As Georgia rushes to embrace Western ways, a cultural taboo on sex before marriage for women is one tradition that is still holding strong.
For many Georgian women, getting married at an older age means a more extended period of sexual abstinence.Tamara Tavartkeldidze, a 79-year-old widow and retired literature teacher, recommends that young women should not worry about sex, but rather worry about finding Mr. “I got married when I was 30 and I have never wanted to have any other man,” Tavartkeldidze said of her deceased husband. The belief is rooted both in Georgia’s conservative culture and the Georgian Orthodox faith, which does not discriminate between men and women on the topic.Not everyone observes the taboo, but it is so widespread that Georgians have even come up with a semi-jesting name for it – “the virginity institute.” The “institute” is heavily debated in Internet forums and occasionally in the news media. Rather, it is Georgian men who passionately argue for or against this cultural convention.In the past two years, the median age for first marriages has grown older in Georgia -- 26.8 years old for men and 25.1 years old for women, according to the Georgian National Statistics Service.
Just a few years ago, the figure for women was 23 years old.“This may look silly to somebody in the West, but people make choices in life according to their cultures,” said 18-year-old student Nutsa Avaliani.“This is how everyone in my family lived and I am going to do the same because I think it is the right way.” Gender researchers say that the country’s culture of abstinence prompts many young Georgians to marry simply to obtain license to engage in sex.“There is often a difference between someone you are really attracted to and someone you want to grow old with,” said Javakhishvili.“The young couples often discover that this is not one and the same.” Recent data suggest that young unions are in decline, but still popular.But there is no exact equivalent for “dating” in Georgian.