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‘Our bodies belong to us’ — activists mark International Women’s Day in Tbilisi

8 March 2017
(Luka Pertaia/OC Media)

Women’s rights activists marked International Women’s Day in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi on 8 March with demonstrations and performances. The Independent Group of Feminists (IGF) and other supporters marched from the Tbilisi Event Hall to the Parliament building via Tbilisi’s central Rustaveli Avenue.

Before the demonstration started, two men approached the activists, who were still gathering in front of the Event Hall. The men identified themselves as members of ‘Political Union Georgian Idea’ and as ‘Orthodox Georgians’ and objected the demands and slogans of the demonstrators. Some of the more controversial slogans displayed on banners in the march included: ‘Pussy liberalisation’, ‘My body belongs to me’, ‘Viva la Vulva’, ‘Women come in all shapes and sizes’, ‘My womb is not a football for you’, ‘Men don’t own women’, ‘Orgasm without men’, and several others.

After around fifteen minutes of arguing, the police asked the men to let the activists conduct the demonstration, and they remained at the Event Hall surrounded by police once the activists started marching.

According to members of the IGF, Georgian society does not allow women to have control over their own bodies or their sexuality, which is why women tend to hide their sexual life, or even reject it altogether. ‘The survival of the country’s national identity is associated with the inviolability of our sexuality and thus, control over our bodies becomes an issue of “national dignity”’, they claim.

(Luka Pertaia/OC Media)

Due to these attitudes, activists argue, even modern women find it difficult to confess that they too have a sexual life. According to research by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, ‘Generation in the transitional period’, published in 2017 — only one per cent of women respondents claimed to have had more than one sexual partner, while for men the figure was 57%.

Activists from the Women's Movement organised a performance in front of the Chancellery, Georgia’s seat of government in Tbilisi. Women symbolically smashed a piece of glass — 'a glass roof' — representing a barrier which stops them from holding higher positions and remaining in medium or lower levels in the labour market. The activists highlighted various problems, like lower engagement in politics, and that there are very few women in decision-making positions.

(Mari Nikuradze/OC Media)

The glass was a symbol of stereotypes, gender roles, and various customs in society. Women dressed in different professional uniforms, like soldiers, doctors, and boxers, breaking the glass to the background of music and a monologue about women’s rights.

Both marches, along with the Women’s Gaze organisation and other feminists groups, joined forces at the Parliament building around two o’clock. Several activists shared their personal stories and addressed the demonstrators. Different groups of differing ideologies appeared to stand together. ‘Despite the differences we are in solidarity with each other. We believe that political issues do not have individualistic solutions, so we want to show you unity, which does not mean ignoring differences’, activists claim.

In support of the Women’s Solidarity Rally, a newly formed women’s rights group, Women’s March Tbilisi, offered materials to activists to create their own tile in order to build a mosaic of the ‘daily march towards equality, tolerance, and justice’.

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