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Georgian parliament rushes amendments to abolish gender quotas

5 April 2024
Illustration: OC Media. Photo via Parliament of Georgia.

Georgia’s parliament has voted to repeal gender quotas in parliamentary election lists in a session rife with clashes and exchanges of insults between MPs.

On Thursday, the parliament approved amendments to the Election Code, reversing changes made in 2020 according to which every fourth candidate in a party’s election list needed to be of a different gender to the previous three.

The ruling party announced their support for the initiative, tabled by the libertarian Girchi — New Political Centre party, on Monday. The amendments were pushed through three accelerated readings in the following days, and adopted in their final hearing by 85 votes to 22.

In their draft bill, Girchi described abolishing gender quotas as a way to ‘help women interested in politics to avoid reputational damage incurred upon them by quotas’.

[Read more: Georgian Dream to repeal parliament gender quotas]

Georgian Dream on Monday announced that they would support Girchi’s initiative. In return, the Girchi would help Georgian Dream to overcome President Salome Zurabishvili’s veto of earlier controversial amendments to the Election Code.

In the following days, discussion of the legislative amendments veered into open confrontation and sexist and misogynistic comments.

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On Wednesday, Georgian Dream MP Beka Odisharia responded to the discussion by loudly insulting opposition women MPs.

‘Fuck you, you herd of unfucked females, this is a syndrome of unfucked women, unfucked…’, said Odisharia.

On the same day, a Girchi MP Vakhtang Megrelishvili also made misogynistic statements in parliament while discussing the bill.

‘I’d like it a lot if you were mostly women. As a person fascinated by [politics], I would spend my time much more pleasantly with people of the opposite sex’, he said. ‘[But] women are really less interested in [pursuing politics] than men’.

‘If I could bring women [to parliament] for my own pleasure by force, you’d call me something else, wouldn’t you? Shall I make a harem [for my pleasure]?’ he stated.

After widespread criticism, Odisharia apologised for his comments, while noting that he had not insulted any specific individual, and suggesting that it was equally offensive to term him and his fellow party members pro-Russian.

Later the same day, he directly insulted Lelo MP Salome Samadashvili, suggesting that she needed a psychiatric assessment.

Samadashvili had called for Odisharia and Megrelishvili to undergo drug tests, given their outbursts towards women MPs.

Odisharia responded by stating that she should see a doctor for a psychiatric assessment, and that he would ‘bear responsibility’ only after that. 

On Thursday, Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Rihards Kols, demanded that Odisharia’s status as Latvia’s honorary consul to Georgia be withdrawn.

‘Odisharia is[…] the person to whom Latvia entrusts its representation [in Georgia]’, wrote Kols. ‘There is more than enough reason here to withdraw the status of honorary consul’.

At a briefing on Wednesday, President Salome Zurabishvili criticised the ruling party for supporting the decision to abolish quotas.

‘No to women’s rights!’, she stated ironically. ‘No to the only practically implemented recommendation we had regarding gender equality.’

President Zurabishvili must approve the amendments for them to be implemented. If she chooses to veto the amendments, they will be returned to the parliament for consideration.

Before Thursday’s vote, Transparency International Georgia stated that ‘abolishing gender quotas away from increasing women’s participation in political life and bringing the country closer to the European Union’.

‘Mandatory gender quotas, as a temporary norm to achieve equality, represents the best practice established in European countries, and its introduction in Georgia has been positively evaluated by a number of international organisations’, the statement read.

Read in Armenian on CivilNet.