What does (not) the Gender Equality Council of the Supreme Council of Adjara do?
The Gender Equality Council of the Supreme Council of Adjara does not properly exercise its powers – since it was created, the Council has not made any significant efforts to eliminate violence against women in the region, to strengthen women’s political representation, and to raise citizens’ consciousness about these issues. The circumstances studied and presented by TI Georgia make it necessary to make essential changes in order to increase the effectiveness of the Council’s work.
General overview of the work of the Gender Equality Council
The creation of the Gender Equality Council at the Supreme Council of Adjara was preceded by the formation of, first, the Advisory Council on Gender Equality and then the Gender Equality Council at the Parliament of Georgia.
The Council at the Parliament of Georgia is obliged to create and develop gender-sensitive legislation, discuss relevant strategies, exercise control on the activities of agencies accountable to the Parliament of Georgia, hold events designed for the empowerment of women, and raise the general consciousness about gender issues.
On May 16, 2014, the Gender Equality Council set up at the Supreme Council of Adjara was tasked with working in a systematic and coordinated manner with the Gender Equality Council at the Parliament of Georgia.
The Council, which was founded in 2014, consisted of 10 members of the Supreme Council of Adjara and was authorized to develop and implement an action plan, conduct a gender analysis of the legislation of Adjara in order to submit initiatives, hold various events, conduct studies, and submit recommendations in connection with concrete issues.
The main guiding document for the Gender Equality Council at the Supreme Council of Adjara of the convocation of 2012-2016 was the Action Plan approved in May 2016, which prescribes the commitments and activities of the Gender Equality Council for the years 2016-2018.
After the parliamentary elections and elections of the Supreme Council of Adjara of 2016, on March 16, 2017, a new Gender Equality Council was staffed and, later, the Action Plan for 2019-2020 was developed under new Supreme Council.
On the basis of public information requested from the Supreme Council of Adjara and open sources, TI Georgia has conducted a study to ascertain the extent to which the Action Plan for 2016-2018 was implemented and what portion of the Action Plan for 2019-2020 has been fulfilled at this stage.
The Gender Equality Council of the Supreme Council of Adjara fulfilled only 6 commitments provided for by the Action Plan for 2016-2018, 4 of which were fulfilled incompletely. Since 2016, the Council has not presented any studies devoted to the evaluation of the rights situation of women in the region. As for legislative initiatives, despite the fact that in 2017 the Council raised the issue of introduction of the system of gender quotas to the legislation of Adjara, serious work for the adoption and implementation of this initiative has not yet begun.
As for the Action Plan for 2019-2020, only 2 of the 28 activities provided for by this document have been implemented so far.
The Action Plan for 2016-2018: Overview of commitments that were implemented fully and partially
According to the Action Plan for 2016-2018, the Gender Equality Council was to carry out 28 various types of activities in order to fulfill 6 goals, which would contribute to elimination of violence against women, enhancement of the level of education and consciousness, increasing of women’s participation in decision-making process, gender budgeting, development of gender-sensitive legislation, and creation of institutional mechanisms for gender equality in Adjara.
According to the activity report for 2016-2018, the Council convened 4 meetings and held 16 events. The Council implemented only 6 of the 28 activities provided for by the Action Plan, 4 of which were implemented incompletely.
Organization of meetings and training sessions to discuss issues of gender equality with political parties and to prepare female candidates for the elections of the Supreme Council of Adjara is one of the activities from the Action Plan for 2016-2018 which the Council implemented incompletely. Specifically, on July 24, 2017, on the initiative of the Chairperson of the Gender Equality Council, Nino Chkhetia, and NGO Journalists’ Network for Gender Equality, a meeting was held with representatives of various political parties, governmental organizations, and NGOs in Batumi. Organization of this event cannot be considered as fulfillment of the commitment by the Council – holding only one meeting is not enough for achieving the aforementioned goals. In addition, the Council has not planned any training sessions related to the said issues.
As for development of legislative initiatives in support of increasing the number of women in the elections of the Supreme Council of Adjara, in 2017 the Gender Equality Council came up with an initiative on amendments to the Law on Elections of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara. This initiative concerns the issue of gender quotas, which aims to eliminate political isolation of women, although the Supreme Council didn’t consider the initiative.
As to one more commitment prescribed by the Action Plan – creation of a shelter for victims of violence, on June 26, 2017, the Chairperson of the Council, Nino Chkhetia, applied to the Minister of Finance and Economy of Adjara with a request to allocate a space owned by the Autonomous Republic of Adjara for this purpose. In spite of the readiness expressed in the Ministry’s letter, the agency has yet to select the space.
It should be noted that at a session held on February 23, 2018, on the recommendation of an international foundation, the Gender Equality Council of the Supreme Council of Adjara offered cooperation to representatives of the Government, ministries, the Public Broadcaster, and NGOs of Adjara. The goals of the cooperation were the dissemination of the policy of equality between men and women, political empowerment of women, and implementation of gender budgeting in the region. For this reason, it was decided to create an interagency commission. This commission was established on April 13, 2018, although the Council has not provided us with information about the effectiveness of the commission, or about whether or not it has met at all.
