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Armenian government removes “gender” from law

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Banner from the Armenian organisation Society Without Violence at a Gender Equality Fair in Yerevan. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Julia Lapitskii.

Banner from the Armenian organisation Society Without Violence at a Gender Equality Fair in Yerevan. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Julia Lapitskii.

The Armenian government has approved a bill on amendments to the country’s gender equality law. This after the use of the word “gender” in the law generated massive protests from traditionalist groups as well as the Armenian Apostolic Church. The wording will now be changed to ”equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women”.

20 May the Armenian parliament adopted law number 57 on gender equality, with 108 votes for and one against. But in the end of the summer, campaigns against the use of the word gender in the law started appearing in social networks. Videos connecting gender to pedophelia and bestiality were circulated and gender equality activists were threatened. The groups also claimed that using “gender” as a base for the law, would meen giving “unwaranted benefits to sexual minorities” (i e could be used to promote LGBT rights).

Apparently these tactics worked, because the government has now approved amendments to the law. In a statement,  Artem Asatryan, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, said that in order to avoid dual interpretations, the words  “gender relations” were changed to “equal rights and opportunities for men and women”. Artem Asatryan said that Armenia has adopted the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Dicrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and pledged to pursue a policy of non-discrimination against women , but that the term gender does not apply in that context.

The amendments has been sent to the parliament, which will consider the bill during the fall.

In an earlier comment, one of the activists targeted in the anti-gender campaigns, Lara Aharonian from Women’s Resource Center, said that this whole affair has been used by certain decision-makers to score political points, since it is easy in Armenia to mobilize the masses against LGBT persons.

Julia Lapitskii/Malin Ekerstedt

Witch hunt on women’s rights activists in Armenia

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Women's Resource Center participating in a demonstration for increased equality. Yerevan, Armenia. Photo: Svetlana Antonyan.

Women's Resource Center participating in a demonstration for increased equality. Yerevan, Armenia. Photo: Svetlana Antonyan.

20 May, Armenia adopted a gender equality law for equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women. This sparked a heated debate regarding the concept of gender, which in recent weeks has developed into campaigns that include outright threats agains women’s organisations and named activists.

The anti-gender campaigns have mainly used social media to spread their message. Videos have been circulating with distorted explanations of the concept of gender, among other things linking it to pedophelia and bestiality.

The campaigns also mock and ridicule the work of LGBT and women’s rights activists. One of the Facebook pages that have been put up, incourages its followers to set fire to or in other ways attack supporters of the term gender, who are called “traitors of the nation” and are said to “engage in sexual abuse of children”.

Photos of activists

“These groups publish photos on social networks of activists, politicians, and generally anyone who even dares to talk about gender equality. It has the marks of a witch hunt and it hinders our work. Girls and young women that we work with, call us in panic, and we’re trying our best to calm them down. Some of our sponsors have asked us not to advertise that they support us” says Lara Aharonian, co-leader of the women’s rights organisation Women’s Resource Center (WRC), and one of the targeted activists.

“It’s ironic that we are accused of promoting sexual abuse against children, when we have been fighting that for many years. In 2010, in the wake of a high profile case of sexual abuse against minors committed by a school teacher, we intiated and led the work of a legal team that looked at making changes in some articles of Armenia’s Criminal Code, to ensure a fair trial for the victims and to make the punishment fit the gravity of these crimes” says Gohar Shahnazaryan, the other leader of WRC.

Employees at Women’s Resource Center have reported the threats to the police, and an investigation is ongoing.

Politicians want law amendments

The campaigns of the anti-gender groups have also reached political leaders. Even though the gender equality law was passed in the National Assembly with 108 votes against one, there has now been statements from both the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Filaret Berikyan, and Naira Zohrabyan, member of parliament from the Prosperous Armenia party, calling for amendments because of the protests.

Some parliamentarians have also taken action not only against the law, but also against the women’s organisations that lobbied for it to be adopted. Ike Babukhanyan (Republican Party) have called for an investigation to check the activities of Women’s Resource Center, accusing them of promoting sexual deviation and homosexuality among under-aged girls.

Homophobia widespread

Since homophobia is widespread in Armenian society – according to the 2011 Caucasus Barometer 97 percent are against homosexuality –  it’s easy to score political points on the issue.

“To mobilize the masses against LGBT persons is very easy in Armenia. And it’s a way to divert attention from the endemic corruption and other economic problems” says Lara Aharonian.

