Georgia, like all parts of the Caucasus, remains a male-dominated society.Women are underrepresented in politics society; only 10.8% of parliamentarians are women. And in mainstream society women are mostly employed in unpaid jobs or in jobs with lower wages.
Even though Georgia is facing many gender issues today, the country has expressed the political will to change them through new laws and policies addressing gender equality. The government next to the authorities and women’s NGO’s, are the ones that can make a difference, promoting gender issues as a priority and making the gender-based policies work well in practice. There is a need for more internal commitment from the government and the civil society.
Women’s rights in Georgia are affected by many contexts and traditions. Georgian society is based on a patriarchal system of behavioral patterns, especially in the rural areas; these patterns create a division of roles among women and men, where men have more power than women since the man is the head of the family, also the women’s role are more limited and secondary in comparison with the men’s role.
Many women don’t have access to information about reproductive health services and the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church is pushing the Government to ban the abortions under any circumstances.
Domestic violence is an important gender issue in Georgia; more than 35% of married women have experienced acts of violence and 78% of women consider that cases of domestic violence should remain within the family and not be publicly discusses.
The rise of the religious fundamentalism is also affecting women’s rights and the path to a more equality society.
Ethnic minorities in Georgia often face discrimination, lack of access to information, cultural and language limitations This issue is compounded by the high number of internally displaced persons (IDP) due to the ethnic conflicts. IDP women especially are in vulnerable conditions because of the poverty and lower access to information, rights and skills.
A few months ago Georgia signed a partnership agreement with the EU, for strengthening the link and with the possibility of becoming a future EU membership. One of the core principles in the EU is the gender equality and to eradicate the gender discrimination. In this sense, Georgia will have to work hard to improve their gender policies and make them work.
In Georgia women’s rights remain a huge issue. But the work to address them is already being done. We have a long way to go, but already this country is on the right path. The need for support now is stronger than ever, and we must stand together, each of us, to create equality for all women.
Mercè Girbau is a Georgia-based blogger for the CEN Network. She is an international volunteer at the Women’s Information Centre (Tbilisi) who was born in Barcelona. She has a strong interest in women’s rights and the struggle for female equality and hopes to address these topics in her future blogs.