Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, but criminal law does not specifically address spousal rape. A convicted first-time offender may be imprisoned for up to seven years. Through September the Prosecutor’s Office initiated investigations in seven rape cases. The government enforced the law effectively.
In cases that do not result in injury, penalties for conviction of domestic violence include 80 to 150 hours of community service or imprisonment for up to one year.
Domestic and other violence against women remained a significant problem. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 12 women died as a result of domestic violence. NGOs reported law enforcement officials and prosecutors in Tbilisi showed improved professionalism in handling domestic violence crimes.
The Ministry reported it opened 2,248 cases of domestic violence through December.
NGOs reported instances of law enforcement officials failing to take action against perpetrators of rape and domestic violence and failing to grant victim status to survivors The Public Defender’s Office noted that low public awareness of domestic violence, violence against women, and women’s rights in general resulted in victims not seeking assistance from authorities.
The Public Defender’s Office blamed the high number of killings of women on the lack of monitoring and risk assessment systems for cases of violence against women and domestic violence. The office called on the government to create an effective system to record and analyze cases of femicide.
Domestic violence laws mandate the provision of temporary protective measures, including shelter and restraining orders that prohibit an abuser from coming within 330 feet of the victim and from using common property, such as a residence or vehicle, for six months. The Public Defender’s Office stated victims often reported receiving inadequate responses from law enforcement officers to restraining order violations.
Local NGOs and the government jointly operated a 24-hour hotline and shelters for abused women and their minor children, although space in the shelters was limited and only four of the country’s 10 regions had facilities.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Kidnapping women for marriage occurred in remote areas and ethnic minority communities but was very rare. Police rarely took action in these cases, because there was usually no way to distinguish whether the event was a kidnapping or an arranged elopement.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace was a problem. The law provides a general definition of harassment, but it does not provide a legal sanction for it. The Public Defender’s Office reported it received three sexual harassment complaints in 2016 and in each case the victim did not want to go to court. The government initiated a sexual harassment training course for all civil servants to raise awareness of the problem.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The equal legal status and rights of women and men was not always respected. Discrimination against women in employment was reported. The law provides for the establishment of a gender equality council in Parliament, enhancement of women’s security, and strengthening of women’s political participation. It stipulates that the government should engage in gender-responsive planning and budgeting. In March parliament passed an action plan to address gender equality reforms. The Public Defender’s Office monitored gender equality cases.
Birth Registration: By law citizenship derives from parents at birth or from birth within the country’s territory. It applies to children of stateless individuals. According to the UNICEF, 99 percent of births were registered before the child reached age five.
Since 2015 UNHCR reported a widening documentation gap in Abkhazia, noting that fewer residents of Gali District held valid documents due to the expiration and nonrenewal of documentation by de facto authorities. It reported that more than 400 returnee children born after 2013 were not given birth certificates because their parents lacked valid documents required for registration.
Education: Children of noncitizens often lacked the documentation to enroll in school. The level of school attendance was low for children belonging to disadvantaged and marginalized groups, such as street children and children with disabilities or in foster care. The Public Defender’s Office reported that violence, negligence, and other forms of mistreatment were still acute in educational institutions.
Child Abuse: According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as of December authorities opened investigations into 460 cases involving different kinds of crimes against children.
Authorities referred children who suffered abuse to the relevant community and government services in coordination with stakeholders, including police, schools, and social service agencies.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both men and women is 18. Conviction of forced marriage of an individual under age 18 is punishable by two to four years’ imprisonment. As of September the Public Defender’s Office was reviewing 22 instances of alleged early marriage and the Ministry of Interior launched investigations into six cases. Reports of child marriages continued throughout the year, although there were no official statistics. Child marriages reportedly occurred more frequently among certain ethnic and religious groups.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. Street children and children living in orphanages were reportedly particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law classifies sexual intercourse with a juvenile as rape, provided the perpetrator is proven to be aware of the victim’s age. The penalty is up to nine years’ imprisonment; the government generally enforced the law. Conviction of other sexual crimes carry increased levels of punishment if the victim was a juvenile.
Displaced Children: Difficult economic conditions contributed to the problem of street children, although it was unclear how many were geographically displaced. The Public Defender’s Office reported a lack of information about street children and noted the inadequacy of resources devoted to them.