To strengthen cooperation with the European Union, Armenia is currently adopting a series of laws on human rights. EU is Armenia’s biggest trade partner and the two parties are in the process of negotiating an Association Agreement.

Julia Lapitskii/Malin Ekerstedt

Young Women Caucasus Peace Award 2013 goes to women from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Dagestan

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The winners of the Young Women Caucasus Peace Award 2013 Zaruhi Hovanessian (Armenia) and Malikat Djabirova (Dagestan, Russian Federation). Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation | Julia Lapitskii

The winners of the Young Women Caucasus Peace Award 2013 Zaruhi Hovanessian (Armenia) and Malikat Djabirova (Dagestan, Russian Federation). Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation | Julia Lapitskii

The laureates of the Young Women Caucasus Peace Award 2013 were announced in Yerevan on March 25. The Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismailova, Zaruhi Hovanessian from Armenia and Malikat Djabirova from Dagestan were announced winners.   

One of the award founders, Gulnara Shahinian, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and board member of the Armenian NGO ‘Democracy Today’, opened the ceremony stating that the award is granted for human rights work and peace promotion in the region. “These young women are activists in their societies, their potential to achieve change is enormous, “ she said.

“This award is a living body. It is not only celebration, there is much work behind it. We want to motivate and provide these women with the opportunity to participate in peace processes in the region.”

Neither award-winner Khadija Ismailova nor any representative from Azerbaijan were present at the ceremony.

“It is extremely painful that our colleagues from Azerbaijan could not come, though we arranged it in detail. However, we are fully aware that all these years we have been walking on thin ice, and we do our best to avoid slipping. It is our duty to protect each and everyone of the project participants,” said Shahinian. Since 1994, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in the state of a “frozen conflict” with the territory of Nagorno-Karabach at stake.

The third award winner, Malikat Djabirova, leads a regional NGO “Mother and Child” in Dagestan, one of the Russian republics. Since 2005, she has been working to actively promote tolerance among youth, as well as working with young women and their rights.

According to her, the level of education in Dagestan is very low, that’s why “many women don’t have the slightest idea of their own legal rights”. The organization runs a clinic for women as well as provides women with legal and psychological consultations. “My work is in no way extraordinary, I only want the people of Dagestan to be happy and live in peace”, says Malikat. Since the 1990s, Dagestan has been a scene of low-level Islamic insurgency, occasional outbreaks of separatism, ethnic tensions and terrorism.

“I have never thought I deserve any kind of award, everything I do comes from inside of me. This award makes me move forward,” says Zaruhi Hovanessian from Armenia, who leads the civic initiative ‘The Army in Reality’. Together with other human rights organizations in Armenia, in particular the Vanadzor office of the Helsinki Citizens’ Initiative, they take part in the investigation of deaths in the army. “We are trying to get rid of violence and corruption in the Armenian army during peace times,” she said.

Last year’s award-winner Sophia Shakirova presented the award to the first winner from Azerbaijan, the investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova. Ismailova is actively working in the fields of human rights and democracy.

“A special topic of her investigations is corruption. She revealed corruption in the highest echelons of power, which does not go unpunished,” said Sophia Shakirova.

Last year, Khadija was at the center of international attention because of slander and blackmail she was subjected to. “Despite all that, she continues her journalistic work at ‘Radio Free Europe’, teaches young journalists investigative techniques and shares her experience with them, thus preparing change,” said Shakirov.

The Young Women Caucasus Peace Award  was founded in 2011 by Democracy Today (Armenia), Society for Women’s Rights in Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan) and Women’s Information Center. This award is the first of its kind and  has been established to acknowledge the exceptional role and leadership potential of young women in peace building, empowerment of their communities and working to prevent conflicts and to restore and protect human rights. It has been inspired by the work of the famous peace and human rights activist Anahit Bayandur (1931-2011), a winner of the Olof Palme Award.

Armine Martirosyan, Caucasian Knot
Julia Lapitskii

Domestic violence goes unpunished in Armenia

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Armenia is a country where one out of four women have experienced violence – mostly in their family environment. Nevertheless the government recently rejected a law against domestic violence.

