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Femicide in Media 58

Every year approximately 70 000 women and girls are killed worldwide. Millions of abortions are made only because the fetus is a female. Actual numbers of femicide are believed to be much higher.

Diana Russel was the first to define femicide and thus pave the way to its study. According to Russel, femicide is murdering a woman by a man due to her sex. Such murders are triggered by contempt, desire to humiliate, lust, subjugation, or committed just for fun (Diana Russel and Jane Caputt, 1990).

Later on, the Vienna Declaration defined femicide as murder of women or girls due to their sex (The Vienna declaration 2012).

There are several forms of femicide:

torture, killing a woman by her sexual partner, a dignity-based or deliberate murder of women in an armed conflict, killing because of the dowry, sexual orientation, murder of indigenous females, infanticide, selective abortions of female fetuses, lethal genital mutilation, killing of alleged witches, etc. kinds of femicide related to carrying arms, trafficking, drug dealing or organized crime (The Vienna declaration 2012).

Such kinds of femicide (killing a woman by her sexual partner, dignity-based murder and selective abortions of female fetuses) occur in Georgia as well.

The Georgian Media reports of 27 women killed in the 11 months of 2014 brought femicide into the foreground and caused a public outcry. The headlines such as “Husband Cuts his Wife’s Throat in the Village of Darcheti”; “Husband Kills his Wife in the Village of Dvabzu”; “In Marneuli, a 51 Year Old Man Rapes a17 Year Old Girl, Cuts her Throat, Burns and Buries her in his Own Backyard”; “Tragedy in Kobuleti: A Husband Kills his Pregnant Wife and then Himself”. . . became recurrent.

Regardless of a broad Media coverage of femicide, the government scarcely paid any attention to it saying that it was biased. The high officials: the PM, Secretary or Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Justice or Education Secretaries downplayed the incidents saying that femicide numbers were about the same as earlier but this time they had not been swept under the carpet.

However, as Frank Ocberg, the distinguished psychiatrist states: it’s not the frequency of reporting violence or murder that Media is to be held responsible for but the quality and in-depth coverage thereof.

However, the situation changed drastically after the murder of 17 October 2014 when a former husband recently released from prison killed his ex-wife and then committed a suicide in front of the professors and students of the Tbilisi-based Ilia University.

Regardless of the contrary speculations, the official statistics made public on 20 November 2014 speak about 18% cut of criminal offences YOY, with 68.11% investigated (Interpressnews). The MIA reports between October2014 – January 2015 are about the same.

On 29 July 2014, I approached the Interior Ministry with a formal request for information on homicide/femicide. Their data was as follows: 2, 2 and 3 cases of murder of a woman by a partner in 2012-2013-2014 (respectively), which seemed doubtful at the time and even more so after the publicized killings of 27 women in 2014. My request for information on the cases of homicide of 21 November 2014 has been left without response to this day.

It’s hardly possible to analyze the problem due to the unavailability of the detailed information. Meanwhile, the analysis would prevent such crimes and help develop the appropriate polices.

My analysis is based on the 1 October-7 November 2014 monitoring of the Media coverage of femicide cases in Georgia. There have been 78, 80, 85, 18 TV reports broadcast by Rustavi 2, Channel I, Maestro and  Ertsulovneba channels (respectively) and 34 features published in “Kviris Palitra” and “Alia” newspapers.

I classified the reports according to the following criteria: the time, venue and type of  femicide, the weapon used and number of children orphaned as a result of killing women.

The results showed that 3 cases involved girls under 17, 11 – women from 17 to 35 and 9 cases – females aged from 40 to 75. Most cases of femicide occurred in spring and autumn (March-5; April-4; May-3; September-3; October-5). In 5 cases fire arms (including shot-guns) were used; in 12 cases women were stabbed or axed and in 3 cases the murderers committed suicide.

10 cases of femicide were reported in the capital Tbilisi, the others elsewhere in Georgia (the towns of Ozurgeti, Khoni, Gori, Batumi, Rustavi and Kakheti region). 20 children were orphaned.

Most cases of femicide involved sexual partners. There were dignity-based ones when desperate women had to commit a suicide or beaten up (e.g. on 17 September Mrs. Khanum Jeiranova, 30 killed herself in Sagarejo region. Two days earlier, her husband’s relatives had accused her of adultery and forced her to go around the village of Lambalo barefoot. Witnesses say that in the process she was physically and verbally abused by young men) (The Kakheti Press Center).

In the village of Keshalo, Mrs. Limona Alazova was beaten and shot twice by her husband’s relatives due to the alleged adultery. She survived and accounted that her husband’s cousins had noticed a car with a stranger in it close to her house and decided that she was unfaithful to her late husband. She reported that they had been forcing her to commit a suicide and threatened to kill her if she returned to the village. (Rustavi 2).

The femicide cases did not receive in-depth coverage. The reporters did not raise a question: “what happens when a deeply-rooted custom stands against law? How do the similar conflicts end up?” The public knows nothing about the investigation of the cases and whether the perpetrators have been punished. There have been no expert opinions concerning the subculture standards and codes of conduct.

It is noteworthy that the Media coverage was mostly based on the accounts of neighbors or third persons who, on their part, relied on hearsay. The phrases like “they say” or “I’ve been told that” etc. were recurrent. In a number of cases neighbors pointed out that violence had taken place as a result of alcohol consumption but once again the issue was not duly covered, with a Maestro TV interview being the only exception.

Public Broadcaster (Channel 1) focused on the official statements and the femicide-related events: some of the Interior Ministry officials met the representatives of the women’s rights NGOs. In his address, Mr. Levan Izoria, Deputy Interior Secretary singled out some of the recent preventive measures and pointed out the results of collaboration between the international organizations and NGOs working on higher police efficiency. As to Rustavi 2 TV, its coverage stood out by big headlines: “MIA reports a jealous husband axing his wife in Guria region”.

As to the official reaction, the PM said: “family violence must be condemned” and promised that a formal statement would follow before long.

After a meeting with various religious leaders, the President said: “2015 may be proclaimed the year of the woman in Georgia”.

The printed Media published the pronouncements made by high-profile journalists, performers and directors. Ms. Inga Grigolia, journalist; “Violence against wives is unacceptable. I’m ready to let them appear in my weekly program”.

Ms. Maia  Asatiani, a TV program hostess: “It’s a shame to try to find an excuse for a murder and say that the victim deserved it”.

Mr. Gia Suramelashvili, singer blames women for keeping mum about family violence.

Mr. Anri Jokhadze, singer: “I think it’s a mentality problem for women opt for men who eventually kill them”.

“A man and a woman! . . . Regretfully, passion-related evil can never be rooted out . . . It’s ridiculous that people kill one another for the throne, the Office etc. True love is something different. There is nothing like it” –   Mr. Robert Sturua, the theatre director posted on his Facebook page.

The analysis makes it difficult to learn whether the public has benefited from the Media coverage of femicide or helped heighten the awareness of the problem, but one thing is certain: in the wake of a broadly publicized murder at Ilia University, the Establishment has admitted that family violence and femicide is a problem: an interagency council has been set up, and on 21 November, the national strategy for prevention of family violence was formally presented.

Women’s rights champions have staged several rallies in front of the State Chancellery.

On 25 November, protest actions were held in 20 Georgian towns.

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