Foeticide, femicide and violence against women in Georgia

by Tiko Tsomaia

Interactive map shows the sex ratio per birth distributed by regions of Georgia

Foeticide – or in other words selective abortion, the process, when a baby girl is considered as an undesirable to be born and pregnancy is terminated - is a just another form of femicide. Foeticide, along with other forms of femicide, is a vivid illustration of ongoing terror against women (Radford, Rassel, 1992). Due to the sex-selective abortions, as a result, we face gender misbalance, especially dramatically observed for the past ten and more years in some Asian countries – the process dubbed as girl disappearance phenomenon. According to different reports, the number of disappeared girls world-wide ranges from 60 up to 107 million. Due to their large populations, India and China have the highest rankings. The negative consequences on demographic and social development of the above-stated problem has been widely discussed not only among scientists, but among politicians. The global strategy is being developed to solve the problem.

In recent years Georgia, along with its geographical neighbors in Southern Caucasus – with Armenia and Azerbaijan, also found itself facing the similar problem. Regarding the ill practice of sex-selective abortions in our region and in Albania, the parliamentary assembly of European Commission confirmed the special resolution on 3rd of October, 2011. In this official statement the European body called on the governments of these countries to face this extreme form of gender violence as their new challenge.

It must be also emphasized that out of three southern Caucasian countries, only Georgia ignored the European statement, while Azeri and Armenian governments expressed their worries over the problem and in 2011 initiated specific studies for revealing gender-selective abortions and the scope of it.

As we have already stated, Georgia is one of 11 countries which have misbalance between genders.The official statistics revealed the higher than normal inequality levels of genders between babies born alive (it should not exceed 105-106 boys for 100 girls).

There should be three factors working together if we want to classify any given case as a selective abortion: the desire of having a baby boy; decrease of birth-rates and access to abortions due to technological development; (Christophe Guilmoto, 2013).

This phenomenon is observed and studied in Georgia only by several scholars (Badurashvli, Sulaberidze, Tsuladze, Sophie A Hohmann, Cécile A Lefèvre, Michel L Garenne,Christope Guilmoto), and there views mostly differ:

Part of the scientists are skeptical even for existence of such phenomenon. The other part observe a logical link between sex-selective abortions and the wide-spread patriarchate system, while others think that abortion in the first place is very important. Even the government does not have one clear, cohesive approach.

The total ignorance of selective abortions by the government until 2012 was an indirect result of lame and not effective newborn registration process. Some of the scientists saw this as a major reason of the problem (Tsuladze). However, inefficient registration process was an issue for the newborns of both genders and it could not have effected the misbalance between genders anyhow (Badurashvili). The results of 2002 General Population Census showed that among 1year-old population there were 110 boys for 100 girls, which also clearly emphasized the sex-selection practice for the newborns. It is also important to note that in recent years, when the registration process improved and there were no doubts left about the data quality, the inequality index between genders still remained 109 instead of 105-106, while for second and third child in the families the number was even 120. For scientists this data clearly indicates the sexual discrimination issue and they also link it with selective abortion, as well as with infanticide – killing of newborns (Guilmoto, 2011).

Improved technologies made it easier to learn in advance a gender of a baby, which also triggered the selective abortion practice to become even more wide-spread (Duthe et all 2012; Mesle et all, 2007). There is a clear link between gender disbalance and early pregnancy diagnostics, as well as a link between gender disbalance and easy access to abortions. ultrasound studies make it possible to identify gender of a baby and to terminate pregnancy when the gender of a fetus is undesirable.

There is a misbalance between genders in Georgia starting from 1994 – same year when ultrasonoscopy was introduced into the country.

We should also consider the information about access to abortions and general statistics linked to it. According to the official data, there are 25 thousand or 35 thousand abortions made each year in the country. The statistics show that in 2012 1151 less girls were born. According to the various calculations, the number of selective abortions make up to 30 percent of the total number of abortions conducted in the country. The women reproductive health study - GEO RHS-2010 – showed that abortion is a major mechanism of controlling birth tendency and that baby boys are more valued in the families.

