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Interview With Marina Meskhi - Anti-Violence Network of Georgia (Georgia)

Updated: Jul 4, 2023



















About Dr. Marina Meskhi

Dr. Marina Meskhi has a proven ability in gender and the security sector experience, methodology and best practices, expertise in policies, strategies and practices concerning Gender and Security Sector; Experience development Plans on Gender Equality/GBV and experience of preparing training modules and providing the trainings on Gender Equality, Gender and Security sector related issues. She has a PhD in law from the Tbilisi State University of Georgia and has a Master of Laws in International and Transnational Law from the Illinois University of Technology. In addition, she is a specialized consultant in the EU where she focuses on topics such as gender equality, gender-based violence, and gender mainstreaming.


Gender Equality Statistics:

Gender Development Index: 0.980

Gender Inequality Index: 0.331

Classification: Group 1; grouping takes into consideration inequality in favour of men or women equally


 

Complete Interview With Dr. Marina Meskhi

Dr. Juan Carlos Sola Corbacho:

Thank you very much, Dr. Meshki. It is a privilege and an honor to have you

here with us today to talk about something as important as gender equality and gender-based violence.


Dr. Marina Meshki:

One of the questions I found interesting was the reasons for violence. Of course, based on different countries and cultures, there are different types of influences and reasons for violence against women. For example, in my country of Georgia, the main reason for violence is religion. There are some places in Georgia with a considerable Muslim population, and the matter of early marriages are common in comparison to other parts of the country. This is still a practice that governments have long tried to eliminate. Another reason for violence is the conflicting areas. After 1992, when Georgia became an independent country, we had 2 wars: one against Russia and the other a Civil War with over 300,000 IDPs. While these may not be the main reason, they still contribute to the problem of violence.

So, what can we do in this situation? It is necessary to implement gender equality rights: Equal opportunities and antidiscrimination laws in written form, and the creation of mechanisms such as equality ombudsman or equality commission or councils for protection against discrimination (gender equality commissions have existed in Georgia for quite a long time, and we are trying to have a strong national equality machinery with sufficient resources to exert influence at all levels.)


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola Corbacho:

Is education relevant in Georgia to promote gender equality and gender-based violence?


Dr. Marina Meshki:

In 80% of the University in Georgia, there are classes about gender and its related problems such as pay gap, mainstream issues, etc. At the secondary school level, there are special subjects about human rights and women. Because of this, the youth and younger generation in general are more open and willing to talk about gender-based violence, which eventually helps raise their awareness against stereotypes. Additionally, newspapers and media would be very helpful in spreading the campaign.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho:

Can you describe the most common stereotypes about women in Georgia right now?


Dr. Marina Meshki:

In today’s society, a common stereotype that affects women is that their words have the least weight in the family. A second stereotype is that women are required to possess certain traits to be considered “good”. For example, women need to be more careful, diligent, or skillful than men. A lot of gender-based violence cases recorded by women stem from such stereotypes and we are trying our best to limit these stereotypes from spreading. I think women and men should have the same rights and even if the women don’t, there should always be a man that can protect her from the radical society aiming towards vulnerable women.


Katie Lilley

Do you think the amount of gender-based violence that occurs correlates directly to the amount or lack of women’s rights/freedoms in a given country?


Dr. Marina Meshki

Although women’s rights are an important factor, it is not the only one. Other reasons include policies that are not at the level they should be, in addition to the lack of help for women by the police. They are seen as victims, and this victimization is a huge problem for women, especially for those suffering from sexual violence. Another reason is a lack of legal protection and a lack of tolerance from society, especially in rural areas. If you are beaten or violated, it is a result of your misdoing or misbehavior, which is obviously very problematic.


Owen O’Connor

Why do you believe there is such a large disparity between the number of women who believe abuse occurs frequently (80%) and the number of women who have personal experience with it (6%)?


Dr. Marina Meshki

There is a difference between real cases and reporting. I have been a women’s rights expert for over 25 years, and I personally know at least 5 thousand women victims. I believe 6% is a low percentage and a possible reason for this is that reporting just does not occur as often, even though reporting supports prevention, as well as protection and prosecution.


Ahn Nguyen

Which people are the most at risk of experiencing gender-based violence in Georgia? How do they commonly seek help when they are exposed to gender-based violence? What is currently being done in Georgia to prevent gender-based violence?


