Gender stereotypes that uphold the idea that women should take care of the children and the housework, for example, are very powerful in society in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These stereotypes prevent women from fully participating in society and they are the reason why Georgian women having limited opportunities to have a career or participate in politics, despite being well-educated.
When Georgia was granted independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, several internal conflicts broke out in the country. These resulted in the formation of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, who remain outside the control of Georgian authorities and are ruled by de facto governments. In 2008 an armed conflict broke out between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. Although the situation has now stabilised, Georgian society is still marked by these unresolved conflicts. The relationship with Russia is strained. During 2014-2015, Abkhazia and South Ossetia signed strategic cooperation and integration agreements with Russia. There is a fear that this will lead to a further narrowing of the space for civil society and hinder the work to strengthen women’s rights in the already isolated de facto regions.
There have been ongoing discussions about potential solutions to the conflicts in the Geneva talks on Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Russia. Women’s organisations have not been seen as relevant actors in these talks and have therefore largely been excluded.
The first democratic elections in Georgia were held in 1992. However, the country’s democracy is still not fully developed. The regime has repeatedly used violence to quell protests and election observers have reported threats against voters. The lack of democracy also manifests itself in the low representation of women in politics. 2015 women held only 11 percent of parliamentary seats. Nevertheless, this represented an increase compared to the 2008 elections, in which women won a mere 6.6 percent of seats.
When it comes to equality and women’s rights, the developments have been rather mixed. On the one hand, Georgia has introduced several laws that protect women’s rights, including a law on domestic violence (2006) and a gender equality law (2010) both with associated action plans, as well as a strategy for human rights (2014). Georgia also has a national action plan for Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
But on the other hand, the understanding of and official will to change traditional and stereotype ideas are still low, in spite of an increased political interest in these issues after Georgia’s 2014 association agreement with the EU. Moreover, the laws to protect women’s rights lack legitimacy – but thanks to the hard work of women organizations the attitudes about men´s violence against women has begun to change and more perpetrators have been prosecuted.
Violence a widespread problem
For a long time, men´s violence against women has been seen as a private matter that should be kept within the family. But in recent years this issue has recieved much attention and 7 out of 10 georgians (2014) now believe that men´s violence against women is a crime. During 2014, the occurence of 25 cases of lethal violence against women led to demonstrations and politicians discussing the seriousness of the situation. However, concrete measures still remain to be taken.
There are no laws on domestic violence in the de breakaway regions. Abkhazia has adopted a law on gender equality, but it lacks an associated action plan and there is no political will to implement it. In 2016 the de facto government of Abkhazia made abortion illegal during all circumstances except for when the fetus has died during pregnancy. The situation in the de breakaway regions is unstable and it is difficult for women’s organisations to work in these isolated areas.
The Orthodox Church has a strong presence in Georgia. The Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, has repeatedly expressed a discriminatory view of women. For example, he has stated that households should be headed by only one (male) person. Homosexuality is a taboo subject and LGBTQ persons are subjected to widespread discrimination and intolerance, sometimes even threats and violence. On the International Day Against Homophobia and transphobia (IDAHO) May 17 2013, LGBTQ activists were brutally attacked by counter-demonstrators, lead by Orthodox priests, when they were trying to have a manifestation.
In May 2014, Georgia adopted an anti-discrimination legislation, which among other things provides LGBTQ persons with legal protection against discrimination. However, the law has been accused of not being comprehensive enough, due to influence from the Orthodow Church – it is, for example, not applicable if discrimination occurs when trying to “protect public order and moral”.
Education but no work
The general level of education is high among both men and women in Georgia. However, there are fewer women in the workforce than men, with just 51 percent compared to 67 percent (2015). This is largely due to the fact that women bear the main responsibility for the home, including caring for children and the elderly. Subsequently many women are economically dependent on men. On average women earn 63 percent of what men earn (2014).
Unemployment is high – in 2013, 17 percent of women and 12 percent of men were unemployed.
Senast uppdaterad: 2016-07-04