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Initial report dated 9 March 1998 (CEDAW/C/GEO/1)

Soon after gaining independence from Soviet Union in April 1991,1 Georgia (Sak'art'velo in Georgian) was shattered by civil war. As a result, within a two-year period, one of the richest republics "famous for feting visitors with champagne, caviar and gifts" became "one of the poorer nations on earth, its hotels metamorphosed into refugee camps."2 Although a cease-fire has been in effect since 1994 and UN-led efforts to find a resolution to the conflict are under way, political instability in Georgia has continued into 1999. In 1998, Georgia's president narrowly escaped injury in an assassination attempt, and the conflict in the separatists Abkhazia (Gali region) erupted again. At the same time, in recent years Georgia has experienced a remarkable transformation and reconstruction not only in the economic but also in the political and social realms. In addition to new investments and booming businesses, the Georgian government has taken concrete steps to fight corruption and to increase transparency and professionalism of governmental institutions, particularly the legislature3 and the judiciary. The country has a free press and an active and diverse civil society and NGO community. It also is active in regional organizations.4 Georgia belongs to the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), a security alliance of twelve countries formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union, is a party to the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) security treaty agreement, and has sought membership of the Council of Europe.5

A country of 5.4 million people,6 Georgia borders Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey, and the Black Sea. It incorporates two autonomous republics, Abkhazia and Ajaria. The main ethnic groups are Georgian (seventy percent), Armenian (eight percent), Russian (6.3 percent), Azeri (5.7 percent), Ossetian (three percent) and Abkhaz (1.8 percent). Christian Orthodox religion is practiced by seventy-five percent of the population (Georgian Orthodox by sixty-five percent and Russian Orthodox by ten percent). Other religions include Islam and Armenian Orthodox.7 The official language, Georgian, is spoken by seventy-one percent of the population, Armenian by seven percent, Azeri by six percent, and Russian by nine percent.

Government and Politics

Eduard Shevardnadze, former Soviet foreign minister, of the center-left Union of Citizens of Georgia (UCG) became the head of state in 1992, invited by a coalition that removed president Zviad Gamasakhurdia8 from power.9 He was formally elected president in November 1995. With the help of Western financial aid, and despite repeated attempts to remove him from power, he has been credited by many for his steady attempts to establish democratic structures and institutions.10 According to some analysts, Shevardnadze's government is "one of the more progressive and well-intentioned in the region"11 and it is believed that his death could plunge the whole region into chaos.12 Shevardnadze has experienced three attempts on his life, the most serious one in February 1998, which left two bodyguards dead. In October 1998, supporters of Gamasakhurdia again tried to remove him from power. In April 1999, Shevardnadze stated publicly that he knew about new plans to assassinate him.13 While the supporters of the late Gamasakhurdia have been implicated in the assassination attempts, there have been various speculations about who is really behind the attacks.

Georgia has a unicameral legislature of 235 members who are elected directly for a four-year term, and the next parliamentary election is scheduled for November 1999. The president is the head of state, elected directly, and he or she appoints the Council of Ministers. In July and August 1998, a reform of the ministerial structure was carried out.14

Women in Politics

Women's representation in the power structures has declined sharply since the fall of Communism; there is only one woman minister, Trade and Foreign Economics Minister Tamar Beruchasvili.15 According to one political observer who works with Georgian politicians in the legislative committees, many of the influential women in parliament have no interest specifically in issues concerning women as they are aware that they would put their career at risk if they were seen as "women's or feminist politicians."16

Conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Since 1989, major conflicts erupted in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In both cases, the leaders of national movements attempted to cut ties with Georgia (initially, in order to join Russian Federation) relying on Russian political and military assistance.17

By 1994, when a cease-fire was declared, the conflict in Abkhazia had resulted in deaths of 10,000 people and produced 270,000 displaced persons: Georgians, Abkhazians, Ossetians, Armenians, Russians and others.18 The Russian military has been stationed on four bases in Georgian territory despite the country's leadership attempts to reduce the Russian presence.19 Despite the cease-fire, eruptions of violence occur periodically, the most recent in May 1998. As of May 1999, tensions between the Georgian and the separatist administration in Abkhazia have lessened and the sides returned to negotiations on the status of the state.