Georgian legislation and the law about health care emphasizes that it is absolutely legal to terminate pregnancy if it does not exceed 12 weeks. After 12 weeks of pregnancy the abortion is only allowed due to medical or social issues. Consequently, those who want to have boys, are in a hurry to learn the gender in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Georgian legislation prohibits to use in vitro fertilization procedure for choosing the gender of a baby, however it does not prohibit abortion with the same aim. In 2014 the Healthcare and Social Issues Parliamentary Committee intensively worked to improve the legislation. The Head of the Committee publicly declared that he supports the idea of prohibiting abortion aimed to select preferred gender of a newborn.

Even though various studies prove that baby boys are most valued in Georgia, still it is not enough to explain the whole process of sex-selective abortions. It can only prove that there is a high demand on baby boys in Georgian families, but it is ungrounded to think that this demand is by all means fulfilled (Chahnazarian 1988, Stansfield and Carlton 2009).

In recent years when the topic of violence against women became a very important issue for the wider public, the sensitivity of the sex-selective abortions intensified. However public still does not see this form of femicide as a major issue.


There are scientists who try not to explain the phenomenon of sex-selective abortions only with patriarchate social system, gender discrimination and general preference of boys in comparison with girls. These scholars think that abortion itself in the first place is an important tendency wide-spread in the Caucasian region. For them other important factors are: accessibility to gender-identification methods, major socio-economic changes brought to the Caucasian countries after the collapse of Soviet Union also effecting the desire of the families to have children

( Sophie A Hohmann, Cécile A Lefèvre, Michel L Garenne,2014).

The fertility was one of the lowest in Georgia to compare it with world data and only amounted to 1.5 (National Statistics Office of Georgia, 2012).

According to the data collected by the Caucasian Research and Resources Center, 49 percent of women and 51 percent of men in Georgia think that it is absolutely possible to justify abortion as a choice.

In Soviet years abortion was considered to be as a major means of controlling birth-rate. By the year of 2000 Caucasian region had the highest rates of abortion in the world (Sedgh et al).

By 1920 abortion in the Soviet Union was absolutely legal procedure, however, in 1936 it was prohibited and then re-legalized back in 1955. In the second world war almost 27 million people died which had a huge negative impact on economy, while also creating a harsh deficit in the labor-force. That’s why the new politics of Pronatalism was brought into action as a response to the problem. The pronatalist strategy affected Georgia among other soviet republics before and after the Second World War. This policy is well-known by the name of Family Law, 1944 and the author is Nikita Khrushchov, who served as a secretary of Central Committee of Ukraine. This law encouraged everyone in the whole country to give birth without marriage. For this process the State used various fees and rewards to make it effectively work. The single mothers were given opportunities to leave their children in the state-ran children houses resulting in 8,7 million fatherless child born between 1945-1955. Thus, informally, the relationships between men and women outside marriage was hugely encouraged. However, even under these circumstances, women chose abortion which they did illegally. As a result the death rate caused by non-professionally conducted abortions increased, consequently abortion was once again legalized (Mie Nakachi, 2008).

Pill abortion. The history of Cytotec.

Cytotec same as misoprostol is a medicine used for gastrointestinal tract problems. However this particular medicine also has tightening effect on cervical muscles and in several countries is often used as means for pregnancy termination. A single pill costs 70 tetris in Georgia. One needs only number of pills to achieve desirable results in terminating pregnancy. After studying this medicine, we discovered that for three-year (2010-2013) period sales of Cytotec increased by 18 times to become 36 thousand. As for the 2014 import rates of Cytotec, it has slightly decreased in comparison to year 2013. In 2014 we Georgia has imported 27595 blocks of Cytotec. It was only 200 in 2010;

Even though the increase of Cytotec export is more proportional to the abortions conducted before 12 weeks, we can still consider it as a means to terminate pregnancy for sex selection: In 2012 the National Center for Disease Control found out about the case of a pregnancy-related death. The woman died in her 18 weeks of pregnancy due to receiving 10 pills of Cytotec (NCDC).