Effectiveness of Women’s NGOs and Their Influence on Policy in the Republic of Georgia

Title

Effectiveness of Women’s NGOs and Their Influence on Policy in the Republic of Georgia

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Research Question

1) How do the perceptions of policy makers differ from those of women working in NGOs regarding the effectiveness of human trafficking legislation in the Republic of Georgia?

2) Are there cultural realities which enable political apathy toward the problem of human trafficking and the plight of its victims?

Award

Christopher and Michelle Spear Award and Centennial Fellowship in Global Studies

Significance

When the Republic of Georgia gained independence from the USSR in 1991, barriers were removed between East and West. The political and social changes which defined Georgia’s new reality also gave rise to new and complex challenges. Ethnic conflict increased while unemployment rose and economic instability was pervasive. The general disorder which prevailed left a gap in governance and an opening for new forms of corruption, illegal immigration, and organized crime. “Criminal groups took advantage of the situation and became more involved in drug dealing and prostitution. Human trafficking also grew into a highly attractive and lucrative criminal business” (Glonti, 2001). According to the US State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Person’s report, “Georgia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically the forced prostitution of women and the forced labor of men, women, and children” (US, 2015). Women and girls, who make up the larger percentage of trafficking victims from Eastern Europe and Central Asia (UNODC, 2014), are trafficked within Georgia and sent to Turkey which borders Georgia at the Black Sea. To a lesser extent, women and girls are trafficked in the United Arab Emirates and Russia (2015). The United nations defines sex trafficking as: The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of sexual exploitation (UNDC, 2014). The Republic of Georgia has made great strides toward Europeanization throughout the first decades of the 21st century, adopting policies which encourage political reforms, economic modernization and the protection of human rights (Bingham, 2016: 297). However, Georgia is a conservative culture steeped in Orthodox Christian values. Although urbane young women are finding more freedoms in the second decade of the 21st century, rural communities still cling to more traditional value systems, and Georgian society in general expects women to be virgins before marriage (Waltermaurer et al). This standpoint influences the way that sex workers are perceived by society as “fallen women” and makes the idea of the rights of sex workers seem ridiculous to much of mainstream Georgian society (Ana, 2014). Almost 30 years after independence, citizens in Georgia still have low levels of “legal literacy” (Glonti, 2001), which contributes to ignorance around the differences between voluntary prostitution and human trafficking, victim’s rights, and the economic realities which tend to drive both situations. Women and girls from Georgia are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, as well as in Turkey, and, to a lesser extent, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. Women from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries are subjected to forced prostitution in Georgia’s commercial sex trade in the tourist areas such as Batumi and Gonio. According to the Caucasus Equality News Network NGOs in Georgia report that women are subjected to sex trafficking in saunas, strip clubs, casinos, and hotels. Yet, according to the US State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Person’s report, “The Government of Georgia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” and political will regarding prosecution of human trafficking violations has decreased since 2010 (US, 2015). There was only one conviction in 2010, none in 2012 and five in 2013/2014, and arrests of brothel owners seldom lead to prosecutions, allowing brothels to continue to operate (Ana, 2014). European beliefs about equality are, however evident, at least as manifested by Western style legislation, if not in actuality. Georgia formed the “Gender Equality Advisory Council in 2004” (Bingham, 2016), numbers of women holding political office have increased, and women driven NGO’s, primarily receiving funding from the West, have all contributed to increased awareness of violence against and women and human trafficking, at lease in certain circles. However, a question remains as to whether human trafficking legislation in Georgia could be defined by what Mihaela Miroiu coined as ‘room service feminism’ (Ilise 2012). This term refers to an enlightened discourse restricted primarily to the legislative levels of society. Such inspired discourse and policy may have been born out of Georgia’s desire for European integration rather than out of internal public pressure and political will. A theoretical framework from which to view the effectiveness of polices meant to protect vulnerable and marginalized women, is Standpoint Theory. Sandra Harding, a feminist scholar and defender of Standpoint Theory, explains that, “In hierarchically organized societies, the daily activities and experiences of oppressed groups enable insights about how the society functions that are not available—or at least not easily available—from the perspective of dominant group activity” (Harding, 2009: 195). The focus of this research is the effectiveness of women’s NGOs on influencing policy and greater protections for vulnerable women, and the cultural influences which may diminish the effectiveness of legislation. I intend to examine policy implementation regarding human trafficking of women and girls, public awareness/sympathy, and rates of prosecution.

Methods Used

I will collect qualitative data through participant observation during my internship with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. This will give me an understanding of political environment generally, and how policy is created in Georgia. Semi-structured interviews will be organized with policy makers and representatives of women focused NGOs. Much time will also be spent it the reading of Human Trafficking policy and legislation, much of which will be available in English as these policies are prerequisites for participation in the UN. I also intend to study case files related to Human Trafficking that identify rates of prosecution. Qualitative data will be collected by way of field notes and interview transcripts/recordings.

Conclusions/Outcomes

The intended outcome of the research undertaken the summer of 2017 in the Republic of Georgia is then completion of a master’s thesis in Public Administration spring semester of 2018.

Publication Date

2017

Department

Political Science

Disciplines

International and Area Studies | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration

Effectiveness of Women’s NGOs and Their Influence on Policy in the Republic of Georgia

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