International Women's Day 2007

Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls

“Violence against women has yet to receive the priority attention and resources needed at all levels to tackle it with the seriousness and visibility necessary.”

Secretary-General’s in-depth study on
violence against women (2006)

Source: IWD 2007
While for many people in Armenia, this day has lost its old flavor and color, I find it a privilege to greet women on this “major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women” and wish all the best, success and happiness!

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. I join you in your wishes to women! There is something nice and tender about celebrating them (although I categorically disagree about putting them in a separate box and thus separating from people in general, i.e. creating the dichotomy of “people-men” and “something special-women”. Unfortunately, many women themselves happily subscribe to that view, probably not realizing that they degrade themselves to the status of sex objects whose main life function then revolves around when and to whom open their legs).

  2. Interestingly this day has always had a reversed meaning in Armenia – I mean while established to celebrate it as a day of equality in the world, in Armenia it has always been the day of “positive discrimination”. I really don’t think anyone except women has the authority to judge what this really means for them – good or bad.
    I know, that this is still a men run, men controlled, men centric world. Even the way we in Armenia take charge of the situation and bring flowers and try to be nice to women: by doing this we are somehow taking the initiative and the real significance of the day from women… i think 🙁 i’m really not sure here 😀
    So anyways, there’s a lot of thinking to be done about what really is going on with the situation of gender equality in Armenia. One thing I’m certain about is – we definately have problems in this field. I mean – I don’t think any Armenian would fency having a woman president in the next 20 or more years, and that for me, is an important indicator of where we are in terms of gender equality.

  3. I think women like this day, they are full of expectations as to who will say or give what. Women are different from men, physically, emotionally, psychologically and in general. They say “Women are like pearls”, and if you know, when you don’t pay attention to a pearl jewelry and do not wear it, the worm is eating it up inside. And so are women, they need attention, and not only on their birthday or such an event, but all the time. You want your woman shine, so you love her and pay all the possible attention, and when you don’t, she’s getting rotted. Happiness is a common work, well, but the motives of the gift may differ.
    This is not a gender issue, not about equality and it’s not a question as who is the initiator, because women also congratulate and give presents to other women this day. And on the contrary, when it is February 23 women give presents to men. This is just how we are from nature, so different but fulfilling one another. This is just beautiful!
    And you know, opposing to why this day was established, I will say the following – I don’t think we need a day of equality between men and women, because the notion of equality should be eliminated and that state should be just natural and spontaneous for all the time, but this may be a day when women will just relax and pretend weak and leave men take care of them.
    As I said here , we really pretend weak, but again remembering that “Women have their fingers on the pulse of the community” and I deeply believe in that. And also seeing more young female activists and many women in high positions in serious organizations, I don’t hesitate saying that we may have a female president in some 20 years, just the question is that they prefer leaving all dirty job to men, although controlling them in families.

  4. Of course, when I say “equality”, I understand political, social, economic equality, not psychological or emotional, so Zarchka is totally off there. I also understand that society is being willing to contemplate the woman presidential candidate on her solid merits, and not reject her because her mammal glands are more developed -> with all the consequent primitive traditional social baggage.
    I categorically disagree with Zarchka about the role of women as “pearls” that “need attention … all the time”. Her type of females is exactly what I meant by the phrase above:
    “Unfortunately, many women themselves happily subscribe to that view, probably not realizing that they degrade themselves to the status of sex objects…”
    Just follow logically her line of argument: then the happiness and fate of women depends on the pearl owners, the men; if they are caring, the pearl is shining, if not – it is rotting. This is ridiculously medieval slavish thinking…

  5. Happy Women’s Day, indeed!

  6. Artashes I know type of the equality you talk about, but my point wasn’t about it at all, so you should be off here. With all the power and strength we have, we are pearls, who need attention, but no man can understand it being cynical. Forget about politics and stuff for a moment. Being nice and respecting the opposite sex and taking care is not shameful at all, as I see nothing wrong in the fact that we need attention. You need it as well, I bet, you can’t neglect the fact. It has been a fact throughout centuries and it’s ridiculous to call it medieval thinking. Just remember how your g/f may behave if she lacks attention on your part, and probably vice verse.
    Guess you will not understand it… so it’s useless to argue.