Dr. Marina Meshki

Women are most at-risk to experience stalking, sexual violence, and abuse from partners, husbands, brothers, and exes. And these actions come primarily from partners that they know or have known. Gender based violence can also depend on the region - some regions have very strong subcultures, while others are more liberal and tolerant. However, it is difficult to say if any particular group of women in Georgia are more at risk than others. However, in some regions there is more reporting, while in others the subculture is very conservative, so women do not want to identify themselves as victims of violence. In this case, women and men both show tolerance towards the violence against women in a relationship. As for what is being done, health responders need more training; doctors need to be trained to better identify victims of violence. For example, police are continuously being trained to aid victims of violence and my organization, since 2004-2005, has been helping police officers.


Stephen Park

What do you think would be the most effective way to spread awareness of what domestic violence is, and how to prevent/combat it?


Dr. Marina Meshki

It starts with strong protection, prevention, and prosecutions programs. These were all provided by Georgia according to the Istanbul Convention in 2017. These programs include sheltering programs, general services for victims, as well as evidence-collecting programs. Prosecution programs exist, but they certainly need more improvement at the police officer level.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola Corbacho

Do you think your country has good legislation to prevent and punish violence and abuse towards women? Is there a lack of legislation or a problem with the implementation of this legislation?


Dr. Marina Meshki

I’m not going to say we have perfect legislation, but the bigger problem certainly lies in the implementation. For example, since 1994, Georgia has been a part of the CEDAW convention. In 2000, we had a three-year action plan focused on gender equality that proved to be ineffective. In 2003, there was a revolution in Georgia where a very pro-European government came into power. Once this government took over, all the positive actions began to take place in 2004. In 2004, Georgia held the first commission on gender equality and then in 2006, we adopted a law against domestic violence. More than 10 years ago, identification laws regarding victims of violence were put into place - domestic violence was criminalized in 2012. The Istanbul convention was adopted in 2017, and in the same year stalking was criminalized and subsequently sexual harassment in 2019. So step-by-step, Georgia was managing to develop legislation, however, the implementation of legislation was more problematic. A challenge is to get people to respond to the legislation. A problem is the stereotypes that Georgian people hold regarding men and women. Years ago, I couldn’t imagine having a female president in Georgia in my life, however, the president and the chief justice are now female. So, on the one hand, we have women making great strides in Georgia, but on the other, there are still so many problems concerning gender equality.


Dr. Juan Carlos Sola Corbacho

Do you believe that Georgians react against gender equality because they feel it’s something that undermines their tradition as a Western idea?

Dr. Marina Meshki

Somewhat, yes. In Georgia we are trying to avoid this problem and have to be adaptive to historical culture as no one will want to implement legislation otherwise. In my perspective, if there is something that is a necessity, then it must be implemented. For instance, laws regarding restraining and protective orders were innovative for our culture. In 2005, our group was working on this. Our judges said they felt there wouldn't be many orders issued, but within three months, there were about 150 protective orders. While we are trying to have laws that follow closely with the culture in Georgia, there are some topics that are important and necessary to prevent gender inequality.

Keaton Rannow

With your tremendous experience working in academia, what would you say is the academic community’s role in addressing inequality? Is there a particular aspect of gender equality that academia especially struggles with?

Dr. Marina Meshki

The role of academia is to promote gender equality. Fifteen years ago, when I started teaching, my university was the first to start teaching women's rights, and this trend continued to grow and become more common. There was also the improvement of seminars on domestic violence in universities. Now we have programs to help universities support victims of sexual violence and mental abuse. In Georgia, about 85% students identify as a victim of mental abuse.

Jack Bonnell

How do you feel your work with abused women in Georgia has affected the way you relate to your students and/or the way you teach?

Dr. Marina Meshki

My practical experience has helped me a lot. To combine the theoretical and practical skills, it makes a larger impact on my students and gives them a clearer idea of how it works.

Katie Lilley

Do you believe that women's voices will be heard more if they use social media to share their thoughts?

Dr. Marina Meshki

Media can play a positive and a negative role. We are trying to show different topics of violence to the population and show them that it happens everywhere, including real life. To me, the main message should be to show that violence can happen to anyone, and it is also important to have media display the problems we have in Georgia.

Dr. Juan Carlos Sola Corbacho

How can we prevent the negative views of media from undermining gender equality?

Dr. Marina Meshki

Training. It's not a permanent fix, but it works as a temporary measure in combating this issue. Training journalists could help make them more sensitive to gender issues. It's important how they give the information to the population. It's a specific set of skills needed for journalists and continues to need more support and development as it remains problematic in Georgia.

Dr. Juan Carlos Sola Corbacho

Thank you very much. It's been an honor speaking with you, and thank you for not only being with us, but also for doing what you are doing in your country to achieve gender equality.

Dr. Marina Meshki

Thank you. Thank you for your questions. Thank you very much.

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