Georgian police learns about domestic violence

Police Academy 2

Aspirants at Police Academy in Tbilisi

A few weeks ago I attended a training for police officers at the police Academy in Tbilisi, together with swedish journalist Maja Aase. The training was arranged by Anti-Violence Network of Georgia and the topic was Domestic Violence; what are the signs and how to handle it. Some twenty young men and a couple of women were listening to psychologists Manana Sologashvili and Elene Samushia as they described the different forms of domestic violence, the psychotypes of victims and perpetrators and the role of the police in DV-cases.

According to statistics, every third woman has experienced domestic violence in Georgia, and so far this year 23 women have died as a result of it. However, 78 % of the population hold the view that domestic violence is a family matter that should not be discussed publically.  Almost 30% of the abused women never apply for any kind of help due to fear or shame. The young police aspirants had a hard time to believe these facts, and some of them thought the numbers must be exaggerated. Unfortunately they are not.

Police Academy 1

Sharing experiences of our countries

One of the hardest things to understand is why the victim stays with her abuser, and that question also caused a lot of discussions among the students, who had several different suggestions . However, the women don´t always realize they are victims. Usually it starts with psychological abuse, and the victims are gradually being robbed of their self esteem and isolated from their net work. In this state it is very difficult to break up, especially if there is no support and no other place to go.

There were also a lot of different opinions on the cause of violence. According to research in Scandinavia, where I study Social Work and Social Science, violence is a reaction on feeling powerless, and to stop it we have to understand the background and reasons for violence. That was pretty much what was presented at the training, in the picture of the “Wheel of Violence” power and control was placed in the middle, as the main cause.

Police Academy 3

Discussions with chief of police

At the end of the training we were asked about the situation in Sweden on Domestic Violence. We have a population of almost 10 million people, compared to Georgia´s 4,5 million. In average there are 30 000 reports on violence against women every year, 45% of these are carried out within the seclusion of the home, by a person close to the woman. About 17 cases each year have a deadly outcome, so there is a lot to be done on this matter in our country as well, which surprised the georgian police aspirants. Let´s combine our strengths and experiences and work on this together, so women can feel safe in their homes everywhere.

Gabriella Erixon, student of Social Work and Social Science at the University of Lund, Sweden and intern at the Anti- Violence Network of Georgia

End the Silence on Domestic Violence

 

The sun is shining from a clear blue sky over my new, beautiful hometown Tbilisi, and I can see green palm trees through the open window in my office. It´s the end of October and I know from the news I watch every morning that Sweden is cold, rainy and grey as usual this time of the year, so I have no home-sickness what so ever. I have spent almost two months in this fascinating country of Georgia, and I feel very fortunate for having this opportunity to get to know a part of Caucasus.

Working with Nia

Working with Nia, the Project assistant at AVNG

My name is Gabi, and I study Social work and Social Science at the university of Lund in Sweden. Right now I am doing my Internship at the Anti-Violence Network of Georgia, an NGO that has been working mainly against Domestic Violence since 2003. There is a lot to be done on women´s issues and women´s rights, in a patriarchal society structure many women are still regarded as property, and when a man is abusing his wife it is considered a “family issue” that authorities shouldn´t interfere with. Domestic Violence was criminalized by law in 2012 in Georgia, but still the problems remain since the law is not implemented properly.

Demonstration

Women have been shoved into the kitchen, but we will not be silenced!

As a reaction on the killing of a university lecturer by her former husband last weekend, a spontaneous manifestation was called for over Facebook, and tuesday at lunchtime more than a hundred women – and quite a few men as well – gathered outside a governmental building close to Liberty Square in Tbilisi to protest. The people that gathered brought kitchen utensils, and with blindfolded eyes and covered mouths they started pounding on pots and pans. The message was: The women have been shoved into the kitchens, but you cannot silence us! Nobody was giving a speech, nothing was said in words but the action spoke for itself.

Tamara demontrates

Tamara would like the female politicians in the parliament to stand up for the georgian women.

A young student I was talking to there, Tamara, said that she was disappointed that none of the few women in the government had stood up and condemned this latest act of domestic violence. On the contrary, the female minister of justice said in a statement that “the crime rate in Georgia has not increased, it´s only men´s violence against women that has increased”. She might not have thought this comment through properly, since it came across like men´s violence against women is not a crime, and a lot of people were upset by this statement.