  7. Zara – being nice and respecting towards the opposite sex is something that should be a part of culture, a part of daily life. And that is exactly what April 7th was established to celebrate (and Mother’s day for example here in the UK or in US).
    However, the 8th of March is the day of Political Equality of Women!!! And I get really frustrated by the fact, that this day is celebrated in Armenia the way it is: this day is NOT about treating nicely to women!!! Hell NO! This day is the day, when Women FOUGHT for their RIGHTS and WON!!! Against men! The World of MEN!
    Now what the Soviets did – is: they totally subverted the meaning of this day, and instead of celebrating the victory of female power and recognizing their RIGHT to Equality, we men, keep patronizing (treating nicely, like little pearls, flowers, etc.) and thus making it understood, that WE MEN are STILL the ones who can give or take, be nice or be not nice… etc. Interestingly, March 8th is celebrated in such a way only in the countries of the former Soviet Union, whereas in Iran for example we saw protests of women this week demanding rights for education, etc.
    And Artashes is right when saying: “Unfortunately, many women themselves happily subscribe to that view, probably not realizing that they degrade themselves to the status of sex objects…” – it is an absolutely brilliant statement of the problem as I see it… you see, this is NOT the International day of girlfriends, or mothers, or beauties, or pearls – this is the International Women’s Day – the day when you are supposed to look at deeply rooted and unsolvable problems of the humanity. This day is as important as the International AIDS day, and this problem is at least AS SERIOUS as AIDS.

  8. Zarchka jan!
    When i am reading your post I do have the feeling that it is a speech of a father in law to his daughter in law during the wedding party, to be a shining ‘pearl’, ‘inner wall’, ‘neck’ etc.
    And after a ‘tush’, pearls of all families up for a dance and then breaking the plates (man does it the first as his voice counts in family!)
    Who said men do not need care and respect? All humans do need care and respect, and I think one is supposed to be respectable to any person equally and every day.
    I am amazed that men in the blog are trying to persuade you that women are equal member of the society, not a polished pearl to reproduce if you keep them warm at home. And still you are so reluctant, and so well adapted to the macho world and particularly in Armenia.
    I have to quest if it is desperation to achieve something because of one’s sex or man world pressed our mentality to the level of mutating it. However it is way too infantile and unconfident and needs serious analysis.
    Your appeals to forget politics and economics for a while and romanticise about being a representative of week gender are not strong enough as the same political and economical picture is to depict Armenian gender reality.
    if you follow feminist approaches you will find that feminism is not only about women, it is more global and covers all groups of society as equal parts of it. Whereas putting human relationships on gender based sexist hierarchy, you should clearly realise that you are an enormous obstacle of developing the country, its democratic perceptions and values, its ethical and moral codes.

  9. Was just talking to some expats in Tbilisi about society here and in Armenia and mentioned the percerption of women in society. Basically, I agree. Armenia’s more patriarchal society means that the perception of women is framed only in male terms and this not only refers to such holidays as this, but also how women dress in Armenia and also what roles they are expected to take onboard.
    Was here in Georgia yesterday and it people celebrated it, but it was different. Of course, women are more independent in Georgia than in Armenia, but that’s relative in comparison to the West, of course. Ultimately, I agree with those comments that state that such events are more about keeping women in subservient positions — keeping them those “pearls” that strikes me as a male-manufactured concept — than emancipation.
    Interestingly, and somewhat worryingly, many Armenian women are happy with those roles, but let’s face it. Armenia is more of an Asian or Middle Eastern society than a European one. Still, it’s up to them to fight against it, I suppose. Just one last thing, though. Although Georgia is by no means Europe, the number of women in positions of influence, including Government and Business, amazed me compared to Armenia. Personally, I think this is admirable and I lament the situation here.
    From speaking to many girls from the Diaspora living in Armenia, they feel the same too. Still, many people think that the “traditional” is becoming stronger in Armenia, but not the positive aspects of what that word means. Instead it means insular and isolated thinking that is having a negative influence on nearly every walk of live and threatens “progress” in the country. Of course, that’s subjective and a generalization. Sure, there are some exceptions, but most intelligent and independent women in Armenia seem to think their future lies outside the country, and I daresay I can’t blame them.