In 1989, as in Abkhazia, Georgia dismissed Ossetian claims for autonomy. In 1989, the South Ossetia region had a population of 100,000 of whom over sixty-six percent were Ossetes and twenty-nine percent were Georgians.20 The conflict that erupted in 1989 in South Ossetia was less violent than that in Abkhazia. The war resulted in about a thousand of civilian deaths, 30,000 to 100,000 refugees, and the destruction of ninety-three villages.21 The cease-fire has been in effect since 1992. Leaders in South Ossetia proclaimed the "South Ossetian republic" declaring Ludwig Chibirov the President. Elections for a parliament are scheduled for May 1999,22 over protests from President Shevardnadze, who deems them illegal since the talks concerning the settlement of the 1989-1992 Georgian-Ossetian conflict have not concluded.23


Georgia's economic situation remains fragile. After double-digit growth rates of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1996-1997 and the first quarter of 1998, GDP growth fell to 2.9 percent for 1998. Experts forecast a continued slowdown and a two-percent growth rate in 1999. Georgia's economy has been affected by the crisis in neighboring Russia. Georgia has one of the lowest tax rates in the world (taxes constitute nine percent of the GDP), and the government has been reluctant to initiate an unpopular reform of the system which would increase the tax base.24 Moreover, economic reforms including privatization are at a fairly early stage and the often inefficient public sector remains large.25 One of the most acute economic problems is the lack of energy, except for hydro-power, which contributes to frequent shortages and electricity cutoffs and has indebted Georgia to its neighbors.

Georgia has an important geopolitical location in the Caucasus. It has been the primary conduit for transporting goods in the area. It also will benefit from two planned oil pipelines from Azerbaijan to be built in its territory. Recently, cooperation with Azerbaijan has gained momentum and in April 1999, one of the two planned oil pipelines designed running from Azerbaijan through Georgia to the Black Sea (Baku-Supsa) was completed.26 Georgia expects to earn US$7 million annually from oil transit tariffs from the pipeline in addition to political benefits stemming from a measure of control over important resources.27

The estimated per capita income stood at US$840 in 1997. One-third of the population lives in poverty. According to data released by the Georgian State Department for Statistics in April 1999, unemployment stands at about twelve percent.28

Human Rights and Freedom of Expression

In April 1999, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized Georgia for impunity of its security forces. HRW blamed the Georgian government particularly for its ineffective investigation of recent deaths of detainees in police custody. There have been five such incidents in recent years. In the most recent incident, a young woman died falling from the window of the upper floors of the Ministry of Internal Affairs building while being questioned. The 28-year-old Eka Tavartkiladze plunged to her death during interrogation by three police officers. The Ministry has declared the detainee deaths to be suicides, but forensic reports were unable to conclude if some of the severe open wounds and other injuries found on Tavartkiladze were sustained prior to the fall. HRW called for greater transparency of such investigations including publishing the results in mass media.29


Although the Georgian media are well organized and have been able to report without major constraints, the turbulent political events of recent years and the government's attempts to retain political control have affected some journalists and media outlets. In 1998, several reporters suffered harassment and violent attacks. In June 1998, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of State Security of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia filed libel suits against the independent weekly Kavkasioni and its editor, Sozar Subeliani.30 In September 1998, armed attackers beat Lasha Nadareishvili and David Okropiridze, editor in chief and a reporter of the independent weekly Asaval-Dasavali.31 In another instance of harassment, the Ministry of Defense called Amiran Meskheli, a correspondent for the newspaper Orioni, for military service following the publication of an article containing interviews with several soldiers. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also reported that some local governments have attempted to limit media access to public information and harassed independent media outlets by imposing politically motivated "overzealous tax inspections."32

The Georgian press law gives journalists and media outlets the right to file appeals in disputes with government agencies over licensing and accreditation. Although it explicitly prohibits censorship, the law contains limits on reporting which provide opportunity for abuse. The limits include disclosing "state secrets," hate speech and inflammatory language, as well as encroachment on "the honor and dignity" of citizens.33

