Gender quotas in Georgia. The arguments of supporters and opponents
The Electoral Code of Georgia has been recently amended to include gender quotas.
According to the amendments, parties participating in the elections must submit to the Central Election Commission a party list in which every fourth candidate will be a woman. Otherwise, the CEC will not approve the list, and the party will not be able to participate in the elections.
Gender quotas in Georgia will be valid until 2028.
Today, only 21 of the 150 MPs of the Georgian parliament are women. Under the new legislation, there will be at least 30 women in the next parliament. The number of women in parliament will increase to at least 37 by 2024, and by 2028 every third candidate on a party list will have to be a woman. In other words, women will make up at least a third of the parliament of 150 MPs.
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The main tenet of gender quotas is to involve as many women as possible in the political decision-making process, and they are prevalent in many countries across the world, including Europe.
Experts predict it could take as long as 70-100 years for some degree of gender balance to be achieved naturally, but quotas would greatly accelerate this process.
Now Georgia is discussing the topic, and has both strong supporters and opponents – including feminists.
JAMnews compiled the main arguments of supporters and opponents of quotas:
Arguments of supporters
1. By law, women and men have equal rights, but in reality it is more difficult for a woman to become a politician or top manager. There is no real equality between women and men, because women and men are in unequal starting conditions. A woman who wants career growth faces a much larger number of specific barriers than a man.
First of all, this includes duties are traditionally considered to be female – cooking, washing, cleaning, caring for children and the elderly. Quota advocates say that when there are so many things to do, women obviously have less time to work and study.
The second specific barrier women face is social stereotypes that politics is not a woman’s business.
Another obstacle – the so-called ‘glass ceiling’ – is an invisible barrier that prevents women from reaching the same heights in their careers as men. For example, women are sometimes deliberately not hired because of fears that she might become pregnant and go on maternity leave.
Therefore, supporters of quotas believe that if women, unlike men, have additional barriers, then it would be fair if they also had additional levers to overcome these barriers and provide equal opportunities as enjoyed by men.
Consequently, quotas are not discriminatory, but compensatory and fair measures designed to help women overcome real barriers, quota advocates say.
2. Gender quotas allow women to speak out about problems that men do not take seriously and are not sensitive to. For example, domestic violence.
3. Quota supporters say Georgia is a patriarchal country in which there are still “female” and “male” professions, and rules of conduct.
Quota proponents believe that when people see many women in politics, this stereotype will be overcome. According to them, many women in politics will gradually change their mentality – it will not be so strange and unacceptable for men to see their own wife, daughter or sister on a political platform.
4. Quota supporters also believe that gender imbalance on political lists is not the choice of the public, but of party bosses, because they (and not the electorate) make lists.
Quota supporters also remind the public that party lists are not always based on qualifications and professionalism. When compiling a list, party leaders often pay attention to the financial situation of a candidate, their influence, recognition, and not the candidate’s qualifications and professionalism.
Moreover, women have limited resources – they usually do not have enough money and often do not have enough time to conduct campaigns, meet with voters, or improve their skills, because, as mentioned above, they have a lot of unpaid housework.
5. Quota supporters believe that gender quotas will become an additional incentive for women to actively fight and work for their own development. The more women there are in politics, the more inspired other women may become to follow suit.
In addition, quotas will be an additional incentive for parties to attract more qualified women to their ranks and devote more time and resources to their development, so that they have more professional cadres than competing parties.
Arguments of opponents:
1. The main argument of the opponents of quotas is that quotas are contrary to the principle of equality, because it gives women an advantage. Many women say that it is insulting for them if they are appointed or accepted somewhere because of their gender. Quotas cannot be part of the democratic process because they “restrict” other candidates.
2. According to opponents of quotas, the quota system discredits women and portrays them as the ‘weaker sex’, not capable of competition. Women themselves can succeed in politics and do not need a humiliating handicap for this. Quotas entail an unfair stigmatization of women.
3. Opponents of quotas say the parliamentary electoral process will suffer – as a result, fewer professional candidates will make it into parliament, because some of them will have been elected on the basis of gender, and not their qualifications and skills.
Perhaps, having a choice between a more qualified man and a less qualified woman, one could imagine a party essentially being forced to choose a woman, because the law obliges them so.
4. A woman in Georgia can succeed if she has the desire and qualifications for this, and more women are not represented in politics just because they either do not want this or have not put enough effort into it. There are many examples of successful women without quotas both in Georgian politics and abroad, say opponents of quotas.
5. Yes, as a result of quotas in politics there will be more women, but not all of them will be feminists. Misogyny is genderless, and many women in parliament do not mean that they will discuss more issues relevant to women. According to recent studies, a quarter of women in Georgia believe that in some cases beating by husbands is justified, while a third of men surveyed say so. Moreover, a quarter of Georgian women believe that a wife should obey her husband, even if she does not agree with him.
6. There is another example: Argentina introduced a 30 percent quota for women in 1991, but most of the women on the party lists were wives or lovers of male politicians. Thus, it is obvious that the presence of these women in parliament did not change the agenda of the issues discussed – they were obedient to their husbands and controlled by male politicians.