“A woman is like wool, the more you beat her, the softer she will get” says an Armenian proverb. Domestic violence is not only a proverb but everyday life for many Armenian women. According to an Amnesty International report from 2008, over a quarter of women in Armenia have been hit or beaten by a family member and about two thirds have experienced psychological abuse. Nonetheless, Armenia has no specific laws against domestic violence. In January, the government of Armenia even blocked what could have become the country’s first domestic violence law and recommended amendments to other existing laws instead, claiming that amendments would make a separate law unnecessary.

Anna Nikoghosyan from Society Without Violence, Armenia. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation | Karin Råghall

Anna Nikoghosyan from Society Without Violence, Armenia. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation | Karin Råghall

Anna Nikoghosyan from the Yerevan based NGO Society Without Violence sees in the rejection of the bill an unwillingness of the government to recognize domestic violence as a serious issue and the lack of political will to promote women’s rights and gender equality. “While our government is rejecting the law on domestic violence, there are women who suffer, who are murdered, who undergo psychological, sexual or physical abuses, who do not know where to go and how to protect themselves.”

There is no state help for women who have experienced violence, their support has been left to NGOs. But being short of funds and the fact that domestic violence is widely regarded as a taboo and a private matter makes this a challenging task.

It is deeply rooted in the patriarchal society to justify domestic violence and Anna Nikoghosyan says that many women even believe that they themselves provoke men to beat or rape them through their behavior. If a woman gets raped, it is only to be blamed on her and leaves her stigmatized and a social outcast. At the same time, a woman has to submit to a man’s sexual demands.

Most of the rapes in Armenia go unreported due to the social stigma attached to it. The official police statistic for 2012 lists 621 cases of domestic violence, 5 of which were murder. Those are only the reported incidents, the number of unreported cases is far higher. Violence often happens in the broader family context, by intimate partners or family members. To report domestic violence is equated in society with ‘destroying the family’ and is strongly stigmatized. Amnesty International suspects that crimes and violation of women’s rights “are both significantly under-reported and perpetrated with widespread impunity.” 

Presidential Election in ArmeniaOn February 18 Armenia elected a new president. The only female candidate, Narine Mkrtchyan, was forced to withdraw her candidacy, according to Gulnara Shahinian from the organization Democracy Today.

Amnesty International quoted a woman who dared to say stop and break the silence: “I put up with his beatings for 14 years because that’s what’s expected here in Armenia. In the Armenian family the woman has to put up with everything, she has to keep silent. The fact that I did something about it, that I went to the police and divorced my husband – [made] people in my village point at me and say she’s crazy, look at what she did to her husband, she should have kept quiet.”

Many women who dare to file complaints often subsequently withdraw them again because of the social pressure or threats by their parents or husbands, or because the police tell them to handle that matter privately.

Corruption within the police and among judges is common, so women are often denied justice when they do take cases to court. “Because of the lack of legislation and absence of special regulation mechanisms, many domestic violence cases still remain unpunished or the court decisions are lighter than they could be in case of a separate law,” says Anna Nikoghosyan. The Armenian government’s refusal to recognize violence against women as a crime and implement a law against it is a key obstacle to justice.

Katharina Andersen

“EU should lead by example”

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The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.

The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.

On October, 11th the Equal Power – Lasting Peace report made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation on women’s participation in peacebuilding was presented at a conference in the European parliament. Based on the interviews with women-activists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia, the report is a unique mapping of obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating in peace processes on equal terms with men.

The Equal power – Lasting Peace conference gathered more than 100 participants, EU and NATO officials and politicians, as well as civil society representatives – in the audience and among the panelists.

The opinions and discussions at the conference were many, all of them though sharing a common stand: something has to be done to increase women’s participation in peace negotiations. The question is how and by whom.

– Women’s political participation and decision-making are the key issues, underlined Ms. Helga Schmid, Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs at European External Action Service (EEAS).

At her opening speech she mentioned Egypt, where the draft of the Constitution does not make any provisions for gender equality and where there are only six female MPs.

– We focus our assistance in the EU neighborhood to civil society and women’s issues, in particularly legal rights and equal access to decision making and to the power structures. Gender cannot be an excluding factor in the political processes from an early stage of mediation in the process and onwards, said Ms. Helga Schmid.

Gender-blind agreement

Ensuring that gender equality is guaranteed from the very beginning when designing a peace agreement has proven to be a crucial factor for the sustainability of the peace. How bad a gender-blind peace agreement can turn out Alexandra Petric, Programme Director of United Women Banja Luka, BiH, testified on.

