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Reasons and outcomes for unprotected women’s rights

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, January 30
The IDP Women’s Association Consent launched a Georgia-wide campaign to bring attention to the need for the protection of women’s property rights in Georgia on January 29. To launch the campaign, Consent presented a packet of materials that can be used by organizations and activists across the country to bring attention to the importance of women’s property rights, to inform the population on how to find legal assistance on this issue, and to gather feedback from the population on their experiences on this important area of social rights.

“By law women have the same rights as men to own property. However, in reality we found that in many situations property is officially registered to men, and women very rarely have an understanding that they have equal rights to inherit and own properties as male members of their family,” said Consent’s Director Julia Kharashvili.

She also emphasized that clearly unidentified property rights can have serious consequences. For example, women who do not have property registered to them can have problems founding legal entities, such as businesses or organizations; have no chance to access credit; tolerate more abuse in the home and have a smaller role in decision-making at the domestic level. By claiming their property rights, which are enshrined in law, women are empowered in multiple ways.

Lela Akiashvili, Consent’s project officer underscored that the main problem why the women cannot protect their rights is that they have no information concerning their rights and they are under the influence of old fashioned or wrong traditions. Therefore, she has emphasized that Georgian couples give more importance to religious wedding ceremony rather than giving a legal basis to the wedding.

“Religious marriage has no legal basis and in the case if such couple divorces, woman might be left without property,” Akiashvili said. She also underscored that women should demand civil marriage as well and juridical participation for the property that is bought during the couple’s family life.

“In such a case women will have influence on the property and the right to demand certain part from the property. Therefore, women should know that they have they right of inheritance. In case they are married they still have the right to demand to share from the parent’s property,” Akiashvili stated.

She underscored that the organization made a 10 minute film concerning the women’s rights that was shown in various Georgian regions, as well as special blanks were given to people before and after the meetings on women’s rights issues.

“Public awareness after the meetings was significantly grown,” Akiashvili suggested.

Thomas Reynolds, Mission Director of CARE International in the Caucasus focused more attention on the traditional background of the issue that creates serious obstacles for women.

“I think that civil society should work hard to increase public awareness in this regard,” Reynolds said.

It has been emphasized that Georgian legislation is very fair concerning women’s rights and that women are granted the same rights as men.

“This is a sign that the problem is not legislation, the problem is in mentality,” said Keti Khutsishvili member of EU Delegation to Georgia. However, it has also been suggested that labor code is too unfair towards women and also creates problems in this regard. In the case that a woman has not enough income she has to bear violence.

Lawyer Lia Mukhashavria stated that she prepared a special initiative that aimed to give the religious ceremony a legal basis just like the civil one.

“However, my initiative was denied by the constitutional court, claiming that it lacked argumentation. I am stating with complete responsibility that it was absolutely proved,” Mukhashavria said.

“Georgian couples, especially men take such requests from women as a bad tone. Marriage contracts are signed in Georgia only, in the case that a woman owns property and she has something to lose after the marriage or there is a shared couple and one from the couple is foreigner,” Mukhashavria said.

The gathered NGOs and civil society representatives agreed that they will be involved in the campaign and deliver information concerning women’s rights to as many individuals as possible.

The campaign has been prepared as part of a regional project, coordinated by CARE International in the Caucasus and funded by the European Union with funding from Austrian Development and Cooperation with a total budget for the project of 1.3 million EURO.