Women's NGOs

Women's human rights NGOs in Georgia focus on a variety of issues, such as reproductive health, employment, political empowerment, environment, legal aspects of women's status, employment, culture and arts. Many groups collaborate on various issues and human rights reporting. One of the most active organizations is the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA), which has a women's rights study group. GYLA works to increase awareness of women's legal situation, particularly in relation to domestic violence and family law. The group provides free legal consultation to individuals (it receives 30-40 calls a day), as well as workshops on domestic and international legal instruments for women, such as CEDAW, for women's NGOs. It also organizes training seminars for attorneys.34 The Feminist Club is a new organization established to promote feminism and women's human rights in society; it is the only NGO using the word "feminism" explicitly in its name and work.

The Family Planning Association in Georgia (FPAGEO) advocates access to safe, effective and affordable methods of family planning and sex education. The organization views access to family planning education and services as a human right. FPAGEO runs programs at some seventeen camps for displaced people.35 The Georgian Association for Facilitating Women's Employment Amagdari assists women in finding employment to improve their social status and help women adjust to new socio-economic circumstances. Amagdari has published articles analyzing Georgian women's disadvantageous position in the labor market.36

The Women's Committee of Abkhazia is a Georgian organization of women who were displaced from the breakaway region. It represents displaced women who live in extremely difficult conditions (such as hospitals, schools and hotels turned into refugee centers), in their demands for protection of rights to housing and assistance.37

The Centre for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG), an NGO which in the past concentrated on various environmental and democratization-related projects, also recently started working on women's issues.38 The International Women's Centre for Education and Information (IWCEI) works to promote democratization in Georgia and emphasizes women's education. IWCEI also supports women in arts and film-making.39


International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1 April 1997). The Human Rights Committee considered the initial report of Georgia (CCPR/C/79/Add.75) on 26 and 27 March 1997.

Main Subjects of Concern:

  • In spite of the elimination of inequalities before the law, women continue to be the victims of unequal treatment and discrimination in the political, economic and social spheres. Methods of contraception other than abortion are very difficult to obtain.
  • Increase in the number of children affected by poverty and social dislocation and the concomitant increase in the number of street children, delinquents and drug addicts.

Suggestions and Recommendations:

  • Take urgent steps to protect children in accordance with the provisions of article 24 of the Covenant.
  • Draw up educational and training programs with a view to developing a culture of respect for human rights in all sectors of the population, inter alia, judges, the security forces and prison personnel. These programs should also emphasize that women are entitled to full enjoyment of their fundamental rights.


1 In the referendum, ninety-eight percent voted to secede. back

2 Peter Nasmyth, Georgia. In the Mountains of Poetry (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1998), xi. back

3 IWRAW interview with Johann Hammels on 9 September 1998, Tbilisi, Georgia. back

4 Peter Nasmyth, xi. back

5 "Georgia Likely to Join the Council of Europe," BBC News Online, 27 January 1999, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk. back

6 World Bank, Countries: Georgia (September 1998), on-line, available at http://www.worldbank.org, accessed 20 April 1999. back

7 "GEORGIA," CIS Today (London: Arena Publications, Summer 1998): 98-99. back

8 Zviad Gamasakhurdia and his political party Round Table-Free Georgia, emerged as Georgia was regaining independence in 1990. He was elected president by sixty-two percent of the vote and was subsequently ousted by a coalition of his enemies in 1992. Gamasakhurdia, a poet and translator who believed that "Georgia had been chosen by God to be the bridge between East and West,and that God would appear on earth at the Final Judgment speaking Georgian" and whom some dismissed as mentally unbalanced,8 died in obscure circumstances in a remote village in Western Georgia in December 1993 as he tried to retake power. His supporters of the Round Table group remain in opposition and periodically stage protests to remind they are still active. In February 1998, for instance, they held several UN observers hostage. Gamasakhurdia has become a symbol of resistance for both separatists and opposition back

9 "Politics of Oil Fuels Georgia Revolt," BBC News On-line, 19 October 1998, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk. back

