English teacher Maka Tsivtsivadze was instructing a class in downtown Ilia State University on October 17, when her ex-husband, Lasha Maghradze, peeped in and asked her to step out into the hall. He shot her with a gun he had concealed, and then killed himself. Tsivtsivadze died of her wounds in the hospital.
It was the most brazen in a wave of femicides that has shocked Georgia this year, but it was not the last one. Just two days later, a 60-year-old man killed his wife in a remote village. Earlier, an ex-husband shot dead his former wife on a street in Tbilisi and also killed her brother who tried to rescue her.
The number of women killed this year is believed now to stand at 23, based on an earlier assessment by human rights defender Ucha Nanuashvili .
Amidst the search for an explanation -- and a solution -- to the series of wife-murders, a group of activists on October 21 held a protest-performance in front of the country's government headquarters in Tbilisi to pressure officials to come up with a response. The demonstrators, mostly women, blindfolded themselves, taped their mouths shut, and clanked spoons on saucepans. "The government has not even taken in the problem, much less is doing anything about it,” one of the participants, art critic and feminist activist Teo Khatiashvili, said.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili called for making 2015 a year of women, and Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili promised to prioritize tackling domestic violence, but nothing concrete has been offered. A comment from female Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani that Georgia’s crime level has not increased, "it's just husbands are killing their wives,” has hardly helped to reassure critics.
But Tsulukiani herself has expressed dissatisfaction that the death of a former colleague, killed in May by her ex-husband, is being investigated under the criminal code as a premeditated attempt to cause grievous bodily harm, rather than as a murder. The government, she contined, is working together on a "mechanism" to stop such killings.
Protesters, for one, have demanded that police take women's complaints about threats from abusive husbands or ex-husbands more seriously. Tsivtsivadze repeatedly asked police for protection. Similar requests failed to save the life of 22-year old Salome Jorbendze, shot dead by her ex-husband, a police officer, in July.
Violence against women in Georgia is typically linked to the patriarchal, it's-a-man's-world culture inherent in the Caucasus. Khatiashvili believes that poverty, constant stress and an embittered, post-war mood is exacerbating the situation. Another factor, she said, is the jaundice against women who increasingly challenge traditional views on gender roles and choose to pursue a professional career and walk out on abusive relationships.