Women in Artsakh Politics

National Assembly of the Republic of Artsakh, April 17, 2019

The low participation of women in politics is a global issue. Irrespective of political structures and democracy indexes, almost every country faces this problem. The government and parliament should reflect the full picture of society. Despite this, women are still under-represented in leadership positions. 

Experts agree that much depends on women having an equal footing in politics and governmental positions. Although initiative and demand factors are necessary, they are not yet sufficient to end male dominance in politics. Otherwise, this would not even be an issue, and measures would not have to be taken nationally and globally. 

Thus, the Resolution “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted by the United Nations (UN) includes 17 sustainable development goals. SDG 5 addresses gender equality and aims at “ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” The European institutions also strongly support women’s political participation and equal involvement in the decision-making processes. For instance, the European Commission’s “Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019” encourages member states to adopt measures for improving the gender balance in political and public decision-making positions; the EU’s “Gender Action Plan 2016-2020” mainstreams women empowerment and participation in policy, governance and elections at all levels. The Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have proposed a number of resolutions and recommendations on taking legislative and specific political measures to enhance women’s political representation.  

Internationally, some progress has been made in countries where legislative regulations are being implemented to increase women’s involvement in politics. In 2018, global female representation in parliaments rose to 24.1 percent, compared to 11.7 percent two decades before. 

To measure political and corporate progress, the UN determines (i) the proportion of seats held by women in parliaments and governments; and (ii) the proportion of women in managerial positions. 

The women/men ratio in politics in the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) is revealing. Only five of the 33 MPs are women in the Parliament of the 6th convocation (i.e., only 15 percent). One of the 13 members of the government and six of the 24 deputy ministers are women (7 percent and 25 percent, respectively). No women head state bodies or regional administrations, and only three of the chiefs of staff of the 12 ministries are women (25 percent). This is despite the fact that women represent approximately 60 percent of the staff of those ministries: 51 percent in the office of the President and 76 percent in the staff of the National Assembly.

In the state governance system, women are generally entrusted with the work of middle and low ranks, which does not reflect women’s educational level. According to the State Statistical Service of the Republic of Artsakh, the number of women with a higher postgraduate education exceeds that of men (16,000 women and 12,600 men). 

Therefore, the idea that a woman cannot be seen in a leadership role is unfounded and does not recognize the reality of women’s professional competences and educational background. Women, like men, do not form a homogeneous group. Depending on their age, education, civil position, place and other factors, their abilities and life experiences vary, resulting in different priorities and needs. Therefore, electing or appointing women to leadership positions based on bottom-up demand and initiative is not enough: specific political measures must be taken at state level. One positive action is the gender quota determined by the new Electoral Code, which now sets a minimum 25 percent (up from the previous 15 percent) representation of each sex in the proportional lists of the political parties running for parliament. This contrasts with the internationally accepted benchmark of 40/60.

archaic approaches have to be replaced with positive measures based on the principle of inclusivity. 

On the other hand, it is almost undeniable that women’s representation is not yet a guarantee that agendas and requirements for women’s issues are properly raised and promoted in the legislature, executive, and other governing bodies. This is especially true in a political environment with limited freedom. For example, in Rwanda, the country with the highest percentage of women in parliament (61.3 percent), there are severe restrictions on political freedom. That is to say, the essence of the problem is beyond the numbers: to what extent political representatives, whether women or men, speak out for women’s interests.

Society evolves. With each generation come new requirements and priorities. Much has changed in the Republic of Artsakh since its declaration of independence in 1991. Indeed, the generation born in the 21st century will elect a President and Parliament in 2020, and women now have greater opportunities to receive education, pursue a career and take part in policymaking processes. These social developments must also be reflected in politics. To achieve this, archaic approaches have to be replaced with positive measures based on the principle of inclusivity. 

Although women’s involvement in politics is not the only factor to measure positive changes nationally and globally, it is crucial for creating an inclusive, responsible and transparent democratic society. These values form the core of the Republic of Artsakh’s constitution, and women’s broader involvement in politics and public life will have a positive impact on its international image. The fact that the Republic of Artsakh follows not only the principles and norms of international law, but also shares a universal vision for humanity, is another argument in favor of being a full member of the global community.

Artsakh National Assembly President Ashot Ghoulyan in a meeting with Armenian National Assembly Vice President Lena Nazaryan and National Assembly member Lilit Makunts. The author and adviser to the Artsakh NA President, Anush Ghavalyan, is pictured on the right in gray. (Photo: Twitter/Anush Ghavalyan, March 30, 2019)
Anush Ghavalyan

Anush Ghavalyan

Anush Ghavalyan is an analyst. She is a former adviser to the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Artsakh and a 2017 Tavitian Scholar at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Anush Ghavalyan

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1 Comment

  1. The question isn’t why Women are underrepresented the question is why women choose not to run or apply for these positions. If someone is holding a gun to women’s heads and says they cant run for positions, if so then that’s a different story. The real answer is already in front of you, most women don’t want to do that job. I think women are underrepresented in the armed forces, why not have them serve on the front lines, draft and all that comes with being a man. We want equality right? Sweden is a good example, they tried to go the feminist route and become moreegalitarian. However, it didnt work the way they wanted it to, the differences between the sexes in Sweden grew, more women wanted to do more jobs that had historically female occupants. So just come out and say it that you want posh cushy positions of power as a feminist but you cant figure out why you cant get them in large numbers? Because most women dont want to have those jobs. Its not because the men are saying no, its because the women dont want to be in charge of countries. Only a certain percentage do, and most of the time they do a damn good job. Ask yourself why there aren’t a lot of women plumbers, electricians, or mechanics? Why are you not asking about those jobs? Why just the governmental poshy jobs? Oh yeah, you wouldn’t want to have to clean someones filth.

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