Pots and pans

Ending the silence with pots and pans, together with my collegue Salome

Since this was first written, the minister of justice has made a new statement, saying that the amendments in the law will not be enough to adequately address the problem, as mentalities towards women also need to change. I believe she is abolutely right,  a change of attitudes is really needed in many different levels, to improve the women´s situation here. I am grateful for this chance to be a part of the work AVNG is doing in Georgia for a period of time.

“Now we fight openly because of the statements police made”

armenianpolice-05An event which occurred earlier this year where a female activist participating in a demonstration in Yerevan was involuntarily kissed by a serving officer was recently addressed at a meeting about the safety of human rights defenders in Armenia. A higher ranked police officer attending the meeting upset activists when he stated there was no way of telling whether the woman liked the kiss or not.
In the photage from the event you can see the activist being drawn away from the action and, while restrained from behind by the unknown police officer, she gets kissed in the neck.  Something which Shushan Petrosyan, a member of parliament at the time commented by asking if there is anything bad in kissing?

This can also be seen in the light of a victim blaming statement about women’s safety in public recently announced by the Armenian Police. Among the recommendations of how to act and dress in order to avoid violence in public is the advice to not walk alone and only make dates in crowded illuminated places wearing clothes that wouldn’t limit you movements or “attract wild fanatic’s attention”. The police even go into details concerning hair styles and jewellery and tell women to distrust unknown men. Talk about using a rhetoric which both risk scaring women to stay at home and which tells society that how women dress and behave is the explanation behind violence and harassment towards them.

Elvira Melisetyan from Women’s Resource centre comments on the event both stating that it is in line with what women have faced when reporting sexual violations to the police before and that it gives activist a position where they can openly target the victim-blaiming culture within the Armenian police: “I will dare to say we were not surprised finding the statement of police, because we face the consequences of their main way of thinking in our daily work regarding Sexual violence prevention in our community. Several women have reported the main approach of police there in the police station. Police has just legitimized their approach towards these kind of situations. If previously we were fighting against this on a grass-root level, trying to raise awareness on the particular cases where police used victim-blaming while investigating, now we fight openly because of the statements police made officially. This is a good sign for us on the way to strategy planning for fighting against sexual violence, now we can face police openly with our statements and demands. No doubt that this statement enlarges the risk of having more cases of SV, as now the abuser has some more ”approved explanations” for their actions. This makes us be more attentive and more proactive according to elimination of sexual violence in our community because Police officially showed they are not for a victim and not with a victim in this ”fight”.

Directly after the statement was made official independent activist posted images of them self with texts like “Don’t tell me what to wear. Tell them not to rape.”
ArtAct group decided to dedicate an entire album of posters to addressing the stupidity of the police using a mixture of humour, facts and attack.

The messages exist in both an English and Armenian version if you visit the Art<3Activism Facebook page.

Isolering hinder för jämställdhet

Stop våldet

Det står “Stoppa våldet!” på väggen i den del av organisationen Avangards kontor som inte går att använda. Under de senaste 20 åren har bara ett fall av sexuellt övergrepp mot en kvinna anmälts till polisen.

Vi åker förbi kilometer efter kilometer av övergivna hus, eller snarare det som finns kvar av husen: grå betongskelett med ögonhålor av fönster som gapar tomma. Och jag kan inte låta bli att föreställa mig hur det var för lite drygt 20 år sedan. Jag ser framför mig grönskande trädgårdar, terrasser under lindande vinrankor, mandarindoft i den varma luften, människor upptagna med småsysslor och stora affärer, barnskratt och gräl, allt som hör livet till.

Det var 1986 jag som sexåring var på abchaziska havskusten för första gången med mina föräldrar, och att måla de där bilderna är lätt. Hur det som jag ser nu, all denna smärta, har blivit möjligt är däremot väldigt svårt att förstå.

Continue reading

Young women’s peace activism: tearing apart stereotypes in Armenia and Azerbaijan

This month, May 2014, marks exactly twenty years since the formal ceasefire declaration in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Yet for Armenians and Azerbaijanis who were divided by the conflict, the past twenty years have been marked by political animosity, one-sided media coverage, regular ceasefire violations and needless soldier deaths. For most people, twenty years have passed without a single opportunity to meet someone from the other side, let alone make friends with them. The effects of this are particularly pronounced on the generation born during and after the war, who have no memories of peaceful coexistence and no idea what life is like on the other side of the border. Civil society organisations, including several women’s NGOs, have done their best to bridge this gap, offering young people a stake in a shared future, in spite of their divided present.