According to the Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs, mobile teams established contacts with 908 children working or living on the streets. As of July 204 of these children were enrolled in day care services, 24 were provided shelter services, 73 were enrolled in the education system, and 110 were provided with personal documentation.
Institutionalized Children: The government continued replacing large-scale orphanages with smaller foster-parenting arrangements. According to the Social Service Agency, 302 children were housed in 46 small-group homes and 1,440 children were placed in different forms of foster care. The government provided grants for higher education for institutionalized and foster-care children, including full coverage of tuition and a stipend, and provided emergency assistance to foster families.
UNICEF and a foreign development agency supported the government in developing small-scale facilities for children with severe and profound disabilities with the view to closing the Tbilisi infant home.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
Observers estimated the Jewish community to be no more than 6,000 persons. There were no reliable reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
While the constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, the judicial system and right to a fair trial, and the provision of other government or private-sector services, the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. The Public Defender’s Office reported that persons with disabilities continued to encounter barriers to participating fully in public life. Many families with children with disabilities considered themselves stigmatized and kept their children from public view. Discrimination in employment was also a problem.
The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities and stipulates fines for noncompliance. Very few public facilities or buildings, however, were accessible. Public and private transportation generally did not accommodate persons with disabilities, and sidewalk and street-crossing access was poor.
The Public Defender’s Office stated that inclusive education remained a major challenge. Despite the introduction of inclusive education in professional and general educational institutions, preschool and higher education were not part of the system. Only a limited number of preschools among the 165 monitored by the Public Defender’s Office in Tbilisi in 2016 were accessible to children with disabilities.
The Public Defender’s Office reported that state-run institutions caring for persons with disabilities lacked the infrastructure, trained staff, psychosocial services, and contact with the outside world and families needed to provide for the delivery of services. It raised concerns about a high number of deaths of residents in regional facilities. The Ministry of Internal Affairs opened investigations into several deaths at state-run institutions, but the Public Defender’s Office reported its study of these investigations revealed the investigations were ineffective.
In April parents of children with disabilities protested the unequal distribution of government assistance for persons with disabilities and claimed that only children in some regions received government funding. The parents requested an increased budget for rehabilitation programs for children with disabilities.
A report on the privatization of psychiatric facilities in the country by the Foundation Global Initiative on Psychiatry–Tbilisi, the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry, and the Public Defender of Georgia described overcrowding at the Naneishvili Psychiatric Health Center (Kutiri hospital), where some patients slept in halls. The physical and sanitary conditions were poor, and the hospital offered little therapeutic treatment.
The Public Defender’s Office and NGOs reported some instances of discrimination against minority communities. The Public Defender’s Office noted that from September 2015 to August 2016, it received more than a dozen claims of discrimination based on national/ethnic origin. Minority rights NGOs reported that victims rarely registered claims due to a lack of knowledge about their rights and criticized authorities for not raising greater awareness in minority communities.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there were no reports of crimes committed on the basis of race, nationality, or ethnicity in recent years.
The media reported numerous cases of hate speech targeting minority groups.
Weak Georgian-language skills were the main impediment to integration for members of the country’s ethnic minorities, although political, civic, economic, and cultural obstacles to integration also remained. Ethnic Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Abkhaz, Ossetians, and Russians usually communicated in their native languages or Russian in the areas where they were the dominant groups. Some minorities asserted that the law requiring “adequate command of the official language” to work as a civil servant excluded them from participating in government. The Public Defender’s Office reported that involving ethnic minorities in national decision-making processes remained a problem due to the small number of representatives of ethnic minorities in the central government.
The government continued its “1+4” program for ethnic minorities to study the Georgian language for a year prior to their university studies. According to a quota system, the government assigned 12 percent of all bachelor or higher certificate-level placements to students with ethnic minority backgrounds. Ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani communities each received 5 percent of the slots, while Ossetian and Abkhaz communities received 1 percent each.
The law permits the repatriation of Muslim Meskhetians deported in 1944. According to the Ministry for Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Refugees, and Accommodations, 1,998 of more than 5,841 applications were approved by August. Of this number, 494 applicants received “conditional citizenship,” which, according to a presidential decree, grants them “full Georgian citizenship” upon renouncing their foreign citizenship within five years.
