New Gender Quotas in Georgia’s Parliament
As of now, Georgia’s Parliament is comprised 90 percent of men. However, a recent amendment to the Electoral Code makes it so that at least 20 percent of the Parliament must now be women. This gender quota system for Georgia’s Parliament is part of a larger fight to increasingly include more women’s voices in the political decision-making process. This decision makes sense because women make up a majority of the Georgian population. The amendment was voted in by MPs on July 2, with 94 votes for the change and just one against. Currently, only 21 out of 150 MPs are women, but come 2024, the number of women elected as MPs will total to at least 37.
This new move for gender equality has been met with both praise and pushback. Supporters of the amendment cite the barriers women in Georgia face in pursuing a political career as a pressing reason this new rule is necessary. Like a large portion of the rest of the world, women in Georgia statistically have found it more difficult to obtain a high ranking position in politics or other fields. This is largely attributed to stereotypes of female social roles and fears from employers that a woman might quit due to pregnancy. The amendment aims to give women a fair opportunity to achieve their goals of working in politics. Supporters also believe that more women MPs will have the added benefit of increasing advocacy for women’s issues.
However, opponents of the amendment believe enforcing gender quotas dismantles the principles of equality in Georgian politics. Critics claim that the quotas further stigmatize women by showing them as weaker for needing extra help. And some fear that quotas will corrupt the reputation of Parliament by electing MPs based on gender rather than merit. However, nominations are still made by party leaders, providing for a shield against incompetent candidates, invalidating this argument. This amendment is an important step in acknowledging gender discrepancies in the Georgian political field and will level the field so that despite one’s gender, one still has equal opportunity.
The amendment should be seen as part of a natural, organic evolution in Georgian civic life. Women’s empowerment is central in its history, from the reign of Queen Tamar (who brought Georgia to its greatest territorial extent) to the example of Peri-Khan Sofieva. In 1918, Peri-Khan Sofieva (and Georgia) made history when she became the first Muslim woman to ever be democratically elected to office. Even more a testament to Georgia’s history of women’s rights is that at this time, women were allowed to vote, a rare feat done by few countries at the time with considerable Muslim populations. And in 1919, five women were elected to the Georgian Parliament. Georgia, with this amendment, is following its society’s great pluralistic and egalitarian tradition. The gender quota recently enacted is by no means an anomaly for Georgia, but simply another of many steps in its history fighting for equal opportunity between women and men.