13. Strengthening the system for preventing domestic violence and protecting victims in Georgia

Department of Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

Domestic violence is an increasingly evident problem in Georgia

In recent years, the Georgian authorities have been active in adapting the country’s legislation around domestic violence to European standards. Greater public awareness of the issue and the implementation of legal provisions means that the number of recorded cases of domestic violence rises year by year - between 2015 and 2017 the number of cases recorded increased by more than 2.5-fold. Data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs show that, in 2015, 901 acts of domestic violence were registered and 810 of them culminated in court proceedings; in 2016, 1 416 acts of domestic violence were registered, with 963 cases reaching court; and in 2017, there were 2 192 acts of domestic violence registered, of which 1 603 cases went to court.

Due to the rapid growth in reporting, social change and the insufficient level of training of professional groups responsible for counteracting domestic violence, support to the Georgian authorities is necessary. This is given through Polish Aid, under the Polish development co-operation programme.

Training multiple actors to identify and respond to cases of domestic violence

A project - “Strengthening the system of prevention of domestic violence and protection of victims of violence in Georgia” - has been developed to help eliminate domestic violence and raise public awareness of the issue. It is co-ordinated by a Polish organisation, the HumanDoc Foundation, and encompasses a wide range of beneficiaries, which allows Polish Aid to ensure a significant impact and tangible results.

The project was implemented in four regions of Western Georgia. Representatives of professional groups legally obliged to respond to cases of domestic violence - police officers, teachers and doctors - underwent a specialist training programme on domestic violence lasting several days. The training prepared them to identify, intervene and help anyone experiencing violence who they encountered in their day-to-day work.

In addition, the project provided a three-stage training programme for local psychological staff working in state and non-governmental support centres for people experiencing domestic violence.

The project also introduced direct support for women experiencing domestic violence. Its greatest achievement was the creation of the first shelter for victims of domestic violence in Western Georgia. The shelter also serves as a crisis centre as well as a help and consultation point where women can count on specialist assistance from psychologists, lawyers and social workers. To gain financial independence, the project promoted vocational courses adapted to the specific needs of women experiencing violence. These courses took place under the professional supervision of a vocational counsellor and with the support of a psychologist.

Creating a model system for preventing domestic violence based on co-operation between government and non-government actors as a key to success

Key to the project’s success has been the involvement of a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) with wide experience in the field of women's rights. Thanks to the project, the organisation has become a leader in anti-violence activities in the region and has a chance to become the coordinator of activities undertaken by various institutions operating in this area. In this context, the project has been a step towards creating a model system for preventing domestic violence based on co-operation between government institutions (such as the police, social welfare and government bodies dealing with domestic violence), local administrations and civic organisations.

The creation of a model system in the region in question was possible thanks to the effort put into education and information for both the public and local government institutions, NGOs and state structures involved in countering domestic violence. Conveying information about changes in legislation and the new responsibilities these introduced, sensitising people to, and working on understanding the problem of, domestic violence, as well as training hundreds of people to recognise and address the issue, meant that domestic violence became acknowledged as a valid problem. Building the first shelter for domestic violence victims in West Georgia as part of the project has had a priceless impact on this. Its creation resulted in the authorities and institutions becoming aware of the need to counteract domestic violence and to support the victims.

What next?

To strengthen the existing system, activities to enhance the capacity of organisations providing services for the victims of domestic violence should continue. It is also essential to work towards increasing public awareness and empowering vulnerable groups to better protect their rights. In the coming years, activities in this area will be a priority for Polish Aid to Georgia.

These activities will be most effective when they are implemented in co-operation with state institutions responsible for counteracting domestic violence. The direction Georgia is taking on this issue promises a good future. For this reason, it is important for the non-governmental sector to continue to complement the activities of state institutions.

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