  10. I hate to comment, but I must.
    I absolutely hate it when everything – whether freedoms or religion or way of life – is placed in a European or generally Western framework. While Armenia may have independence, we are not Westerners, per se. We have traditions and values which are very different from that of France, the United States, et cetera.
    The way some characterize our society, as one that needs to be fixed or changed or evolved into something else that is better or more just, annoys me to no end. Armenians are a male-dominated people and women have certain other roles in our society, which are just as important, if not important, than the roles assumed by men. However, simply because traditional Armenians expect a certain hierarchy of family, government, or genders, does not mean there is anything wrong with our society.
    That’s just how we are. We should not attempt to change. I believe that women are equal to men in every possible way, save for certain emotional and physical differences that are obvious. But this is our identity. This doesn’t mean we are a backwards society! No Armenian would vote for a female president, but does this make us anti-Women? Does it make us anti-equality?
    You merely have to look to the U.S. and other western countries to see that more bad than good has come from the total and unreserved push towards total and absolute equality in all forms. We are different and we shouldn’t have to change with the winds of western change.

  11. Onnik I agree to most of your points, and have one little remark about this thought here:
    >Still, many people think that the “traditional” is becoming stronger in Armenia, but not the positive aspects of what that word means.
    The traditional indeed is becoming stronger in Armenia, but I think it is more like the strength of a wounded wolf that strikes back before it goes finally dead, then anything else. At least that’s what I hope for, because women in my country deserve better than what they have now!
    The “traditions” in Armenia are definitely not the same as they were 19 years ago – women are much more competitive in many job markets then man are, although there are many counter arguments here about the value of being competitive as receptionists and secretaries. However, the bases of women’s freedom and equality, in my opinion, lies in their economic freedom and ability to earn and live independently.
    The point you made about more Georgian women on senior job positions is very important: I don’t know if there has been any studies of women managers, but even in the Armenian media (which i know more or less) the number of women managers is surprisingly low, given the huge amount of women involved in other positions in the media – as journalists, commentators, etc…

  12. Rhyne – in support of your point I want to quote one of my earlier posts at What Democracy Means:

    Perhaps the most obvious and unfortunate side-effect of postmodernity’s noble intentions to include and embrace all worldviews and cultures—leaving no individual or social group behind to be marginalized or oppressed—is that by idealistically championing “equal rights,” it ends up flattening all value judgments into an ultra-egalitarian pancake. Wilber has dubbed this postmodern landscape “flatland”—a world in which no value distinctions, no judgments, and no hierarchies are allowed, and in which it’s considered “politically incorrect” to judge another person, group, or even worldview as being fundamentally better or worse than any other.

  13. Hello Ryne, I cannot help answering your comment, just could not resist myself.
    Firstly I wonder how you can consider relationships between men and women equal in Armenia.
    Referring to national traditional wisdom when each and every man vows to be a muster and woman vows to be obedient at church when getting married, when getting acquainted with people it is habitual to have a handshake with the man nothing to women, when woman is a neck and men is the head. I think all the above s enough to illustrate national and traditional perception of gender relations in Armenia.
    Gender relationships are relationships of sexes also, and when we see in our society the issue of virginity so unequal, I think it is merely unethical to fantasise we have normal gender relationships.
    To have 5 women in politics only for the whole country is to signal of ill society in relations of gender issues.
    And it does make the society ill in general. As you mention women have their roles in our society. I have to ask what the roles are. Well, it is very obvious women handle educational block, and we have almost one gender schools.
    Extreme majority of teachers in Armenia are women (I could not find exact research data, sorry). If educating and upbringing is what you mean a woman’s role, which is important indeed, than what are the effects on the generation, which is brought up by women at school and at home? Hence, equal relationships are not to speak of women Ministers (we have a pearl there though:))only, it is to share all responsibilities and also in the opposite direction.
    Gender is to speak about sex of course, and we cannot anyhow consider relationships of women and men equal and normal in Armenia when a group of men and women take the wife to doctor to examine and see if she was virgin-the biggest humiliation a woman could ever have. It can be always worse though.
    We do live in a male dominated society, which is by men, about men and for men. And when you compare it with other western societies which have the ambition to have gender equality and consider that we benefit if the gender hierarchy, I have to argue with you again. What do we have and what do we want? Isn’t it all about fundraising from west and knocking at the doors of EU?