– Bosnia and Herzegovina has gone eight years without any women ministers, 17 years without any women members of the BiH Joint Presidency, and 17 years without any women in negotiations about crucial political issues that affect lives of women and men citizens of BiH, such as security sector and constitutional reforms, says Alexandra Petric

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  “EU should lead by example”, The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation’s Secretary-General Lena Ag highlighted in her introduction. While the EU has adopted a comprehensive approach on UNSC resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security, the reality reflected by statistics leaves much to be desired. EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy) are all led exclusively by men, and only two of EU:s ten special representatives are women, just to name a few examples.

This statistics, says Mr. Olof Skoog, Chair of the Political and Security Committee at EEAS, was a lesson from the day:

– Not a single woman leads our missions. We are choosing the best of the best, but the problem is that member-states are not nominating any women. What we can do is to explicitly ask them to nominate more female candidates, says Mr. Skoog.

NGOs not GONGOs

The topic of giving room to the voices of women from conflict-affected regions was discussed by many of the panelists and raised in questions from the audience. Finding the authentic grass-root organizations can be a challenge when a lot of GONGOs (governmentally organized NGOs) are entering the scene. Still it is crucial in getting a comprehensive understanding of the situation in a region:

– When EU officials are visiting a region, they really need to  seek contact with, and talk to, real civil society organizations, including women organizations, not those who will tell the convenient things that the officials want to hear, says one of the panelists Gulnara Shahinian from the Armenian organization Democracy today.

Slander, violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes, the report shows. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Sara Lüdtke.

Women has important role

The role of women’s organizations and women activists in peace processes was stressed by many panelists throughout the conference. Monica McWilliams, one of the signatories of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland dwelled on it at her presentation at the conference, as well as Teresita Quintos-Deles, advisor to the President of the Phillipines on the peace process, who sent her greetings on video, as she herself was occupied with the upcoming peace agreement. Both women provided striking evidence of the importance of women’s empowerment.

Long-term support neeeded

A long-term strategic approach and continuity are what women activists Alexandra Petric and Gulnara Shahinian would like to see from the EU:

– The EU needs to develop strong and coherent strategies to address women’s human rights and gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina to address both direct and indirect support of perpetuating ignorance toward these issues by BiH authorities. This requires the EU’s commitment to a long-term support of women and gender equality – specific programs that focuses on the prevention of and fighting against gender-based violence and that underlines women NGOs positions as watch-dogs and partners to BiH government institutions. This would both strengthen women’s human rights in practice and the NGO’s work on empowering women, says Alexandra Petric.

– We would really appreciate sustainable and strategic involvement from the EU. What we see now is that the EU finances short projects, where partnership with civil society has a formal character, says Gulnara Shahinian.

New report: Violence, corruption and unequal laws keep women from peace processes

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The findings from the Iraqi field study show that the US occupation increased secterian thinking within the country and severly crippled women's rights. Photo: Anna Lithander/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes. Another big part of the problem is that the international community gives priority to men for senior positions in peace operations. This according to the new report Equal Power  Lasting Peace made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Equal Power – Lasting Peace is based on field studies made in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia. Although the countries and conflicts differ, the patterns are strikingly similar.

In all the regions women and women’s organizations play important roles in resolving conflicts in local communities and in handling everyday life.

But when it comes to formal decision forums the doors are closed for women. This contrary to the statements of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which emphasizes that women must participate on the same terms as men in all parts of peace processes, for the peace to be sustainable.

The exclusion of women is present both within the international missions and negotiating team at national level. Equal Power – Lasting Peace shows that very little has happened, despite the fact that twelve years have passed since Resolution 1325 was adopted.

– Peace Processes that excludes half the population are imperfect. Women’s needs and experiences are made invisible, says Lena Ag, Secretary General at The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Common obstacles

Equal Power – Lasting Peace’s survey shows that the most common obstacles for participation that women face are:

  • Legislation and standards
  • Rumours and threats
  • Domestic violence, including sexual violence
  • Poverty and corruption
  • Ignorance of the international community

- As in other policy areas, the male dominance within the peace and security area needs to be broken. It is a question of democracy and a basic condition for sustainable peace processes. It is also important to push for the appointments of more women to key positions within the EU and the UN. How else can the international community credibly argue that equality is important? says Lena Ag.

