more possible for them.

 

Taking this into consideration, it is important to raise public awareness of the “112” mobile application, which, in addition to regular calls, provides services of silent call and texting emergency operator.

 

Fighting domestic violence and violence against women is one of the priorities for both the Government and Prosecution Service of Georgia (PSG). Despite the number of activities carried out in the past years to prevent these crimes, the situation analysis and assessments of the international and local organizations show that the Prosecution Service of Georgia is still facing the challenge of an efficient and comprehensive prosecution of the crimes of the category.

 

 

 

It is difficult for the prosecutors to identify the gender discrimination motive in cases of crimes of violence against women and domestic violence. In majority of cases, they are not sufficiently informed on respond standards and special approaches to gender-based crimes, which represents a gap in justice and is a barrier for the protection of the rights of victims.”

 

In spite of this Publication, three NGOs, working on domestic violence (GYLA, Union Safari, Partnership for Human Rights) have addressed the Government with a request to take sufficient measures to prevent cases of domestic violence and violence against women during isolation as a result of Pandemic.

 

Initiative in support of women

 

Taking into account that Georgian Government has not yet presented an economic plan of the country (announced to be presented in some days) there is also nothing known about existence of special approaches toward women. There are already several initiatives at place by the Government but they do not apply specifically on women, but those are general initiatives to lighten the burden of the crisis on population, like are: business are released from paying an income tax for the next three months, banks are giving time to its customers for their obligations, Government pays citizens utility bill for the three months period (March, April, May) who consumes particular amount of gas/electricity. Georgian Government also adopted several measures aiming at improving citizens social security during the pandemic, namely, infected patients are treated free of charges, communal charges have been subsidized up to a certain threshold, transportation of workers who continue to go to work is ensured and certain restrictions for issuing social security have been lifted. 

 

 What impact will coronavirus have on Georgian economy?

 

The government of Georgia has presented an anti-crisis plan for Georgian businesses in order to ease the burden caused by the coronavirus crisis.The government responded to the demand of the hotels, restaurants, tourist agencies and tour operators in Georgia and decided to postpone payment of property and income tax by four months.

 

This will benefit about 18,000 companies and 50,000 employees, said the Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Gakharia while presenting the government’s anti-crisis plan.

 

The government will postpone the payment of property and income taxes for four months for hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, transport and tour companies in Georgia. This will leave more than 100 million GEL financial resources in this sector during four months (March, April, May, June)”, Prime Minister said.

 

Moreover, as part of the ‘VAT returns’ reform 600 million GEL (about $214.67m/€192.27m) was planned to be returned to the private sector of Georgia.

 

Also in the banking sector, TBC Bank, Bank of Georgia and Liberty Bank can postpone payment on loans for three months due to coronavirus

 

As part of the anti-crisis plan the government will further assist small hotels as “small hotels are even more vulnerable”, so the government will pay about 3 million GEL (about $1.07m/€0.96m) to subsidise the loans of small hotels.

 

Small hotels, from four to 50 rooms, will receive assistance – bank loan interest subsidy. The money will be allocated from the ‘Produce in Georgia’ state programme and will benefit more than 18,000 objects”.  

 

These efforts aim to bring the economy back to the organic benchmark of development.

 

Women and work

 

The Constitution of Georgia provides equal rights for men and women. This constitutional right is set out in the Labour Code of Georgia. Under Art.2 of the Code, any kind of discrimination is prohibited including the discrimination on the ground of sex. According to the code discrimination is defined as any kind of direct or indirect oppression, intending to foster the intimidating, cruel, humiliating or degrading treatment of an individual, or creation of such conditions which deteriorates her condition in comparison with other individuals in the same situation (discriminatory culture at work). Given the fact that the abovementioned wording is too general, the article does not provide with the relevant guarantees in terms of the observance of the equality of men and women. The equality of men and women and the prohibition of discrimination imply that there should be no discrimination relative to working terms/conditions and hiring requirements. On March 26, 2010 a law ‘On Gender Equality’ was adopted, which stipulates the safeguards guaranteeing equal rights, freedoms and opportunities of men and women in general, and within the frameworks of labour law relations in particular, and defines the legal mechanisms for their implementation in the relevant spheres of social life. The current law is designed to prohibit any discrimination (direct or indirect), and to create relevant conditions for exercising equal rights, freedoms and opportunities of men and women.  Under given law the state assumes the responsibility to provide equal availability of employment for men and women. The state is to ensure: a) free choice of a profession or a job, b) promotion at work, 3) professional training/retraining, d) taking position in public service according to the professional qualification and skills and e) equal treatment while assessing the quality of their performance at work.

 

 The peculiarities of Women’s Labour Rights: the Labour Code of Georgia prescribes different regulation of women’s working terms during their pregnancy, after child delivery and breastfeeding. There are no other restrictions or privileges provided under new legislation.