  14. Zarchka, if you learn to read the posts in their entirety you would probably not put yourself in awkward situations like this. You are seemingly objecting to my argument but then, in essence, agreeing with it and contradicting your first post.
    Of course, the caring and respect should be mutual, regardless of gender. All respondents stressed that, and you did too! That’s the essence of my original post: not to artificially separate women into a special category, as if they are not regular people. If you agree with that then in principle we do not have disagreements.
    Plus, as I put in my first post, “there is something nice and tender about celebrating them” even in the Soviet meaning of March 8 (here I don’t completely agree with the Observer), so I fully understand the nice and smiling part of the celebration. My point was not about the actual day but was much broader.
    It was about absolutely disrespectful to the human worth of women attitude of some dumb Armenian men who really don’t consider you, Zarchka and Rhyne, to be full human beings. That’s all. Either you choose to close your eyes and not see it, or you also consider yourself not to be fully developed humans (and Rhyne was dangerously close to admitting it in her post). That’s all I am saying! Europe, America, and Australia have nothing to do with it. I do NOT advocate blind copying of Western mores or lifestyles. Absolutely not. And I consider anybody who is uncritically pro-Western an idiot. At the same time, I consider anybody who is uncritical about some outrageous medieval customs still existing in Armenia a disgusting idiot.
    My way is very simple (theoretically) and very common-sense. Let’s CRITICALLY look at our, European, and Oriental customs and mores, and keep (or even adopt from anywhere, East or West; there is nothing wrong in adopting good things from other people, and by the way, it does occur all the time, whether we realize it or not; simply often the Western superficial bullshit is being adoped and not the good stuff!) good and dignified and beautiful ones (talk about “good” traditions, Onnik. We do have them!) and unequivocally reject disgusting and undignified ones (I just don’t believe, I refuse to believe that in modern Armenia anybody would actually take his new wife or daughter-in-law (or any woman!) to the doctor to force her to spread her legs and see if the hymen is intact!).
    Zarchka, are you with me?

  15. Wow..yay.. See what’s happening when women pretend weak just even for a while, and claim for attention – brilliant example that men shouldn’t be given power over women. I agree. We must be equal? – Right! It’s not a discovery. Now this comes to prove that this governing attitude of men appears only when women allow it, and indeed, not a woman can be governed by men if she doesn’t want it. My attitudes must be quite clear to an observant.
    Artashes, if you took it to some broader notions, I just wanted to give the emotional part of the day, not rationalizing. I just wanted to be a bit nicer, unlike how I am most of the time. This must drive you to the hint, that there are times when strong and independent women, who are their own chiefs, sometimes NEED to feel weak, they get tired of the impression of “powerful, fatal women” and they need rest of it, because first and foremost , they are women without any adjective to it. But men do not understand it. I’d like some women confirm this point, though not everyone will do it, though admitting it. And for your awareness, I’m my own boss and I never trust myself to any man (though sometimes wanting to be a pearl for a while 😉 ). That was my whole point, which was quite misunderstood and mispronounced.
    And while, I’ll not admit as an insult all your and Grigor’s comments hinting about me being “full..not fully developed human being”, as this is not about me, (and I admit that on my part it was something more emotional regarding the day’s atmosphere) and moreover, because you all DO NOT know me and cannot really judge!
    Observer it is interesting to note that in my comment here, when you asked whether I couldn’t have remembered anything else apart from freedom, I commented this:

    […]when I look at my female friends around me who are like in a servant position and in constant dependence on their boyfriends, I lament them deeply and think “Are they not accustomed to that freedom, or it’s handy to eat on behalf of others and receive presents, and so they keep silence…?

    Yes, here I oppose to the notion of “pearls”, and it’s obvious, and above I mentioned what I meant by “pretending weak”. But it should be JUST pretending, see, that’s the point. You, men, that’s so difficult to understand? And later you come up with a comment about rights, equality, fights, demonstrations AND freedom on International Women’s Day… wow that’s what I might have meant in my poem..!!! No, struggling against and for smth is great, it feeds with hope, it’s stimulating, especially when results are seen, but… there is one thing against or for which it is senseless to struggle – relationships between men and women. It’s stupid to try and understand those relationships.
    You know, it will be kind of funny if on this day you meet your gf/fiancee/wife with empty hands, and when she’s full of curiosity as what surprise you’ve prepared for her, you say: “No Hell. This day is the day, when Women FOUGHT for their RIGHTS and WON!!! Against men! The World of MEN!… so go and demonstrate, rally, or fight against me this day, coz I don’t have flowers for you”. Hmmm…
    I wonder what you expect to be done this day? That Women’s Council demonstrates? that women activists fill the streets and clam equality? Some 3 female deputes had a press-conference the preceding day, and that’s only because elections are on the threshold. The law determines equality for both sexes, but, hell, it must be gained in the root and not in the head, because it is the traditioed population who think ill about equality. And I do struggle against them, I struggle feverishly, and as a result those rabiz guys and people think I’m a nutter if I dare to claim equality between men and women, say on why the guy can come home late at night, and it’s ok, but when the girl returns at about 12, she’s “manekox”. Woman must sit at home? Who said?? Who determines?? Bullshit!! And Yes, I’m not happy that it is only by law that women must make 15 % of the party list. Why? Because women do not have merits to be involved and make more than 15% without any law determination?? Or that women are not allowed on the board? Ridiculous! In many aspects women have better results and they achieve things more easily and productively. But also, in many cases women in the family are exactly those who govern their men. On mentioning neck and the head, Grigor, you didn’t give the continuation of that well known proverb – man is the head, woman is the neck, and the head moves only to the direction which the neck goes. Say, let’s remember Dodi Gago and his mother, they say it’s a similar-like case.
    Well, guys, I think, all we were talking here, and with several exceptions, I’m of the same idea. And it’s hopeful to note that you appreciate the freedom and independence of women. And Artashes, unfortunately, in this “modern Armenia” there are ongoing stories when girls are still being taken to doctors or even more horrifying things re their virginity. Just you need to go a bit out of the “modern” circle you are in, coz there’s another world out there – the bigger one.
    To conclude – you all made a real march 8 for me!! Didn’t lack the attention but received so much on your part, negative or positive, doesn’t matter. 😉