On July 7, 2017, the Gender Equality Council concluded a memorandum of cooperation with the international organization Mercy Corps, the municipal administrations of Adjara, and women’s rooms at N(N)LE Association of Businesswomen of Adjara. The memorandum aims to strengthen the institutional mechanisms of gender equality and to contribute to gender mainstreaming in municipalities by means of trainings, information meetings, and studies.
In spite of the fact that at a large meeting of female entrepreneurs in December 2017, the Vice-Speaker of the Council, Merab Karanadze, stated that the Council was actively working to support women in the region in accordance with the goals of the aforementioned memorandum, TI Georgia finds it difficult to understand what the representative of the Council meant: the staff of the Supreme Council has not provided us with information about these initiatives or about activities carried out by the Gender Equality Council for economic empowerment of women.
The Action Plan for 2019-2020
On December 25, 2018, the Gender Equality Council held a discussion on a new action plan with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
The Action Plan for 2019-2020 includes both old and new goals:
According to the information provided by the Council, a group of organizational and technical support for the Gender Equality Council has been established at the Supreme Council in order to create and strengthen institutional mechanisms of gender equality. The group is composed of the staff members of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal, and Procedural Issues and an assistant to the Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee. In addition, the position of Advisor to the Government of Adjara has been created at the Gender Equality Council.
At the same time, the Council has planned training sessions, on-site meetings, and legislative amendments in order to increase women’s participation in decision-making, about which Nino Chkhetia talked at the session of June 6, 2019. In spite of this, the implementation of this goal has yet to begin.
As for raising the level of education and public consciousness about gender issues, according to the Council, the responsibility for holding the events related to this goal lies with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Adjara and with LEPL Adjara TV and Radio of the Public Broadcaster, while the Gender Equality Council is supposed to monitor their activities. TI Georgia does not know whether the Council has approached the aforementioned agencies with relevant recommendations to achieve the said goals – we have not received this information from the Gender Equality Council.
Two months remain before the end of 2019, but the Council has not even started working on the goals whose implementation deadline is 2019 – the Council has not provided this information to us or published it on the website.
The passivity of the Council in connection with incidents of sexual harassment and violence in Adjara
It is especially important to emphasize the passivity of the Gender Equality Council in connection with incidents of sexual violence and harassment that have taken place in the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara in recent years.
Considering its powers, the Council is supposed not only to disseminate statements calling for timely investigation into the incidents listed below but also to work proactively to eliminate such incidents.
We present a brief overview of news reports on incidents of gender harassment and child prostitution in the Adjara region in the years 2017-2019. The Gender Equality Council has not responded to any of these incidents:
- In 2017, a doctoral student of Batumi State University accused her thesis supervisor of sexual violence. On January 3 of the same year, the Prosecutor’s Office of Adjara launched an investigation and the case was handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office of Kutaisi. An independent feminist group responded to the incident and approached various agencies with recommendations.
- Also in 2017, the Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an investigation into an alleged incident of sexual harassment that had taken place in one of the public schools of Batumi – the victim was an 11th grade student who stated that a 70-year-old math teacher was sexually harassing her.
- In 2018, Adjara TV produced a story about involvement of underage girls in prostitution in Batumi, including by coercion. The investigative story says that law enforcement agencies are failing to pay attention to the incidents revealed by the journalistic investigation, which points to the State’s inadequate response to the problem, to say the least.
- And in 2019, another student of Batumi State University, aged 19, accused her professor, Omar Makharadze – a member of the City Council of Batumi from the Georgian Dream party – of sexual harassment. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is conducting an investigation into the incident. Makharadze, whose contract with the university was terminated, left the Commission on Legal and Procedural Issues of the City Council of Batumi, though he retained his seat in the City Council. The incident has elicited the response of NGOs on several occasions.
These incidents are directly related to the problems and goals that the Gender Equality Council of the Supreme Council of Adjara should be trying to address. Unfortunately, together with the Gender Equality Council, the Human Rights Committee of the Supreme Council – which is obliged to carry out activities oriented at the protection of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara – has also failed to respond to the aforementioned pieces of information. Only once, a member of the said Committee and of the Gender Equality Council, Tsotne Ananidze, expressed his opinion about an incident of Internet bullying on the ground of gender in Batumi. The negative evaluation by a certain part of the public took place after several women started working as lifeguards on the Black Sea coast.
Conclusion and recommendations
The present study demonstrates that the Gender Equality Council of the Supreme Council of Adjara is passive and ineffective: the Council has failed to implement the Action Plan for 2016-2018, which provides grounds for assuming that it may also fail to implement the Action Plan for 2019-2020, because a considerable part of the commitments should already have been fulfilled.
Therefore, we call upon the Gender Equality Council of the Supreme Council of Adjara to:
- continue working for the implementation of the Action Plan for 2019-2020 in a timely and effective manner;
- activate the platform of the interagency commission effectively, in order to fulfill the commitments prescribed by the Action Plan;
- actively respond to incidents of violence against women, sexual harassment, early marriage, and involvement of underage girls in prostitution and approach investigative bodies with relevant recommendations;
- intensify proactive work to turn the public’s attention to gender-sensitive issues by means of public discussions, meetings, and campaigns, which may turn out to be a good method for deepening cooperation between the governmental and non-governmental sectors.