The messenger logo

UNICEF urges public sector and civil society to fight child abuse

By Ana Robakidze
Wednesday, December 18
The UNICEF study on violence against children in Georgia released in 2013 shows that about half of the Georgian population is tolerant to physical violence against children. Regrettably, 60% of the population appears to be confident about the benefits of harsh parenting and find it to be the most effective method of parenting. Though 94% of those surveyed clearly realize that children are hurt when they are victims of violence or when they just witness violence at home.

The UNICEF study was conducted with the support of USAID. The study shows the opinion of 3,345 individuals (including 61 professionals: social workers, teachers and school resource officers) randomly selected across the country. Displaying not only facts and figures, but also “the general public’s knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and practices towards the issue of violence against children”, the latest research turns out to be very important.

The study was carried out into two parts – the National Survey of Knowledge, Attitude and Practices and the Analysis of Child Protection Referral Procedures and Recommendations to the Government.

Due to the fact that Georgian families usually form a closed group and refuse to accept professional help in cases of domestic violence, it is usually hard to identify the correct number of child abuse cases and provide the victims with professional assistance. Therefore, the organization actively cooperates with the government, various organizations and the media to spread the word and “Make the Invisible Visible”. Most importantly, to make people become used to the idea that very single case of child abuse is a problem of the whole society and not just one particular family.

Child abuse is not uncommon in other countries of the world, but what makes the situation in Georgia a lot more difficult is that a majority of the citizens refuse to accept the idea of the “authorities” interfering with family affairs. They believe that if a child faces any of the forms of violence in the family, family members are authorized to deal with it and intervention from outside is not desirable. What makes the situation even worse is that teachers, resource officers and social workers, professionals who are obliged to ensure a child's protection, think that a family’s internal affairs are private.

As a result of the joint work of UNICEF and the Georgian government, child protection referral procedures were created and now it is vital to activate these procedures and actually put them to work.

In 2010, an integrated referral system was created in Georgia. The system aims at developing a coordinated mechanism to identify cases of violence against children, assess and address the needs of victims, and pursue justice. Subsequent legislation was signed by the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The decree aimed at developing a coordinated mechanism to identify cases of violence against children, assess and address the needs of the victims, and pursue justice.

The study showed that only 38% of the population has heard of the referral and 80% will most likely report violence against the child if he is aware of to whom to appeal.

Despite the fact that a large number of professionals are aware of the referral procedures, regrettably not many of them realize the exact role they have to play in the procedures.

“22% of social workers do not think it is their job to respond to physical violence, and 26% of social workers do not think it is their responsibility to respond to neglect. 46% of the teachers and school resource officers will respond to violence against the child only if the violence is severe and repetitive.”

UNICEF also provides a number of recommendations which should help to improve the situation in the country. In the report, UNICEF advises that in order to “reverse the tolerance and practice of violence against children in Georgia, a number of important steps must be taken. The public sector and civil society must partner to create legislative changes and public awareness raising campaigns protecting children from violence while changing the public’s mindset. In addition, children and adults should be empowered to report cases of abuse whenever such cases are known. The state’s child protection referral system needs to be strengthened and professionals need to be better trained in order to increase the public’s confidence in child protection mechanisms. Finally, the lack of positive parenting methods constitutes a significant gap that needs to be changed with systematic awareness-raising campaigns and further training of parents.”

In order to increase public awareness, UNICEF holds a number of informative meetings with representatives of the civil sector and closely cooperates with state institutions as well. On December 13-14, UNICEF arranged a meeting with media representatives in order to spread information on child protection in Georgia and the vital problems that victims of violence or social workers are most likely to face.