Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been in conflict over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. A ceasefire was negotiated in 1994, but thus far no lasting peace settlement has been reached and there is still sporadic gunfire along the borders.
Peace negotiations are taking place in the framework of the so-called Minsk Group, within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The participants in these negotiations have been male representatives from the opposing sides and the international community – women have largely been excluded. Currently, the negotiations are more or less standing still.
In Armenia, democratic development has been unsubstantial. Corruption is prevalent and authorities are lacking a fundamental respect for human rights such as fair trials, LGBTQI rights and the rights for women survivors of domestic violence. Women do not participate equally with men in society. Women are very poorly represented in Armenian politics, and in only 9 percent of seats in the parliament are held by women, despite the fact that political parties are required by law to have at least 20 percent of the underrepresented gender on their party lists. In the first Armenian elections after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, women received a mere 6 percent of the seats.
No comprehensive legal protection
Whilst Armenia has ratified the UN’s CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), women’s human rights and the fight against discrimination are not regarded as important issues by society at large. After much discussion, a law on equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women was adopted in 2013. But there is still no comprehensive legal protection for women against discrimination or violence. A draft law on domestic violence was turned down by the government in January 2013. Instead the government recommended that other existing laws should be amended to include clauses that would help the courts deal with these types of cases.
Domestic violence is seen as a private matter. However, in recent years the issue has received some further attention in the media, as for example through a case in 2010 in which a woman died after having been beaten by her husband and mother-in-law.
Trafficking in women for sexual purposes is widespread. Although Armenia is primarily a country of origin for such crime, it is also a transit country.
Since 2003, homosexuality is no longer a criminal offense in Armenia. Nevertheless LGBTQ persons are still subject to serious discrimination, threats and violence. When the UN Human Rights Committee reviewed the human rights situation in Armenia in 2012, it highlighted the difficult situation for LGBTQ persons in the country in particular. Yet when the committee met with representatives of the Armenian government during a hearing in Geneva, the Armenian representatives ignored this criticism.
During the Soviet era Armenian women had a relatively strong position on the labour market and within the education system, but equality was not encouraged within the private sector. Following independence and the transition to a market economy, there has been an increasingly heavy burden on women to provide for their families, since many Armenians – especially men – have moved abroad as a result of widespread poverty and unemployment in the country. That said, women are not encouraged to participate in public life in the same way as men. Many women have to work multiple jobs and they have the main responsibility for the home and the family.
There is no right to equal pay for equal work. Women’s salaries are much lower than men’s and, on average, a woman earns half as much as a man in a year. The unemployment level is also higher among women than men at 35 percent compared to 22 percent respectively.
Expensive health care
One area that has been hard hit by Armenia’s difficult financial situation is the country’s health care system. The majority of the population cannot afford health care. According to statistics from 2010, the maternal mortality rate is 30 per 100 000 births, mostly due to substandard health conditions and poor maternal health care.
Knowledge about women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is generally poor, partly due to the fact that there is no education in Armenian schools on this subject. Selective abortion of female fetuses is common and increasingly a problem, especially given the context of renewed conflict and the perceived need to give birth to more soldiers.
Senast uppdaterad: 2016-06-30