Gender Issues in Armenian Politics
By admin February 14, 2018

After the recent municipality brawl in the capital of Armenia where a female legislator was attacked by her male colleagues, the issues women face in Armenian politics have resurfaced.

Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia has made progress on ensuring gender equality. Yet, there are still major issues related to gender equality and women’s rights that need to be addressed.

Armenia is signatory to a number of UN documents protecting women’s rights and securing progress on gender equality including the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – 1995 (including the political declaration and a national review in 2015); Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (including the optional protocol); Convention on the Political Rights of Women; and, the Convention on the Nationality of Married Women. Armenia is also a signatory to UN resolutions on women for peace and reports to the CEDAW committee.

The Armenian Constitution guarantees no gender-based discrimination, and the government has taken steps to establish legal frameworks for gender equality. After becoming a signatory to the Beijing Declaration in 1995, Armenia has developed and implemented several national action plans, each designed as a logical continuation of the previous agenda.

It is clear that although there have been efforts to address the issue of women’s underrepresentation in governing bodies, little progress has been made, and the latest parliamentary election results attest to that: only 15% of the National Assembly will be comprised of women parliamentarians.

There is plenty of room for legislative improvements in the electoral code and other legal frameworks to ensure women’s increased participation in politics and increased number of government positions held by women. But the underlying cause of the problems is not the poorly constructed laws and regulations but the social and cultural restrictions imposed on women that hinder their political participation. This idea is widely discussed and largely accepted by international and national experts. However, an important aspect of cultural gender-based restrictions has not been discussed. That aspect is women’s definition of empowerment in Armenia and whether the cultural reality is considered a restriction or understood as a part of women’s identity.

There is a gap in examining what Armenian women themselves consider to be women’s empowerment and agency. And, in gender assessments of Armenian politics specifically, there is an underlying assumption made by experts that women politicians define agency as the ability to independently and freely make decisions and not be part of patriarchy.

It is a widely known fact that Armenia has clearly defined gender norms and patriarchal social and political structures. Studies have been conducted to assess the perceptions of women in Armenian society, the perceptions on gender roles and gender dimensions of civic and political participation in Armenia. The cultural barriers women face in political participation is discussed and reported at length. However, we lack insight on why women generally adjust to the existing patriarchal structures, especially in politics (eg. self-withdrawing during the elections) and what policies would be more effective in providing more leverage to women and true agency rather than constraining their choices to the ones possible only within the patriarchal structures.

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