The legal status of ethnic Georgians living in the Gali District of Abkhazia was unclear. The community faced problems receiving education in the Georgian language. According to the EUMM, unlike in 2016, some Gali students seeking to attend school in Georgian government-administered territory faced difficulties at the start of the school year crossing the administrative boundary to attend school. In 2015 de facto authorities shifted the language of instruction for students in first through fourth grades in Lower Gali to Russian. According to the Abkhaz government-in-exile, in the Tkvarcheli and Ochamchire zones, Russian was the only instructional language and, since the 2008 conflict, the de facto government prohibited Georgian language instruction. Teachers who did not speak Russian had to memorize lessons in Russian, although some continued to instruct students informally in Georgian. The Public Defender’s Office noted that, in the Gali, Ochamchire, and Tkvarcheli Districts, ethnic Georgian students and teachers had poor command of Russian, and therefore Russian-only instruction had significantly affected the quality of their education. Local communities had either to pay for teachers, arrange for teachers to cross from undisputed government territory to teach, or send their children across the ABL for Georgian-language lessons. Secondary school graduates had to cross the ABL to take university entrance examinations. De facto Abkhaz authorities closed a school in Tagiloni in Lower Gali in November ostensibly due to low numbers of students, disrupting the education of 23 students who were either transferred to another school in Tagiloni or had to commute to a school in Nabakevi.
In early September, South Ossetian de facto authorities began transitioning all six Georgian curriculum schools and two kindergartens in Akhalgori District to Russian, for the majority of subject teaching, starting with the first through fourth grades.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The constitution provides for fundamental equality before the law, and a variety of laws or regulations contain antidiscrimination provisions. The criminal code makes acting on the basis of prejudice because of a person’s sexual orientation an aggravating factor for all crimes.
The Public Defender’s Office reported that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals continued to experience systemic violence, oppression, abuse, intolerance, and discrimination in every sphere of life. According to NGOs, the government rarely enforced the law, and law enforcement authorities lacked robust training on hate crimes.
LGBTI organizations, NGOs, and the Public Defender’s Office reported societal prejudices against LGBTI individuals remained strong. The organizations reported that the government’s ineffective antidiscrimination policy reduced the LGBTI community’s trust in state institutions and pointed to some homophobic statements by politicians and public officials as furthering hatred and intolerance against the LGBTI community.
In August, two LGBTI organization leaders accused police officers from Batumi’s sixth precinct of inhuman and degrading treatment, including physical abuse. The individuals alleged that police failed to intervene when several persons physically assaulted them on the street. The law enforcement officials subsequently arrested the two LGBTI individuals, who reported that the officials mistreated them in detention. The courts fined the LGBTI individuals 300 lari ($120) each for disobeying police. None of the alleged attackers was detained. The Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Office of the Inspector General and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office opened investigations into the incident. As of September the investigations continued.
In February the Tbilisi City Court of Appeals’ upheld a Tbilisi City Court’s 2015 ruling that the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not provide for the safety of activists in the 2013 rally to mark the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHOT). The Tbilisi City Court had also ruled that the Ministry of Internal Affairs should compensate participants 12,500 lari ($5,000) for the moral damage they suffered. On September 17, the Ministry of Internal Affairs appealed the appellate court’s decision to the Supreme Court; the Supreme Court ruled the ministry’s appeal inadmissible.
According to the LGBTI community, the law provides for gender recognition for transgender persons. NGOs reported, however, that the Civil Registry Office and Service Development Agency standard requires applicants to present proof of gender reassignment surgery in order to change their gender status in official documents.
On May 17, LGBTI organizations were able to hold an IDAHOT rally without incident. All of the approximately 200 participants arrived in government-provided, secure transportation, and law enforcement agencies restricted pedestrian and vehicle traffic for several blocks around the rally location. Some NGOs considered the rally a step forward but noted the tight security controls restricted freedom of assembly.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Stigma and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS were major barriers to HIV/AIDS prevention and service utilization. Negative social attitudes and low public awareness also remained obstacles. NGOs reported that social stigma caused individuals to avoid testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS. Some health-care providers, particularly dentists, refused to provide services to HIV-positive persons. Individuals often concealed their HIV/AIDS status from employers due to fear of losing their jobs.