19 March 2005

Male - female relations in Armenian families

AZAD-HYE (19 March 2005): In the 5th March 2005 issue of the "Glendale News Press" Ani Amirkhanian touched on a very sensitive issue in the Armenian social life: brother - sister relations and the role of older males in protecting (or over-protecting) their sisters (or mothers).

The traditional Armenian family, being male oriented, vests in the person of the father or brother heavy responsibilities towards the family and its female members, especially when it comes to moral issues and understandings. The male is considered the "protector" of the
family, regardless how imperfect he is.

"Traditionally, an older brother has been the one to protect the younger siblings, especially the sister ... but in some Armenian families, brothers are more of an authority figure and seem to play the role of a parent", Ani Amirkhanian says.

"... what is most striking", she adds, "is that many Armenian parents permit their sons to be like watchdogs and even disciplinarians when it comes to their younger siblings, especially their sisters".

The majority of brothers interfere when a young man seeks a relationship with their sister, at which point the main task of the young man becomes to overcome the obstacle of the brother. The only way to do so is to befriend him and get his consent.

Ani Amirkhanian states that in many Armenian families "there are often no boundaries set that distinguish his (the brother's) role from that of his parents. The parent and child roles are reversed in some cases". Sisters and weaker siblings are those who pay the price for this kind
of disciplining attitudes, often conducted in an arbitrary manner.

At the end of her article Amirkhanian wonders when will "young women take charge of their own lives without having any men, let alone their brothers, step in?"

Mary Terzian, an Armenian-American writer says that she "can understand the protection to some extent but not the authoritative, power position which goes to the head of some young men who give themselves importance by squishing their sisters, or even their mothers".

She sees that this problem is somehow extended to the husband and wife relations, where the promise of "love and cherish your wife" is overlooked in favour of "obey your husband".

She concludes "it is about time that we learn to respect the rights of each individual, teach them when they are young, mentor them in their teens, and be their friend and counsellor when they are older, otherwise when will a person reach maturity?".

From the website of human rights in Armenia you are invited to read the following excerpt about the administrative role of women in the present-day society of Armenia:

" ... only 3% of the parliamentarians [of the Republic of Armenia] are women (there are 4 women parliamentarians), there is not a single woman Minister in the executive branch of government, only 5 deputy Ministers out of 28 are women, there are two women Ambassadors (to Bulgaria and Romania) and 22% of judges are women. As regards local governments,
there is not a single female Mayor, only 2 deputy Mayors out of 47 are women, there are no women among community heads and only 20 out of 851 village heads are women. The picture is basically the same at the level of regional governance (marz): not a single Regional Governor or a Deputy Regional Governor is a woman. Only 4 political parties are headed by women and those are political parties that have no or insignificant impact on the country’s political life".

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