End discriminatory policies around bride abduction

The Coalition for Equality, responding to media reports of the kidnapping of an underage girl who was forced into marriage in Kvemo Kartli, and the allegedly ineffective response of the police, calls for an end to discriminatory policies around bride abduction. The Coalition believes violent incidents such as this arise directly from discriminatory state policies in relation to crimes against women and girls. The state's ineffectiveness in terms of prevention, investigation and punishment of crimes against women violates the principle of equality before the law and is discriminatory towards women.

The practice of bride kidnapping, which is a criminal offense, allows a man to gain power and control over a woman, ignores the woman's will and deprives her of her rights. It violates the woman's sexual autonomy and her right to make her own reproductive choices. In many cases, women who have been kidnapped and forced into marriage are victims of rape. Frequently, victims' parents refuse to allow them to return home in order to protect "family honor''. Since men who commit these crimes receive lenient, if any, punishment, this practice continues and is often acquiesced to by the community at large. 

According to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the state is obliged to eradicate practices, which promote women's subordination, and which contribute to crimes committed against women and girls. The state is obliged to transform public and cultural norms that justify or negate violence against women. The Coalition believes that the Georgian government can achieve this goal through raising public awareness, strengthening women's economic status and developing an effective criminal justice policy to combat crimes against women and girls.

According to members of Azerbaijani Community contacted by the Coalition for Equality, recent years have seen the authorities take and increasingly hands-off stance regarding such crimes, which only encourages potential perpetrators. In most occurrences, cases are resolved through plea-bargaining, which means offenders do not suffer any penalty in terms of imprisonment or other sanctions. This is not only discriminatory towards women, but it does not serve the purpose of crime prevention in the long term. 

Cases of a forced bride kidnapping (which come under the illegal deprivation of liberty clause, Article 143 of the Criminal Code) , should be investigated taking into account the gender-specific nature of the crime, and the general context of violent traditions targeting girls.

Offenses committed for the purposes of forcing a woman or girl into marriage should be considered a gender crime, and an aggravating circumstance in terms of the offender's criminal liability.

The Coalition believes that the state should, step by step, take a tougher line regarding crimes committed as a result of women's subordinate status. In addition, penalties should be proportionate to the crimes committed. Such a stance would protect the dignity of the victim and act as a deterrent for such offenses being committed in the future.

When it comes to prevention, investigation and punishment, due attention should be given to the special experience of ethnic minorities regarding different forms of discrimination. This applies especially to the hidden nature of gender violence, and the fact that some ethnic minority women have less access to any means of protection from violence. In the case of juvenile victims, the starting point from a criminal justice perspective should be the protection of the child's best interests, dignity and confidentiality.

The Coalition believes that responsible agencies (including the General Inspection/Internal Audit Offices of the Ministry of Internal Affairs) must properly evaluate the effectiveness of the police response to such cases. Furthermore, the actions of the Social Service Agency and local schools should be evaluated in order to outline the systemic gaps that make it difficult to properly prevent and respond to such incidents.

Taking into account the social context of these offences, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Social Service Agency should plan an ongoing campaign to raise awareness based on the needs and social context of the specific region. At the same time, public schools must carry out detailed programmes to provide full education on gender, health and reproductive issues, as well as on legal and social assistance services in cases of gender violence. This should involve not only boys and girls, but also parents, school teachers and administrators.

Coalition for Equality

The Coalition for Equality is an informal union, which was established in 2014 with the support of Open Society Georgia Foundation and which unites seven non-governmental organizations, among them Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC); Article 42 of the Constitution; Union Sapari; Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA); Women's Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG), Partnership for Human Rights (PHR) and "Identoba".



 See. goo.gl/v5liLW and http://netgazeti.ge/news/104366/

 See General Recommendation of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on Women's Access to Justice, July 23, 2015: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/1_Global/CEDAW_C_GC_33_7767_E.pdf

See UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Article N5 (a).

 Article 143 of the Criminal Code of Georgia - Illegal deprivation of liberty is punishable by imprisonment for a term of from two to four years. Act committed against a minor - imprisonment from seven to ten years.

 Article 53.311 of the Criminal Code of Georgia states that the offense of discrimination is the aggravating circumstance of responsibility.

 See UN Women, The needs and priorities of ethnic minority women in Georgia, 2014, Page 49-50: http://sapari.ge/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Ethnic-Minority-Women_Geo.pdf



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