Release peace: the magazine
Release peace: the magazine
Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs
Policies & Practice: Gender Dynamics and Parental Leave Policies in Georgia
Article by: Anastasia Kublashvili
This article was published as part of a cooperation with the Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science. Vilnius University is an authority in the Baltic and CEE region, with a history dating back 450 years.
Gender Equality in the Twelfth Century
In the 12th century, a historical precedent of gender equality in Georgia was set. In the Georgian medieval epic poem “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin,” which is considered a masterpiece of Georgian literature, poet Shota Rustaveli writes about Queen Tamar of Georgia: “though indeed she be a woman, still as sovereign she is begotten of God. She knows how to rule. We say not this to flatter you; we ourselves, in your absence, often say so. Her deeds, like her radiance, are revealed bright as sunshine. The lion’s whelps are equal, be they male or female.” Although Rustaveli had already underlined gender equality over 800 years ago, a critical reflection of today’s affairs in the country shows room for improvement. Progress is being made through new legislation, but this article will examine its impact in practice. For the most part, men in Georgia are the main-decision makers in the family and are expected to be more actively involved in civic, social and political activities than women. Women are underrepresented in decision-making processes at virtually all levels and spheres of public life. For example, only 36.4 per cent of employees in lower and middle management positions of civil service are women. Even after the introduction of quotas for women in parliament and local elections in 2020, the share of women in the newly elected parliament only reached 19.3 per cent.
Evaluations by the United Nations
Research conducted in 2019 commissioned by the UNDP (UN Development Programme) and UNFPA (UN Population Fund) provides the following results: 86 per cent of Georgian women believe that they have to overcome more obstacles in their careers than men. Furthermore, 48 per cent of Georgians believe that women’s main duty is to take care of the family rather than to pursue professional careers. Additionally, 63 per cent of women and 54 per cent of men think that Georgia has yet to achieve gender equality. Some of the gender inequitable behaviors and attitudes tend to remain in society, however, alongside the growing receptivity of the idea for an equitable future and willingness for changes. A comparison of data between the UNDP and UNFPA research conducted in 2013 and 2019 brings up some encouraging trends. For example, traditional views of gender roles appear to be less common.
Georgia’s Effort Towards Gender Equality
During the post-soviet period, Georgian society actively started discussions on gender and gender equality. In 1994 Georgia ratified CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) and its optional protocol in 2002 (an international treaty establishing complaint and inquiry mechanisms for CEDAW). Further, Georgia currently is in the process of implementing a wide range of international commitments. The core of these commitments is CEDAW, Sustainable Development Goals, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Even though significant progress has been made over the past two decades in the field of gender equality, according to the Global Gender Gap Index for 2020, Georgia ranks 74th out of 153 countries. Based on index data, compared to 2006, the situation in Georgia worsened in regards to women’s political empowerment and economic participation, while the situation of women’s health and survival improved.
Paternity Leave Policy Changes in Georgia
Based on the 2020 adopted changes in paternity leave policy in Georgia, nothing has changed in terms of salary. The only change was made in the use of maternity leave. Earlier maternity leave meant leave was only for those undergoing pregnancy, childbirth and childcare. Thus, the employee had to face all three preconditions to be eligible for the leave and fathers were automatically ineligible. The maternity leave record claimed that the father could only be eligible for paternity leave if the child’s mother died.
Paternity Leave in Georgia Today
The new regulation of parental leave in Georgia is divided into two parts: Pregnancy and childbirth are separate from childcare. Upon request, the employee is paid 126 calendar days of paid leave for pregnancy and childbirth and 57 calendar days of paid leave for childcare. If the mother has unused days, the father can benefit from the remaining days. When it comes to 57 childcare days, the parents decide who takes those days. Consequently, the biggest plus of the policy is that it is divided into two parts, and fathers are involved in the process. The first Georgian man who benefited from the policy change and used paternity leave days, interviewed in March 2021, stated that family members and friends were unaware of the policy and the opportunity and were surprised by his decision. Even though the law was passed three years ago, the number of men requesting leave is minimal. The Human Rights Institute of Georgia explains this is due to the lack of knowledge, awareness and a stereotypical mindset.
Paternity Leave as a Tool Toward Gender Equality
Parental leave has existed for mothers for a long time. Although the inclusion of fathers in paternity leave is a recent achievement, it currently remains far from being universal. According to a European Commission Report from 2018, all EU member states offer some sort of paternity or parental leave (sometimes both). It is strongly believed that paternity leave is a step forward for gender equality (see: “Promoting Gender Equality through Regulation”). Georgia shows that changes cannot come only from a piece of paper, but awareness and the right actions taken by government, institutions and civil society bring legislation to life.