To zero fanfare, the Minister of Defense just ended one of Armenia’s long-standing formal discriminations: women can now apply to military schools. The lack of analysis or discussion stuns me as an American, something like this would have occurred only after significant public discourse in the US. Here, it seems like it’s just a side note.
My guess is this change occurred through the need for more soldiers, thus the title of this post. While the Government is saying that it’s simply part of education reform. If it was purely educational reform, then why was it announced by the Minister of Defense?
“[B]efore you make any judgments about Armenian women who choose sex-selection [abortion], let me propose this scenario to you… Imagine that you are a twenty-seven year old woman living in a rural village. You’ve already had two children. One is seven years old and the other is five. Now that they’re old enough to go to school, you help out your family by growing fruits and vegetables and making lavash to sell. Your body constantly aches. You have a fairly good relationship with your mother-in-law, but she’s getting older and all of the household chores rest on your shoulders. You use family planning sometimes, but not all the time. It’s more or less up to your husband and you don’t challenge him, because you think that whatever works for him, works fine for you. You find out that you’re pregnant. Meanwhile your husband has left the country to work as a seasonal migrant, and you’re left alone with two children to feed, clothe, and nurture; work in the field; a house to clean; and your elderly in-laws who depend on you. You can’t imagine raising another child, at least not now. But you have two daughters and you know that it’s really important to your family to have a son. They talk about it around you all the time. You think that perhaps, if you have a son, at least he’ll stay in the home with you and his wife, your daughter-in-law, will help you manage. Your daughters will get married and move out of the village when they reach the age of 18 or 20. Maybe you’ll see them once in a while, but they’ll be busy with their own families. Maybe, when you have a daughter-in-law, you won’t be as overburdened with work. You’ll have security, which means that you’ll never end up in a dreaded old age home with no loved ones, no running water, and an air of hopelessness… The “choice” becomes rather simple, doesn’t it?”
Phenomenal story of village women’s reproductive challenges by Fulbrighter Ani Jilozen. Ani is doing great work providing reproductive health education and services for free throughout the villages. Her conclusion for how to tackle the abortion problem based on education, access to contraceptives and empowering women to be able to financial support their families would greatly benefit Armenian women.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. The day was first celebrated by the American Socialist Party, but the official holiday was created by the Soviet Union and was originally called International Working Women’s Day (and that’s why US doesn’t celebrate it). The day was officially made a global holiday when the UN recognized the day in 1977. More available in Wikipedia.
I was planning to write a long post on the number of gender-based issues in Armenia with domestic violence being the core. I decided against it. While a blog on human rights is primarily about the violation of those rights, sometimes we need to look at the positive and celebrate the victories we’ve won. Today, look around you, and recognize and celebrate the women that have made an impact in your life (and for the female readers, the impact you’ve made into the lives of others).
Here’s a video of Armenian Children celebrating the day in Republic Square in Yerevan.
For those that must have a little more political analysis, here is a video from Democracy Now from the 100th anniversary of the holiday on 2011 talking about how the history of the women’s rights movement and how it is very much a part of the general labor movement. It’s slightly dated with a focus on current political events in the US, but interesting nonetheless. Part 1 and 2.
For anyone interested, linked below is an unofficial English translation of the domestic violence law as of July 2012. Please note that this is a rough translation and is likely out of date compared to the text that was rejected this week. A lot of NGOs contributed to this law and you’ll see a number of progressive aspects in the law, including a victim-centered perspective.
Domestic Violence Draft Law – English Translation.
I’ve been holding back posting this until I found a little more explanation, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. The Government of Armenia has rejected the draft Domestic Violence bill with the idea that different components of the law will be incorporated into current laws, negating the need for a full domestic violence law.
It’s infuriating when after years of effort, the corpus of the work is being rejected dismissively. Some parts of it will live on in other laws, like in the Code of Criminal Procedure, but many parts will be lost. Even if all the parts were incorporated into other laws, a piecemeal approach is simply not as effective as a comprehensive law.
The main issue is that this rejection pushes back acknowledgement of the problem of domestic violence for years, let alone action to resolve it. A huge component of the law was education: promoting gender equality and combating violent practices to both children and adults. I’m sure that part is gone. The impact and normative value of having a law on domestic violence is gone if there is no such law. Without a law on domestic violence, it’s likely that people won’t learn about whatever specific mechanisms are put into place. If victims don’t know their rights and that they can call upon the police to protect them, they’ll continue to suffer in silence. If only we had a law to fund education programs for victims …. Finally, changes to the criminal code are estimated to take over a year; yet another year of nothing being done on this issue!
Armenia has been promising the international community a domestic violence law to combat the problem of domestic violence since 2010. This action will only be viewed negatively by the West.
I apologize for my rant. As I’ve mentioned before, I worked on developing recommendations for the draft law. To know that a good chunk of my work (as well as hundreds or thousands of hours of other people’s work) was wasted is very frustrating.
The Society Without Violence NGO has a Rapid Response Unit (RRU) that deserves significant praise. The RRU’s mission is to quickly discover cases of domestic violence, protect the victim and raise public attention. As one can imagine, they operate with very few resources in a society that is against them or at least doesn’t see a need for them.
The RRU has a map of incidents of domestic violence and gender-based violence. The map was created in July, and while it still needs more data, it’s a great beginning to visualizing, tracking and publicizing these incidents.
The need for the RRU is obvious when looking at just a few of the recent incidents of domestic violence with a tragic end. If the victims had received support or protection, it’s possible they would still be alive.
If you’ve witnessed a domestic violence or gender-based violence case, please alert the Rapid Response Unit at http://rru.swv.am/. While not all instances of violence lead to murder, no violence should be tolerated in any society.
For those that missed it, my story of calling the police and their failure of doing anything is posted here.
The Society Without Violence NGO has put out a thorough review of Gevorgyan’s story from initial abuse to the final court verdict. It mentions some passing words from the defendant’s family that imply that the family called in favors to subvert the court case. There is no real evidence of that, but I would not be surprised if that happened.
In the mean time, the Institute of War and Peace Reporting recently wrote on the current status of the draft domestic violence law. A draft bill is out for public comment, but the progress is still quite slow.