No female UN Chief Mediator

Examples of the representation of women and men in key positions related to peace and security:

  • At the 24 largest peace negotiations held between 1992 and 2010, only 7,6 percent of the negotiators and 2,5 percent of the mediators were women.
  • The UN has never appointed a female Chief Mediator.
  • 89 percent of the UN’s special representatives and envoys are men.
  • 84 percent of the UN peacekeeping operations are led by men.84 percent of the UN member countries’ UN ambassadors are men.
  • There are only men leading the EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy).
  • 2 of the EU’s 10 special representatives are women.

Download:

Equal Power – Lasting Peace, the report

Equal Power – Lasting Peace, summary

Statistics of women and men in key positions within the EU and the UN

Young feminists meeting across conflict borders

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Team building activities for the participants of the feminist summer school. Photo: Julia Lapitskii/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

In the midst of the hot summer, young women from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey came together for a week in Kobuleti, Georgia, to take part in a feminist summer school. The region has for many years been dominated by the wounds of several frozen conflicts, and for many of the participants, meeting women from the other side was a new, and very emotional, experience.

Lika Nadaraia from the Women's Political Resource Center in Georgia. Photo: Julia Lapitskii/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

The idea to organize a feminist summer school came to Lika Nadaraia, from the Women’s Political Resource Center in Tbilisi, after seeing it first in the Balkans. When the school was arranged for the first time five years ago, participants were only Georgian women from various women’s organisations, as well as activists and politicians. A few years later, in 2010, it became a regional school – including all the countries of the South Caucasus region, joined this year also by participants from Turkey.

- I’ve seen a lot of women’s meetings on peacekeeping, and I realized that as long as women continue to represent patriarchal values ​​and keep supporting dominant structures, nothing can be achieved. Women can unite and have an impact, only if they have a common philosophy when they start criticizing militarism, nationalism, that often dominate in the patriarchal context – says Lika Nadaraia, feminist summer school organizer.

A turning point

For Elene Natenadze, a student of psychology at the Tbilisi State University and an employee at the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development, this is the second summer school, and it has became, in some ways, a turning point in her life:

- I used to think that there was something wrong in the way men were treating me, but I could not understand what was the problem and why it happened. After the first school I realized that they simply have no right to behave in that way.

Nare Hovhannisyan, one of the participants from the Women’s Resource Center Armenia, is confident that the school will help her take on a more active role in her organization.

- I have been thinking a lot these days about what is most important to me. I am now a volunteer, and I participate in all the organisation’s activities, but most importantly, I realized that I should have a goal. I have to pass on the knowledge I obtained here. It is not enough to just participate in what the organization is undertaking, I have to find my own mission.

Important to meet

For Elene and Nare, as well as for the rest of the young women taking part in the school, it was very important to meet new people, which otherwise is virtually impossible to do in a region torn by conflicts and divided by insurmountable borders. A fact that also was confirmed by Leyla Jahangirova from the Azerbaijani organization Yuva Humanitarian Center:

- It was a chance for me to meet young women from other countries in the region. I told the Armenian participants myself yesterday: I was born in Karabakh; the war happened in front of my eyes; I lost my home; loved ones. Years have passed and now we are here together. It does not matter, because I understand that this is not a war that they started, they are just citizens of a country that is at war with a country I live in. But this does not change our relationship.

Common feminist platform

These connections and these meetings are in fact the aim of the school, according to the school organizer Lika Nadaraia – it is not just about the transfer of knowledge, but it also important to establish contacts between organisations with a clear feminist position and with a clear vision that will eventually lead to the creation of a common regional platform, but through a living structure, which will not become too bureaucratic.

- They are happy to go beyond their national realities and realize how similar they are. Why is this described as an Armenian culture, for example? They say we do not want to change our culture, but it is in fact one and the same culture, one where women has always occupied the same place.

Julia Lapitskii

Women more present in words than actions when EU assesses its Neighbourhood Policy

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Last year’s new European Neighbourhood Policy meant an increased commitment from the European Union to support human rights when aiding its neighbouring countries. But women’s rights are still very much missing in the formal documents, and thereby also in the actions taken and planned. This although the official words spoken are underlining equality.

In May 2011 the European Union revised its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in, as the European Commission (EC) describes it, ”a rapid respons to the changes taking place in particular in the Southern Mediterranean but also in Eastern Europe”.  This new strategy was adopted to show Europe’s support to the peoples of the Arab Spring and to their struggle for freedom, democracy and safety. A year on the EC has made an assessment of the implementation of this new policy so far, and the result is presented in the report Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy.

