The other day while travelling to Batumi I met a woman on the train and we started having a conversation. She asked me what I was doing in Georgia and I explained her that I am a volunteer for the Women’s Information Center in Tbilisi.
Immediately she started talking to me about women’s issues in Georgia and she told me a story that shocked me. She has a friend living in a nearby village. Every time that she visited her she felt sorrow because of her situation. She explained me with pain that her friend, in an elderly age, was physically abused by her husband and son. She angrily told me: “I cannot understand how her son can do this to his mother, she gave birth and raised him..After all she did for him” she said “I guess he is not aware of what is doing, he is just doing what he saw his father doing for many years”. Cases such this one are not only happening in Georgia they are happening everywhere in the world, if we don’t educate our future generations in terms of equality and respect in a inclusive educative system, cases like this one will still happen, from generation to generation.
In my home country of Spain this year already 44 women have died because of domestic violence cases, and the numbers don’t stop increasing. In Georgia 14 women have died because of domestic violence this year, considering that there are less than 5 million inhabitants in Georgia the number of femicide is high.
In Spain, in the 1997 the case of Ana Orantes marked a time when the public started giving special attention to domestic violence cases. Ana Orantes appeared on Spanish television where she spoke out about the abuse that she suffered for many years from her husband, a few weeks after her television appearance she was killed by her husband. This case became a turning point in Spain; the media began giving special importance to domestic and gender violence cases which helped lead to a change in legislation. The media’s special attention towards the issue brought mainstream change across Spanish society. Ana Orantes story was an exceptional one, one that we should not allow to happen again. It was a change in the media that helped improve the situation for women, and that is something that we need again now in Georgia so that domestic violence cases are being brought to mainstream attention.
I think that first of all a coalition with all women NGO´s will make them stronger and more committed, and in that way they will have more influence toward the government and the civil society. At the same time media should commit themselves to respect and contribute towards an equal society. On the 9th of July a TV show called “Bina 18” from GDS Georgian TV Company showed a performance in which men used women´s bodies as musical instruments. Women are often treated as objects in the media, but this event was a particularly literal and disturbing example of this. The media plays an important role in terms of public information and we cannot allow them to show these kinds of sexist attitudes on a TV program. Every change in society requires a commitment by the media, the government and the civil society and if media do not take responsibility, the end of gender inequality will never come.
Sometimes people are not aware of what is happening until appears in the media, even some victims are not aware that are being abused until they hear people talking about it or they get information through media about the issue. That’s why it is important to create networks between people to create understanding, to talk about these issues and to give the victims a voice heard across society.
The root of this problem goes beyond each case; it is not a problem of individuals but of society. Our patriarchal social model leads to inequality. We must be able to ask ourselves what kind of society we have that creates abusers, what society creates this illness. If the root of our problem of gender inequality comes from the society then it is the society that must change.
Mercè Girbau is a Georgia-based blogger for the CEN Network. She is an international volunteer at the Women’s Information Centre(Tbilisi) who was born in Barcelona. She has a strong interest in women’s rights and the struggle for female equality and hopes to address these topics in her future blogs.