10 Peter Nasmyth, xii. back

11 "Georgia: Risky Business," Economist Intelligence Unit, 10 April 1999, Nexis (19 April 1999). back

12 David Boyle, "Who tried to kill Eduard Shevardnadze?," CIS Today (London: Arena Publications, Summer 1998): 101-102. back

13 "Georgian Leader Aware of New Assassination Plans," Interfax News Agency (Russia), 5 April 1999; BBC (source: Prime-News News Agency, Tbilisi, Georgia), 2 April 1999, Nexis (19 April 1999). back

14 "People in Power: Georgia," Cambridge International Reference on Current Affairs (January 1999), Nexis (16 April 1999). back

15 Ibid. back

16 IWRAW interview with Johann Hammels on 9 September 1998, Tbilisi, Georgia. back

17 Gail W. Lapidus, "Conflict Resolution in the Caucasus," Congressional Program: U.S. Relations with Former Soviet States vol. 13, no. 3 (Queenstown, MD: The Aspen Institute, 23rd conference 17-21 August 1998): 25. back

18 Lika Nadaraia, Feminist Club, Tbilisi, Georgia, draft report on Georgia, January 1999; Steve LeVine, "A Lesson in Caucasus: Even War Has Rules," New York Times, 14 February 1999, Nexis (9 April 1999); World Bank, Countries: Georgia (September 1998), on-line, available at http://www.worldbank.org, accessed 20 April 1999. back

19 Gail W. Lapidus, 27. back

20 Alexei Zveryev, "Ethnic Conflicts in the Caucasus 1988-1994," In: Bruno Coppieters, ed. Contested Borders in the Caucasus (Brussels, Belgium: VUB University Press, 1996), 39. back

21 Ibid., 47. back

22 "Georgian President Confident that Azerbaijan-Turkey Pipeline Will be Built," BBC, 19 April 1999, Nexis. back

23 "Georgians refuse to nominate candidates to South Ossetian parliament," BBC (source: Prime-News News Agency, Tbilisi, Georgia), 23 April 1999, Nexis. back

24 "Georgia: Country Outlook," Economist Intelligence Unit, 14 April 1999, Nexis, 19 April 1999. back

25 World Bank, Countries: Georgia (September 1998), on-line, available at http://www.worldbank.org, accessed 20 April 1999. back

26 "Georgia: Country Outlook." back

27 Jeanne Whalen, "Pipiline Opens Way for Caspian Riches," Financial Times (London), 19 April 1999, Nexis. back

28 "Unemployment Figures Released," BBC (source: Kavkasia-Press News Agency, Tbilisi, Georgia), 16 April 1999, Nexis, 19 April 1999; Out of 2.1 million people who are available to work, there are 259,000 unemployed in Georgia. back

29 "International Human Rights body Censures Georgian Authorities for Inertia," BBC (Kavkasia-Press News Agency, Tbilisi, Georgia), 18 April 1999, Nexis (19 April 1999). back

30 Committee to Protect Journalists, Country Report 1998: Georgia, available from: http://www.cpj.org/countrystatus/1998/Europe/Georgia.html, accessed on 13 April 1999. back

31 Ibid. back

32 Ibid. back

33 TransCaucasus: A Chronology: Press Freedom in Georgia, 1997, available at http://www.soros.org/caucasus/index.htm, accessed 6 June 1998. back

34 IWRAW interview with Marina Meskhi and Tinatin Khidasheli of GYLA on 15 and 16 September 1998, Tbilisi, Georgia. back

35 IWRAW interview with Nino Tsuleiskiri of FPAGEO, 18 September 1998, Tbilisi, Georgia. back

36 Brochure of Amagdari ; IWRAW interview with Nino Shioshvili on September in Tbilisi, Georgia. back

37 IWRAW interview with Roza Kukhalasvili of Women's Committee of Abkhazia on 17 September 1998, Tbilisi, Georgia. back

38 IWRAW interview with Irina Khantadze of CSRDG on 16 September 1998, Tbilisi, Georgia. back

39 IWRAW interview with Tamara Abramishvili of the International Women's Centre for Education and Information on 18 September 1998, Tbilisi, Georgia. back





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