As every year, the Armenian stand will be present at the Geneva Book Fair (26 - 30 April 2017) thanks to the Hagop D. Topalian Foundation and its director Annie Mesropian who has been supporting, with a remarkable openness, the not always so easy themes, which I have been proposing to her for a decade now.
This year will be the first year in which, as President of the Hyestart NGO, I will propose a series of interventions focusing on the situation of women in the South Caucasus, but also in Turkey and Iran. First of all, because the situation in this area requires it. Second of all, by personal conviction, which is also shared by the other founding member of Hyestart, Alexis Krikorian.
The necessity of reducing the personal or collective power exercised by men over women is not merely a progressive choice that I could make as a man, but rather a certainty that patriarchy, like any system of domination, divides society into two antagonistic classes in which racism and economic domination intertwine, among others. Moreover, from personal experience, oppression and its conceptualization are not foreign to me. The granting of more power to women to influence social, political or economic conditions, the Anglo-Saxon empowerment, or the decline, or not, of women's rights in the West, is a political issue, not a simple view of the mind. It should be noted that without Bertha Lutz and Minerva Bernardino, two South Americans, the mention of gender equality in the preamble of the UN Charter, the inclusion of the word "sex" in the list of discriminations to be prohibited and the creation of a special commission on women would never have materialized. The origin of the universality of certain ideas is therefore not exclusively European.
To look at the position of women in our societies is to confront the problem of the dominant groups and the repression of the dominated group, of the dominated groups. If the empowerment of women remains the objective to be supported, the work of reflection and the implementation of a reduction of male power remains essential. To make it clear that the reduction of power, both in the private and the collective sphere, is not a loss, but a gain, is crucial.
It is not a question of stigmatizing male behavior in a given geographical area - the South Caucasus - because unfortunately, everywhere, the masculine position is increasingly seen as an injustice that is accompanied by violence, gendercide. and which gives way to an increasingly aggressive gender identity.
Linking gender to the production of national identities is not new. Modern nationalisms have relied on gender stereotypes to defend or value a fantasized unity. In many conflicting countries or in deep crises, the image of the traitor or the antipatriot is that of the "effeminate", that is to say, closer to the feminine gender, therefore passive, dominated and potential traitor.
Respect for the rights of women is part of a rhetoric of democracy, it is a guarantor of democratic modernity.
Thanks to the round tables and the expertise of our guests, we will be able to question at this book fair the violence against women, the "gendercide" committed against girls in the three countries of the South Caucasus and we will try to analyze the multiplicity of situations in order to understand the configuration of discourses and uses in the gender disparity in the region.
Finding that the norms are constantly changing over the course of history seems obvious, but in Armenia, as elsewhere, the term tradition is often used when referring to the roles attributed to men and women or behavioral models.
But are the problems encountered today by women in Armenian society really a matter of tradition? If tradition is a cultural object which repeats a model of origin elaborated at a more or less remote period, then the role assigned to women in contemporary Armenian society is not traditionnal at all. It is what we will see through the lives, actions, works and commitments of women who, from the deaconesses of the Middle Ages, to journalists, teachers and philanthropists of the 19th and 20th centuries, questioned the traditional family, knowledge and cultural dominance, among others, and have been able to link the progress of the status of women with the evolution of social culture and the civilization of the nation.
Talking about the rights and position of women in our societies is talking about equality and gender equality in a democratic landscape, but for the moment it is above all talking about truncated, even denied citizenship. It is also to dismantle the mechanisms of oppression and domination. It is therefore a choice of civilization that interests us all in the first place, because it is the possibility of maintaining common action in a world marked by the instrumentalisation of social and human relations.