Women Losing Out in Georgian Politics
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||18 March 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Women Losing Out in Georgian Politics, 18 March 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d884f5a2.html [accessed 28 November 2015]|
Female representation in Georgian politics has fallen to its lowest level since the country became independent in 1991, and leading activists are now asking parties to set quotas for women candidates.
Only three of the 19 ministers in Georgia's government are female, and nine of the 140 members of parliament, while women hold under 12 per cent of seats on local assemblies.
"Women's representation in decision-taking institutions is pretty low. said Tamar Sabedashvili, an adviser with UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women. "Their highest ever level of representation in parliament was in 2003, at 9.4 per cent. If you'd asked me at the time, I'd have said that was low."
Last year, the Georgian parliament passed a law on gender equality which prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination.
Women's rights activists say passing the law was only the beginning, and much more needed to be done.
"I participated in drafting the gender equality law, and while I would say that the final version isn't the one I'd have liked to see, it is a good thing that such a law exists," Maia Kuprava-Sharvashidze, coordinator of the International Advisory Centre for Women's Education, said. "The issue now is that the law must be popularised, so it actually functions rather than existing on paper."
Many see political parties as the potential drivers of change. If they can be persuaded to introduce quotas for women nominated for parliament and other elected positions, it will help change societal opinions more broadly.
Tinatin Khidasheli, one of the leaders of the opposition Republican party, said women made up a majority of the members of her party's national committee, and a third of its secretariat.
"The low representation of women in parliament and local assemblies hasn't been caused by artificial barriers. The blame here lies with women, who clearly aren't sufficiently enough, and on society as a whole, which has gender stereotypes," she said.
"I can't say I've suffered discrimination because of my gender, but I often sensed a view that I should go and rear children and leave this line of work. Of course, when there is a feeling in society that women should do one thing and men another, then many people make their choices under the pressure of this stereotype."
The UN's Sabedashvili said opinion polls confirmed that female politicians often had a tough time persuading voters that they deserved the same chance as men.
"A study of values conducted in 2006 showed that Georgian society does not view women as politicians. This was an opinion held by both women and men," she said. "We need to work with political parties."
According to the national electoral commission, at the last parliamentary election in 2008, there were just 53 women among the 443 candidates fighting for the 73 seats elected by majority vote; the rest are filled from "party lists" under a proportional representation system.
Rusudan Kervalishvili, deputy speaker of parliament and a member of the ruling National Movement, said state intervention was needed to change public perceptions of women in politics.
"Since we don't have a quota system in this country, we're hoping that internal party quotas will allow us to implement special measures. But there isn't a definitive answer to this question right now, since no party has responded to it," she said.
Rights activists have a fight on their hands if they are win over the average Georgian, since most voters appear indifferent to the extent of female participation in politics.
"For me, the sex of a politician is unimportant. I don't think the inclusion of women in politics will have either a positive or negative effect," Giorgi Tielidze, a student from Tbilisi, said.
But among a minority, there is a growing feeling that Georgia should follow the lead of countries that have had powerful female politicians.
"There have been many examples of successful female politicians in history. In my view, women can play a very positive and effective role in Georgian politics, and outside the country as well," Beka Jikia, a (male) lawyer, said. "When they take decisions, women unlike men are not driven by ego, and this has positive effects. I think women need to be better represented in parliament."
Shorena Latatia is a freelance journalist in Georgia.