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INTERNATIONAL LEGAL EXPERIENCE ON POLITICAL EQUALITY OF RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND MEN

Karen Zadoyan
President of the Armenian Young Lawyers Association
March 2007

Equality is the fundamental and the most important human right, which is provided in all international treaties referring to human rights. In contrast to the existing opinions the political equality between genders does not refer to women only. Instead of concentrating on the issues of political character, which refer to the women or to the men exclusively, the political equality between genders refers to the appearance of inequality of both the women and the men in the political sphere. The political equality between genders anticipates ensuring equal conditions for women and men to enjoy their political rights. It is also aimed to create equal opportunities for women and men to participate in the political development and equally enjoy the results of this development. Inability of women to represent their rights in decision-making process in the high levels brings to the result where a lot of questions stay unsolved. Absence of the women in the political decision making process deprives the considerable part of public from their right to participate in the policies of the political spheres. From this aspect it will be interesting to study the international legal experience on political equality of rights of women and men.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is on the first place among the international legal criteria, it provides that everyone has the right to participate in the governance of the state directly, or through the elected representatives. The Declaration also provides: “In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”
Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948.
Convention on the Political Rights of Women, which was signed in New York on 31 March 1953 and entered into force on 7 July 1954, establishes the women’s right to vote in all elections on equal terms with men, without any discrimination; women’s right to hold public office and to exercise all public functions, established by national law, on equal terms with men, without any discrimination. This convention is in ratification phase in the Republic of Armenia.
International Convention on Civil and Political Rights was adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 2200 A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 and entered into force on 23 March 1976. The Convention obliged the participant states to ensure the equal rights and possibilities for men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights, in particular:
• to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
• to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the elector;
• to have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.
Armenia has signed the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights on 23 September 1993.
The 1979 “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women” of the UN obliged the participant states to ensure the equal rights and possibilities in all fields, in particular in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, all appropriate measures, including legislation, to en sure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men.
The Convention obliged the States Parties to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right:
• To vote in all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies;
• To participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government;
• To participate in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.
Article 4 of the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women” provides, “Adoption by States Parties of temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be considered discrimination as defined in the present Convention, but shall in no way entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate standards; these measures shall be discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved.” Armenia joined to the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women” by the 9 June 1993 decision of the Republic of Armenia Supreme Council.
According to the Optional Protocol to the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” which was adopted on 6 October 1999 in New York the participant states undertake the following obligations:
• Recognize the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications under the protocol. Provides a Communications Procedure, which allows either individuals or groups of individuals to submit individual complaints to the Committee. Communications may also be submitted on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals, with their consent.
• In cases provided in point 1 of Article 6 provide to the Committee a written explanation or statement to the complaint, clarifying the problem and the solutions if there were any.
• In cases provided in point 1 of Article 7 to consider the views of the Committee and provide a written response within the period of six months.
• In cases provided in Article 8 provide their considerations to the Committee within the period of six months.
• Undertake all necessary measures to ensure the protection of those submitting communications.
• Widely publicize the Convention and its Protocol and provide access to the views and recommendations of the Committee.
Armenia ratified the Optional Protocol to the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” by the 23 May 2006 decision of the Republic of Armenia National Assembly.
The Fourth World Conference on Women, which took place in Beijing in 1995, adopted the declaration and the Platform for Action, which raised a number of problems, including:
• Inequality between men and women in all levels of power and decision-making spheres.
• Inadequacy of the mechanisms for career development of the women.
The Beijing Platform for Action indicated that many political parties and state structures still hinder to the process of the women’s participation in the public and political life. And what is even more the number of women in the executive bodies of some states decreases. The Platform for Action suggested including the gender problems in the political programs and undertaking measures for participation of the women in the management of the political parties on equal conditions with the men. The Platform for Action is the most complete document in the sphere of the women rights, which includes the results of the former conferences and agreements. The Beijing Declaration is called to ensure till the end of the 20th century mobilization of the resources for realization of the coordinated strategy and obtaining the goals by the states that signed the 1985 Nairobi (Kenya) Convention. The UN Commission on the Women’s State summarized and evaluated the Beijing Platform for Action on its 49th session which took place in the period of 28 February 11 March 2005.
Apparently all the above mentioned international legal instruments require realization of distinct obligations, which are aimed at raising the social status of women and ensuring real gender equality. From this aspect the Republic of Armenia has ratified nearly all international legal acts referring to gender issues. Nevertheless, the norms of these important instruments have not yet become a part of the practical policy. It is necessary to undertake acute and unalterable steps to overcome the discrimination against women. It is necessary to reach to the balanced representation of the men and women in all spheres of the public life, including the political life as well.

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