Armenian Women Politicians Discuss Lack of Female Representation

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Armenpress)–One of few women members of Armenian Parliament–Alvart Petrosian from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF)–said Monday that Armenia must demand democracy in order to boost the role of women in the country’s political life.

Armenian women are grossly underrepresented in government. Armenia has no female government ministers and only six out of 131 members of its parliament are women.

Armenia has a legal provision stipulating that at least five percent of candidates from a party or alliance must be women. However–female candidates have usually been low on the electorate slates of competing political groups–meaning that they have very low chances of winning parliament seats.

The most common explanation for this phenomenon is that Armenia is still a conservative male-dominated society where women are largely confined to minor positions outside their homes.

But according to one of the country’s best-known female politicians–this is not necessarily the case. Speaking at a roundtable discussion in Yerevan–Ruzan Khachatrian–a senior member of the People’s Party of Armenia–said that Armenian women have primarily themselves to blame for their extremely weak presence in the executive and legislative branches of government.

"Strangely enough–during elections in Armenia a woman is far more reluctant to elect another woman than a man is," said Khachatrian. "Why is this so? I don’t know."

Khachatrian was the main opposition candidate in last October’s local election in Yerevan’s central administrative district which a businessman won. She believes that that the vast majority of some 5,000 local residents who voted for her were men.

Lyudmila Harutunian–a prominent Armenian sociologist who leads a small party called Arzhanapatvutyun (Dignity)–agreed that winning an election or securing a high-level government post is extremely difficult for local women–but laid the blame squarely on the men. She said Armenia’s government affairs have long been monopolized by wealthy businessmen and other powerful men reliant on brute force and there is little women can do about that.

Harutunian said women’should play a bigger role in moving the country towards true democracy. She said democracy has no alternative–adding that a democratic Armenia would face fewer problems in its efforts to settle the Karabagh dispute.

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