Due to the traditional Armenian culture and society,women in Armenia are normally expected to be virtuous, safeguarding their virginity until marriage. Most Armenian women thus customarily assume the roles of housewives and mothers. Nonetheless, some Armenian women have attained prominence in entertainment, politics and other fields.
According to the 2011 Grant Thornton International business survey, 29% of top-level managerial positions in Armenia were occupied by women in 2010. However, this figure declined to 23% in 2011. Based on a report by the United Nations, there were 24 female mayors and community leaders in Armenia in 2011; a further 50 women held lower-level administrative positions.
An Armenian woman in national costume poses on a hillside near Artvin (in present-day Turkey), circa 1910.
According to the World Health Organization, between 10% and 60% of Armenian women suffered domestic abuse and violence in 2002; the uncertainty of the data was due to the underreporting of domestic violence in Armenia. Underreporting is said to occur because of the treatment of domestic violence as a private family matter. There are no well-established laws against domestic aggression and gender-based prejudice in Armenia. Furthermore, divorcing a husband – even an abusive one – causes "social disgrace", with the families of women who file for divorce or report domestic violence being considered to be shamed. Other contributing factors include Armenian women's lack of, or lower level of, education regarding their rights and how to protect themselves from abuse.
In May 2007, through the legislative decree known as "the gender quota law", more Armenian women were encouraged to get involved in politics. That year, only seven women occupied parliamentary positions. Among these female politicians was Hranush Hakobyan, the longest-serving woman in the National Assembly of Armenia. The relative lack of women in Armenia's government has led to Armenian women being considered "among the most underrepresented" and "among the lowest in the world" by foreign observers.
In 2010 and 2011, during Women’s Month and as part of the "For You, Women" charitable program, the Surb Astvatcamayr Medical Center in the Armenian capital of Yerevan offered free gynecological and surgical services to the women of Armenia for a full month. Women from across the country arrived seeking treatment.
The oldest literary expression by Armenian women available to us today in writing is the poetry of two eighth-century CE women, Khosrovidought Koghtnatsi and Sahakdought Siunestsi. Following the Armenian literary renaissance of the 19th century, and the spread of educational opportunities for women, a number of other writers emerged, among them the 19th-century feminist writer Srpouhi Dussap, considered the first female Armenian novelist. She, like her contemporary, Zabel Sibil Asadour, is generally associated with Constantinople and the Western Armenian literary tradition. Zabel Yesayian, also born in Constantinople, bridged the gap with Eastern Armenian literature by settling in Soviet Armenia in 1933. The literary renaissance and its accompanying voice of protest also had its representatives in the East with poet Shushanik Kurghinian of Tiflis (1876-1927). Sylvia Kaputikyan and Maro Markarian are probably the best-known women poets from the Republic of Armenia of the twentieth century, and continued the tradition of political speech through poetry.