  16. Hi All, there are some excellent points made by Raffi N at Life in Armenia:

    […]What it doesn’t mean is celebrating the fact that women only decades ago weren’t allowed to vote and were considered second rate citizens, if at all. They never remember names like Zabel Yessayan, Srpuhi Dussap and Shushanik Kurkhinyan who fought hard to get young girls access to education and opportunity to travel and be an individual capable of taking their own decisions. These names are part of our heritage, but it is rare that we talk or study their lives and struggles in schools. Pretty soon they will be forgotten and an important part of our heritage would be lost.
    When interviewing new staff I discovered that it was normal to have the father or husband be present and answer for the female candidate which was here for a job interview. It was accepted to give an answer like, well I have to ask y husband and see if he lets me work until 7:00 p.m.[…]

  17. I think we lack activists groups to lobby the government and have changes in legislation. After all the same Greece where few decades ago women did not vote, obliges by law to have gender equality in the government and decision making positions.
    Whereas France, almost like Armenia punishes prostitution by Civil Code, but it is not the woman who has to pay the penalty, but it is the man who uses the sexual services.
    In Armenia one exceptionally male institution on behalf of church decides if abortion is moral or not, and the other male institution decides if it is legal or not, and all the fuss is because some other men do not like using contraception and want to have fun.
    I would be for more sharp changes concerning the issue and reviewing legislation to promote gender equality in the country.

  18. Wow, thank you guys for defending the women’s rights… We need more men in our society like you who are so rare in those days. It is fine to relax and enjoy the wine and flowers for one day, as long as women are brave enough to stand up for their rights on the next day and demand respect and equality EVERY SINGLE DAY! This holiday is soooo phony! Most of the men who like to celebrate this touchy-feely holiday, they continue physically and emotionally abuse their wives, sisters, daughters and mothers (oh.. maybe excluding mothers, they are saints to Armenian men:-)
    This example shows what the problem is. This is an excerpt from an RFE/RL article alarming once again that women are going to remain underrepresented in the new Parliament.
    “Some opposition parties are even more male-dominated. Those include the
    radical Hanrapetutyun party of Aram Sarkisian and Artashes Geghamian’s
    National Unity Party. As the Hanrapetutyun spokesman, Suren Sureniants,
    admitted, “For us, the women occupy the first place in areas beyond politics.”
    WHAT AREAS moron? Oh, let me guess.. I bet it includes hand-washing your dirty socks! Ugh… This topic makes me so angry that I am almost ready to start a blog:-)

  19. Back again to your comment Zarchka!
    I am really sorry of I sounded offensive to you, but I would like to add one more detail. Both men and women dream of being relaxed and that someone will take care of them and love them. In this relation we are the same BUT what makes the difference is that women confess they want to be relaxed and loved and cared while men do not confess it.
    I can guess why. Because women are more successful in satisfying man’s need to be loved and cared. Here I have to question, why women still need to feel that? I do not address to women by the way!
    Nanul, do start your blog, I will be regularly commenting there:)

  20. Long Fulton
    I know I am fearful of another birth. So much so that I went on birth control for the first time in almost 10 years!

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