In recent weeks, the situation for these organisations has been marked by growing political tensions in the region. Events in Ukraine, particularly the fate of the Crimean peninsula, have highlighted the disparities between the official Armenian and Azerbaijani perspectives on the conflict, while awakening common fears of yet another Russian military intervention in the Caucasus. With Armenia set to join the Eurasian Customs Union, and Azerbaijan facing increasing isolation within Europe owing to its mounting human rights violations, it seems that the lines are becoming more firmly entrenched. Last month, when an Azerbaijani journalist was arrested accused of spying for Armenia, many feared that this marked the beginning of the end for organisations involved in cross-border activities.

Continue reading

Att överkomma detta hat

Lara Aharonian en av ledarna av Women's Resource Centre i Jerevan. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Julia Lapitskii

Lara Aharonian en av ledarna av Women’s Resource Centre i Jerevan. Foto: Kvinna till Kvinna/Julia Lapitskii

“Du är armenier, jag ser det i dina ögon”, säger min kompis till en spinkig man som sätter sig mittemot oss på Stockholms tunnelbana och försöker inleda ett samtal. Sabina försöker inte ens att dölja sin avsky mot honom. Han spänner ögonen i henne, tittar genomträngande och intensivt. ”Aha, och du är en azeri”. En obekväm tystnad infinner sig, jag blir mållös, kommer inte riktigt på något att säga. Mannen reser sig och går.

”Jag hatar armenier”, säger hon. ”De är inga bra människor”. Alla kan ju inte vara hemska människor, hur kan du säga så, försöker jag försiktigt, men inser snabbt att det inte lönar sig. Sabina och jag träffades på en kurs i statsvetenskap på en av Sveriges högskolor. Vi har precis haft en kurs i nationalism tillsammans, läst Benedikt Anderssons berömda verk om nationalismen ”Imagined Communities”, och skrev våra tentor just om det.

Det var för snart 10 år sedan som jag fick upp ögonen för det hat som finns mellan Armenien och Azerbajdzjan efter konflikten kring Nagorno-Karabach, och trots alla år som gått, har det inte förändrats så mycket. Fast nu blev det fel, UNDER den pågående konflikten, menade jag väl. Det pågår inga strider mellan länderna, vapenstillestånd tecknades för mer än 20 sedan, konflikten kallas numera för ”frusen”, vilket innebär att den fortfarande inte är löst. Men konflikt är fortfarande konflikt: gränserna är stängda, länderna har inga förbindelser, det går inte ens att ringa till varandra, och de som ändå kommunicerar med den andra sidan räknas som förrädare. I Armenien såväl som i Azerbajdzjan.

När jag tänker på Sabina, inser jag att nationalistiska känslor sitter så djupt i en, att det inte går att tackla dem på en intellektuell nivå. Det går knappt att resonera fram eller försöka förklara, teorier om ”imagined communities” funkade i klassrummet, men inte riktigt i verkligheten, när det kommer till hennes egen världsbild…

”Vi är alla produkter av nationalism, det kräver mycket mod att komma ifrån det så som vi har gjort, det är inte många som kan göra det”, säger Lara Aharonian, från Kvinna till Kvinnas armeniska samarbetsorganisation Women’s Resource Centre.

Med ”vi” menar hon deltagarna vid ett möte i Uppsala, där Kvinna till Kvinnas armeniska och azeriska partners diskuterar nationalism och fredsarbete. Hur kan vi överkomma detta hat, motstå medier som odlar fiendebilder och politiker som plockar politiska poäng på att lägga skuld för ekonomiska problem på den andra sidan av konflikten? De har jobbat tillsammans sedan 2007, i ett projekt där de försöker bygga broar mellan tjejer och unga kvinnor från andra sidan konflikten, samt skapa ett fredsorienterat samtal i sina länder

Dessa kvinnor har säkert olika uppfattningar om hur konflikten ska lösas, men själva känner de inte längre något hat, trots att många av dem är direkt drabbade av konflikten: de har förlorat sina hem, nära och kära. Men det är ingen lätt uppgift de har att överbrygga hatet i sina samhällen, ibland känns det som en omöjlig uppgift, men de kämpar på och det är oerhört stort att få vara med i deras arbete.