To understand what equality of rights is, first of all, let us understand what equality means generally. Equality suggests fair and unbiased treatment toward people in various spheres of social life regardless of their gender, age, nationality, race and other distinctive features. For example, social equality means social order, in which members of a society have similar status in certain fields. Its political aspect is in observation of the rules which govern the society: the right to participate in elections, rules to define leaders, their rights and responsibilities, their equality before law. From the viewpoint of economic equality it includes the process of distributing goods: the right of work, distribution of resources, equality of opportunities, etc. Generally equality suggests equal opportunities. The essence of this idea is, for example, that those, who have proper qualification, get job, that is to say, opportunities of working progress must also be equal and dependent on professional and working skills of workers, excluding any discrimination.
Let us return to the equality of rights (equality before law), which is fundamental principle of law and is fixed in intra-state, as well as in international legal system. The Constitution of the Republic of Armenia guarantees that all humans are equal before law. Equality of rights suggests equal size of rights and duties, social freedom of all citizens, equal degree of responsibility before law excluding their factual differences, for example, color of the skin, language, etc. Equality of rights also excludes privileges and advantages between sides of a legal dispute.
Feminism is one of the most popular movements aimed at defending women’s rights. This movement had one common aim: to define, develop and reach equal political, economic, cultural, personal and social rights.
Supporters of feminism seek to emancipate women. The meaning of this term derives from here: liberation from dependence and limitation. (Emancipation means refusal of different addictions, cease of limitations, achievement of various rights and duties. There are several kinds of emancipation, emancipation of underagers, women, men, etc). The expression «Emancipation de la femme» was set forth during the July Revolution of 1830 in France. Perhaps, thanks to this and other movements today women already have certain rights: the right to elect, to be elected, to take office (in case of political posts by concrete number), etc. However, many laws, as well as many of those, defined for women die on the vine and are not used. A question emerges to understand what these movements gave, what they fostered, whether fixed rules are properly used or not. Let us try to understand.
To what extent are the rights of women used in the world and in Armenia?
In the course of years the institute of equality of rights has developed. Actually, in around 100 countries women have a right to elect and to be elected. In Armenia women also have such right (Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia, Article 3, Equal Electoral Right).
All rights and responsibilities of people and citizen are fixed in the basic law of state, Constitution of the RA. Actually, the Article 30 of the Constitution of the RA sets forth that women and men have equal rights. At the same time, in all Articles of the Second Chapter (Basic Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen) rights are defined without any discrimination between women and men. The rights of woman are also protected by several international regal acts (UN Convention on the Political Rights of Women, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adopted by the Council of Europe).
Let us try to understand to what extent the stated laws are applicable. The Article 57 of the Constitution of the RA defines that everybody has the right to choose a job. Why does the majority of women not have job? Why does the number of working men surpass that of the women, according to the statistics? May be, the reason is that women are basically housewives or men, according to the unwritten law, have to work and take care of their family. Perhaps, this is the reason that scientists are mainly men, because they are busy with their work, that is to say, whether they have family or not, it does not matter, they work. But in case of women, having baby may already be disadvantage for getting a job. In 2015 46% of women in the 15-75 age brackets did not have and were not looking for job, because they were housewives. 45% of the representatives of female gender between 15-29 do not work. Meanwhile, if we take into consideration that women are the majority among people with the highest grade of education (55.3%), in labor market they should also have a leading role. In Executive Branch offices out of 18 ministers only 2 are female. During the previous years no more than three female ministers were in the Government’s staff.
In justice administration bodies of the RA, courts, the number of women is greater compared with Executive Branch bodies: in every Court of First Instance at least one female judge works, in the Court of Cassation five, in the Administrative Court six and so on.
As for political posts, from this viewpoint the problem is not that woman be assigned to office only because she is a woman. We think it would be right to assign those, who are proper to the post and have the necessary knowledge regardless of their gender. The problem is that women often are not accepted as independent side or able to take part in politics and make decisions, while this stance is far from being proved. [i]
Based on this, we can propose
- The histories of successful women should be made public as often as possible regardless the field of their activity: politics, culture, business, or other sphere. This will foster women to think that they can also achieve success like them.
- In educational system the thought should be taken into account, according to which the majority of persons of higher education is female, but few of them have job, that is to say, steps should be taken to provide female graduates with work. For example, it would be appropriate to organize seminars for developing practical knowledge, where information would be given about vacancies and women would have experience, volunteering in those workplaces until their graduation or organize social union for protection of female workers’ rights, which would air such problems and gather power.
- As now political offices are mainly taken by men, and women are not often given such opportunity, the proposal at political level is that women, who want to enter political sphere, be given support. It is possible to develop cooperation between female political actors, thanks to which the work will be ameliorated and career created. At the same time, it would be better not to take into account the gender of persons when appointing them to political posts.
- To help women, to give them equal position with men in society it would be appropriate to create unions, clubs of women, where they could learn histories of successful women, methods through which they achieved it, create nets of cooperation and mutual assistance, as well as new offices for protection of women’s rights, etc.
Completing the aforementioned, we can say that the main source of problems is that a stereotype is spread in Armenia, according to which it is better that woman rather than man to be unemployed. But in educational system women have quantitative (and often qualitative) domination. Factually, we lose important professional resources. To ameliorate the situation it is important to change the way of thinking. The stereotype should be broken, according to which women, mothers, even nursing mothers are not able to work. Conversely, they should work and can be skilled workers for state, as well as for private sector.
The meaning of the proposals is not that job be taken from men and given to women. In reality, the problem has twofold nature, social and injustice. That is to say, there is a considerable shortage of workplaces in the RA and they are not sufficient for all capable workers. But the existing workplaces are distributed unfairly, and this injustice first of all appears when women with incomparably greater vocational knowledge and skills are refused because of their gender.
Armenia, without doubt, has tangible achievements in the field of protection of women’s rights. But the elimination of the existing defaults related to the political will and to some extent, to the necessity of political generational shift, will qualitatively ameliorate Armenia’s position in protecting women’s and men’s rights generally.
[i] There are bright examples of female political actors in history. When saying female political actor, many imagine the strong, strict and fastidious character of Angela Merkel. Many consider the first female Chancellor of Germany to be the most influential woman in the world. Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain, is one of the successful women and is known as “The Iron lady”. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Nobel prize winner), who first in the history of “Black continent” was elected as President of Liberia in 2005, can also be ranked with successful women. Other examples of influential women are Helle Thorning-Schmidt (the first Danish female president), Atifete Jahjaga (President of Kosovo), and other women. Armenia has never had female President, though women have had electoral right since 1921 in the RA.
Author: Julya Galstyan. © All rights are reserved.
Translator: Sona Aramyan.