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As Georgia rushes to embrace Western ways, a cultural taboo on sex before marriage for women is one tradition that is still holding strong.And even while acknowledging the macho tenets that shape it, the taboo is one tradition that many Georgian women from all walks of life say they do not want to buck.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.“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.
“Sex is something you do in Ukraine, Russia or some other place where people are grown-up about this, while here you just get married,” grumbled twenty-something cellist Vakhtang Gabisonia.
Georgian women may shrug their shoulders and laugh about “the virginity institute,” but many still willingly play by its rules.
Supporters cite the need to uphold Georgian traditions.
Critics -- who often resort to social networking or dating websites to try to hook up with “Natashas” from the North --reject the “institute” as a legacy of a pre-modern mindset.
“We have two morals in this country: one for men and another for women,” said Tbilisi State University Gender Studies Professor Nino Javakhishvili.
“Premarital sex is not only tolerated, but even encouraged for men, while it is frowned upon for women.” An August 2009 survey by the Tbilisi-based Caucasus Research Resource Centers reported that 77 percent of respondents think it is unacceptable for a woman to have sex before marriage.