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Armenian Women’s Rights Defenders Call for Gender Parity in OSCE Minsk Group

Women are underrepresented in peace negotiation initiatives at not only the national level, but also the international level, most notably in the OSCE Minsk Group, which is an active player in the Karabakh conflict settlement process. This was one of the key points raised today at a presentation of the results of a 2013 Civil Society Monitoring Report, which examined Armenia's approach to the issues addressed by UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Note, the Resolution requires parties in a conflict to respect women's rights and support their participation in peace negotiations and in post-conflict reconstruction. 

Not only is there no woman in the Minsk Group, but also during the Minsk Group's visits to the region, the co-chairs never meet with any women's organizations and women's issues are not raised, said Women's Resource Center Executive Director Lara Aharonian, one of the presenters at today's event. "So there is work to do also in the OSCE Minsk Group. We need to get stronger at the national level also to put pressure on this level," she said.

The fact that Armenia does not yet have a National Action Plan to implement UNSCR Resolution 1325 was another important point stressed by members of the Armenian Monitoring Group of UNSC Resolution 1325 who were presenting the findings today. Thus, one of the key recommendations of the monitoring group was to create a task force of representatives from government, civil society, and international organizations to implement the resolution and draft a National Action Plan for the country.  

The presentation today also highlighted the low participation of women in politics and governance in Armenia. For instance, though more than 52% of the population in Armenia are women, the number of women in parliament, senior-level government positions, and other decision-making positions is relatively low. And though a legislative amendment in 2012 increased the gender quota from 15% to 20%, considering that the number of women in parliament increased by only 7% in the last 20 years, the authors of the report note that at least 25 years will be needed to achieve this 20% quota. 

The statistics gathered by the researchers concerning the number of women employed in the National Security Service, Ministry of Defense, Police, and the Armed Forces paint an even bleaker picture — not surprisingly, there are no women in senior-level positions in any of these state bodies. Furthermore, researchers were unable to gather all the data necessary to make a full assessment, since the Ministry of Defense (most notably, the Armed Forces) informed them that this information is secret and cannot be shared.  

Other issues raised by the report include the high level of sex-selective abortion in Armenia, as well as cases of sexual and gender-based violence. As there is no official data on incidents of sexual assault and rape during the Karabakh conflict in particular, it is difficult to comment on whether the conflict influenced the growth of domestic violence, said presenters. More data is needed on the effects of war on women and the situation of gender-based violence related to the conflict. 

"It is important to have a higher indicator of women's participation in various ministries and the police system and all those structures where women can truly make a great contribution and change the situation. In this sense, also important is women's role in peace-building and the issue of gender parity in the Minsk Group […] Also very important is creating mechanisms to prevent gender-based and sexual violence," concluded another one of the presenters, Society Without Violence NGO Executive Director Anna Nikoghosyan.