On Beauty Contests and Violence Against Women
Armenia’s Ministry of Diaspora organizes a beauty contest for local and Diasporan Armenian women, while another woman suffers abuse at the hands of her husband and mother-in-law.
“As you are already informed, on October 1, 2010 in Masis town a shocking murder was committed. A 20 year old Zaruhi Petrosyan was killed by her husband and mother in law as a result of torture and physical violence,” reads an open letter by local NGO Society Without Violence.
The case, covered by local news agency News.am, is getting little attention in other media. The latest news is that Zaruhi’s husband, Yanis Sarkisovi, has been detained and charged with “causing severe bodily harm.” This is as much as has been reported so far.
“Petrosyan’s case, while unique by the fact that her family has spoken publicly about her ordeal, is common. Over a quarter of women in Armenia are said to have been hit by a family member, yet authorities failed to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women, according to a 2009 Amnesty International Report,” writes Liana Aghajanian in an article on domestic violence in Armenia in Ianyan magazine.
Meanwhile, the country’s diaspora ministry organizes a beauty contest in which contestants are expected to have 'mastered' the Armenian language, to be familiar with Armenian cuisine (including how to cook Armenian food), and to top it off, to "preserve the image of an Armenian woman."
When asked what exactly defines “the image of an Armenian woman,” the minister responded by saying, "To tell you the truth, I don't accept filthy, ill-mannered girls." According to her, a woman must be "modest." (Epress.am, Oct. 8, 2010)
Furthermore, she goes on to say that though she understands there are other many other examples of women around the world, the “traditional Armenian woman” is different: she is a good mother, a good daughter, a good wife (apparently in that order).
And then we wonder why gender stereotypes prevail in our country and why women continue to be abused at the hands of men. When notions of “man” and “woman” get defined and confirmed by government officials, why are we surprised when violence — physical, emotional, financial — prevails in society?
When are we going to say enough is enough?
A video (in Armenian with English subtitles) of two women who knew Zaruhi and speak candidly on camera about the incidents before her death can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHhYVPBk7y8