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Gender Equality in Pre-election Programs

In the entire world, parties are responsible for formation of political culture and political agenda. So it is not accidental that they are expected to take specific steps to ensure also gender equality. If we take into account that parties’ attitude towards gender equality is an important indicator of the degree to which they are democratic, the issue becomes even more important. An analysis of the pre-election programs of the parties and alliances running in the snap parliamentary elections has demonstrated that: 

 

  • The parties have not yet developed an in-depth grasp of gender equality and the problem is not only their avoidance to use the term;
  • The greater part of the programs have tackled not the issue of ensuring gender equality, but “women’s issues” and did so with a paternalistic approach. It differs from a gender-sensitive approach by the fact that viewing, for example, the woman who has given birth as a beneficiary of state care, it does not view the woman as a citizen, specialist, who needs more than just a paid maternity leave and allowance. A specialist who is a mother needs a flexible work schedule, an opportunity to work from home, introduction of the institute of nannies, a broad and reliable network of preschool institutions and child care centers, adaptation programs to integrate in the labor market after her return from the maternity leave, etc.,
  • The majority of the parties have not changed the traditional political approach to the issue of gender equality, however, the programs of L Bright Armenia Party , My Step Alliance and Citizen’s Decision Socio-Democratic Party include a new, gender-sensitive component (although with some manifestations of paternalistic politics).

 

Specifically, Bright Armenia  Party has displayed a dual approach to the issue: on the one hand, a half-paternalistic approach, promising development and implementation of demographic policies (birth rate increase, creation of the necessary conditions for immigration, coordination of family allowances, granting benefits targeting children through introduction of children’s cards, the right to free use of kindergartens and educational institutions, adoption of a law on families with many children for the purpose of providing measurable benefits; on the other hand, a liberal approach, for example promising to carry out targeted investment policies in separate areas (for example, in light industry, which actually solves the issue of women’s right to work, ensuring demographic security, increase in funding for preschool institutions through allocations from the state and community budgets);  

 

In its ideological theses, My Step Alliance has noted ensuring legal equality of women and men, which, however, means ensuring equality of rights and does not imply implementation of a policy of equal opportunities. Over the upcoming 20 years, it envisions doubling of the RA population’s number, including through birth rate increase. A good indicator is provided for preschool education: to ensure, by 2023, the 70% enrolment of children above three years of age in preschool educational institutions. It is also envisaged to develop projects on providing affordable housing to young families to increase the birth rate. Women are also mentioned as targets of social protection. Very interesting is the party’s following promise: to change “the philosophy of formation and development of the system of public administration,” promising that it will not be based any more on… “gender stereotypical decisions and gender- and age-based or any other form of discrimination…”    

 

Citizen’s Decision Socio-Democratic Party is one of the young parties, however, it has taken a step forward with respect to the gender equality issue as compared to traditional parties. The program’s social policy section includes a separate subsection entitled Social Protection of Women, which envisions solving the issue of legal equality of sexes, applying temporary regulatory tools by the state, mentions women’s unpaid work, which is proposed to be included in work record calculations, social guarantees for rural women, creation of opportunities for return of mothers with children under three to work and development of the system of child care by preschool institutions and of alternative services.   

 

The party’s very sensitive approach to this issue can be explained by the fact that activists from some non-governmental organizations (including those NGOs that deal with women’s rights) are among the party members.

 

As far as other parties are concerned, for example, the Republican Party of Armenia was the governing force for many years and the adoption of Gender Conceptual Framework, the Law on Gender Equality, introduction of sensitive quotas in the Electoral Code and making them more results-oriented, all this happened during its rule. Though gender experts positively evaluated these steps in all their analyses of the previous years, they, at the same time, always noted that this policy was imitational by its nature and the party lacked an in-depth perception of society. Concessions were largely the result of the international obligations and lobbying by women’s NGOs. The 2018 pre-election program confirms this statement. The RPA program is gender blind. However, it being a conservative party, its program notes that “The basis of the Armenian society is the traditional family. Formation of strong and sound families, upholding and development of traditional national values by the family should be one of the most important objectives of the state.”   

 

Prosperous Armenia Party, in the paternalistic spirit, declares that “mothers and families with many children should be taken special care of by the state. It is envisioned to increase the amount of the lump-sum allowance for the birth of first and second children, and to increase the amount of financial assistance for the third and successive children. This will have both demographic and social importance.”  

 

Sasna Tsrer Party is a nationalist one and, naturally, the issue of birth rate is first and foremost viewed as national security issue. For this reason, it envisaged to develop and implement “a program on encouragement of birth rate and on care of motherhood and childhood, including multiplying the existing financial support in the area.”

 

Menq Alliance promised to lean on strong and traditional family values.

 

Christian People’s Renaissance Party had nothing at all to say on this issue. 

 

Orinatz Yerkir Party promised provision of support and subsidies from the state means and at low interest rate to young families, i.e. social housing construction, provision of a lump-sum of 500 000 drams from the state budget to marrying couples, creation of mechanisms of state support for families with many children, introduction of a complex system for maintenance of the health of the mother and child, and development of a network of free kindergartens in the RA marzes (provinces) and communities.

 

The ARF only promised to promote the coming-to-be and development of young families, viewing low birth rate as a demographic disaster.

 

National Progress Party’s program notes the doubling of Armenia’s population in the upcoming five years as an issue of strategic importance, especially through promotion and increase of birth rate. As a means of promoting birth rate, the program mentions “provision of families, upon the birth of the third child, with a mortgage loan at up to 3% interest rate for a period of 20-30 years.”

 

Lilit Zaqaryan

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