When presenting the report, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Commission Vice-President (HR/VP), Catherine Ashton, was optimistic:

- We have seen great progress in some countries. In others, we need to encourage the political leadership to take bold steps down the path to reform. I have always said that we will be judged on our work with our immediate neighbours, and I am convinced that we are moving in the right direction. We will continue to help our partners in their efforts to embed fundamental values and reinforce the economic reforms which are necessary to create what I call ‘deep democracy’, she said.

Women’s rights not in writing

The ENP defines deep and sustainable democracy as ”including free and fair elections, freedom of association, expression and assembly, the rule of law administered by an independent judiciary” etc, but there is no mentioning of women’s rights to equal participation in decision-making.

Since history has shown us that when women’s rights are not spelled out in basic documents (and sometimes even when they are) they won’t appear in reality, this could be seen as very unfortunate. Especially since Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy states that it ”is based on new features, including…a recognition of the special role of women in reshaping both politics and society”. A statement further endorsed by Catherine Ashton:

- I’ve been very privileged to meet women in countries like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia. We need to ensure that women play their full part in society, in the political and economic life of their countries, not just because of course it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes economic and political sense. I would argue women should be at the heart of all the transformations that follow.

Actions for women through the ENP

So the question is: How have these EU statements on women’s rights been transformed into actions concerning the neighbouring countries during the past year, and what are the plans within this area for the years to come?

Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy has only one paragraph mentioning women’s rights. It states that building sustainable democracy also means ensuring gender equality and increasing the participation of women in political and economic life. But after that the paragraph just goes on observing that some of the countries last year tried to set up legislation to ensure a more balanced composition of parliaments, but that they have encountered resistance and therefore this action has not had the desired effect.

But in the accompanying document Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity: Report on activities in 2011 and Roadmap for future action, there is a list of actions taken within the ENP to establish full participation of women in society when it comes to the Southern Neighbourhood. This includes:

  • A high level meeting in New York in September that ”drew international attention to the need to ensure that women play an active part in political processes worldwide”.
  • The HR/VP during the Women’s Rights Forum in Libya in November announcing the launch of a programme for women’s empowerment, including capacity building and education in the region.
  • A regional campaign on women’s political participation in the Middle East and North Africa launched in December, together with ”concrete projects in this field”.
  • In Tunisia: promoting gender senstitive institutional and judicial reforms and women’s participation in elections.
  • In Egypt: addressing women’s participation in political life through a cultural initiative called the Spirit of Tahrir.
  • In Jordan: having two ”Village Business Incubators” promoting rural women’s right to participate in the labour market.

Actions to come

For the upcoming period of 2012-2013 the actions specifically mentioning women are:

  • The programme Political and economic empowerment of women in Southern Mediterranean region, aiming to help marginalised women gaining access to economic and public life.
  • Increased funding to the Anna Lindh Foundation and its programme Civil Society for Dialogue, targeting youth and women.

The equivalent document for the Eastern Neighbourhood – Eastern Partnership: A Roadmap to the autumn 2013 Summit – has no mention of women’s rights or participation whatsoever.

The new ENP entailed the principle of ”more for more”, meaning that the more a partner country makes progress and implements reforms, the more support it will recieve from the EU. In separete country progress reports these reforms are stated as actions that EU ”invites” the country to take. Four of the ones for 2012 mention women or gender:

Armenia invitations contain ”adopting a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, including further steps leading to the harmonisation of legislation with the EU acquis in the areas of gender equality and non-discrimination.”

Jordan invitations contain ”increase efforts to eradicate violence against women and to promote their integration in politics, socio-economic life through promoting women entrepreneurs, women’s participation in the labour market and in education, in line with the recommendations listed in the preliminary report issued in October by the UN Special Rapporteur on discrimination against women”.

Lebanon invitations contain ”pay special attention to enhancing the role of women in both public and economy sectors respectively”.

Ukraine invitations contain ”address in good time issues raised in the area of justice and home affairs, notably on combating trafficking in human beings taking into account a gender and human rights perspective”.

These are all of course good examples, but in comparison to the points on various measures regarding trade that are taking up several pages of the different documents, it is not much. Especially when accompanied by a floating language that uses non-specific words like ”leading to”, ”harmonisation”, ”pay special attention to” etc.

In other words: it remains to be seen how the EU’s bold statements on the importance of gender equality  will actually be followed through in its practical dealings with the neighbouring countries the upcoming years.