Parliamentary committee for human rights gave a go-ahead to formal initiation of a bill, which, if approved, would set mandatory quotas for women to help increase the number of female members in the legislative body
The bill, which was submitted to the parliament by a group of civil society organizations, offers introduction of “zipper” system, where male and female candidates would appear alternately on party lists of MP candidates for the next year’s parliamentary elections.
The bill, which was drafted by the Task Force on Women’s Political Participation, a coalition of organizations that advocate for gender equality, aims at increasing share of female legislators in the next parliament to at least 25%.
Currently there are 17 female lawmakers, accounting for 11.3% of 150-seat Parliament. The number of female MPs in the sitting parliament may increase to 18 after by-election in October.
77 seats in the Parliament are allocated based on proportional, party-list system and remaining 73 seats are distributed to majoritarian MPs from single-mandate constituencies.
If the “zipper” quota system is introduced, it will apply to the party-list component and will result into at least 38 female lawmakers in the next parliament.
The decision of the parliamentary committee of human rights does not mean that the bill will be introduced to the parliamentary session for further consideration in its current form.
There is also another bill in the Parliament, which was sponsored by GD ruling coalition lawmaker Nana Keinishvili, according to which political parties must place a woman in every third position on their list of top 50 MP candidates.
At the committee hearing on September 24, MP Keinishvili said that she supports the bill offered by the civil society groups, envisaging “zipper” system, but if it is not approved by the Parliament, at least her bill should be passed.
At the committee session, female lawmakers, including chairperson of the human rights committee GD MP Eka Beselia, were speaking strongly in favor of the quota system.
Although deputy chairman of the committee GD MP Gedevan Popkhadze said he was against of the quota system in general, he voted in favor of initiation of the bill along with five other members of the committee with one abstaining.
Opposition lawmakers were not present at the committee session.
Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, who was present at the committee hearing, said that previously she was also against of quota system, but changed her mind after studying the issue thoroughly.
“Support opening of parliament’s door for women,” she told lawmakers. “This door is currently closed.”
The quota system, Tsulukiani said, “will make political parties to think about women while compiling their list of [MP] candidates.”
“It will give the country the kind of parliament, which will reflect the Georgian society. Now the parliament does not reflect it, because women are underrepresented,” the Justice Minister said.
Baia Pataraia of Union “Sapari”, an NGO working on helping victims of domestic violence, told lawmakers while presenting the bill at the committee hearing that although the Georgian legislation is gender-neutral, it is not enough to provide for actual equality.
“We do not ask for much,” she said. “We ask for having at least 38 female lawmakers in the Parliament.”
In his annual state of the nation address to the Parliament in March, 2015 President Giorgi Margvelashvili reiterated his support towards introduction of mandatory quotas for women in the legislative body.
Speaking at a conference in Tbilisi on women’s political participation in March, 2015 parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili said that although in general he’s against of any kind mandatory quotas, he’s “a supporter of equality and if I see that it is impossible to achieve equality without setting quotas, then I become a supporter of quotas.”
Usupashvili, however, also suggested that gaining enough support in the Parliament for the initiative to be passed would not be easy and added that even within his Republican Party, which is part of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, there was no unanimous position over introduction of the quota system.
The Georgian legislation currently envisages financial incentive for parties to include more women in their list of candidates. Task Force on Women’s Political Participation, however, said that this incentive has failed to address the under-representation of women in the Parliament.