ADC Memorial and the Civil Society Institute Welcome CEDAW’s List of Questions for Armenia

The UN Committee to Eliminate Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has compiled a list of questions related to Armenia’s state report on the situation of women in the country, which will be considered during the Committee’s 65th Session. These questions include those previously raised by ADC Memorial and the Civil Society Institute as part of the first stage of the Committee’s preliminary briefing by representatives of civil society concerning discrimination against vulnerable groups of women, in particular female migrants and members of migrant families, trafficking victims, refuges from Syria and Iraq, members of ethnic and religious minorities, and women who face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In their list of problems submitted to the Committee in March, ADC Memorial and the Civil Society Institute emphasized that women remaining in villages after their husbands leave for work find themselves in an especially difficult economic situation because they cannot find jobs and are completely dependent for money on their migrant worker husbands. The Committee requested Armenia to supply specific information about measures taken to improve the situation for female villagers. According to government reports, approximately 40 to 50 percent of women in Armenian villages are unemployed.

ADC Memorial and the Civil Society Institute also raised the problem of refugees from Syria and Iraq who have been denied refugee status only because they have different religious beliefs or are not of Armenian descent. As a result, the Committee drew the Armenian government’s attention to the situation of female refugees and their living conditions in centers for refugee and asylum seekers.

Experts have noted that poverty and high unemployment mean that an increasing number of women seeking work abroad become trafficking victims. Widespread prejudice against sex workers and victims of sexual exploitation and rape creates additional obstacles for women seeking protection. Moreover, sex crimes committed against women are rarely investigated properly. The Committee does not believe that Armenia has taken sufficient measures to combat trafficking and violence against women, so it has requested the government to provide information on the results of national programs to protect women from trafficking and sexual exploitation, as well as information about the cancellation of administrative fines for prostitution.

ADC Memorial and the Civil Society Institute are particularly concerned about the situation for women from religious and ethnic minorities, who usually exist in an isolated environment. This results on the violation of the rights of women and young women. For example, early marriages prevent them from realizing their right to education. These NGOs noted that education and employment assistance for females must be supported and that minority rights in general must be respected. The Committee emphasized the scale of the problem of gender stereotypes in Armenia and stated that there is an urgent need to adopt measures to overcome this. It also requested information on the number of girls who have stopped attending school due to the cultural and religious practices of ethnic and religious minorities.

Finally, the two NGOs raised the problem of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Homophobia, transphobia, and hate speech related to sexual orientation or gender identity is widespread in Armenia. Many LGBTI people become the victims of hate crimes while government authorities and police officers pay no attention to training sessions on hate speech and crimes and do nothing to combat this. CEDAW requested information from the Armenian government about females who have become victims of multiple discrimination, including lesbians and bisexual, transgender, and intersex women. This information did not appear in government materials at the time the reports and response to the List of Questions were submitted.

ADC Memorial and the Civil Society Institute are currently preparing an alternative report on Armenia for the CEDAW meeting, which will be available on these organizations’ websites in the prior to the Committee’s 65th Session in October 2016.