States have various obligations before international human rights bodies, the mechanisms established by multilateral human rights treaties. One of such treaty is the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to which Armenia is signatory since 1993. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, the Convention defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
National NGOs may attend the open meetings of the CEDAW Committee, including the CEDAW Committee’s constructive dialogue with States parties presenting periodical reports. Here NGOs play quite a passive role. However, NGOs can submit country shadow reports to the Committee. The Committee also holds informal consultation meetings with NGOs to obtain and clarify country-specific information.
CSI and Anti-discrimination Centre Memorial prepared alternative thematic report on discrimination against women from vulnerable groups in Armenia and made an oral presentation to the Pre-Sessional Working Group at the UN Headquarters.
During the oral presentation CSI has stressed the situation of female refugees and women affected by migration processes. In particular the following concerns have been articulated:
1.Armenia accepted thousands of refugees of Armenian descent and the Christian faith. However when it comes to female Muslims and their families as well as refugees from Africa they are being denied asylum in the recent months and CSI observes discriminatory pattern.
2.Armenian authorities also fail to consider such forms of persecution as domestic or sexual violence, forced circumcision, etc. to be sufficient grounds for granting refugee status and thus such women are left without any protection.
3.Lack of awareness on part of state institutions and public service providers about rights of asylum seekers and refugees result in denied access to such services as healthcare and education.
4.Due to enormous migration rates, women, especially in rural areas, have serious burden. High unemployment rates, the need to look after children and elder family members with insufficient access to public childcare institutions means that women are not able to earn money themselves. Often their husbands stop sending money leaving them without means of subsistence. The problem is aggravated by the fact that often marriages are not registered with state agencies which diminishes women’s possibilities to seek protection of her family rights, for example for child support.
5.Those women who themselves have been forced to return to Armenia have a difficult time adapting to life in poor and extremely traditional Armenian villages. No government programs aimed at integrating returning labor migrants back into society exists.
6.Migration also increases the rates of serious illness for migrants themselves and for their families (HIV and tuberculosis). Almost 74 percent of recent cases of HIV infection are connected with migration factor. Women, wives of migrants, are most vulnerable in that regard.
Another issue that was mentioned at the CEDAW Pre-Sessional Working Group Meeting was the issue of prohibited professions for women. Armenia has a list of professions and spheres of activity that are “hazardous” to women and prohibited to women of child-bearing age. This means that women are viewed primarily as the agents of childbirth and not as professionals who are free to choose the jobs they want. It is the distinctive problem of post soviet countries inherited from USSR. As it was already pronounced by CEDAW Committee during its sixty-third session (Communication by Medvedeva) such law treats men and women differently, in no way promotes the employment of women and is based on discriminatory stereotypes. Thus, it should be repealed. These lists are abusive for women and also influence their career, salaries and social status.
The Pre-Sessional Working Group Meetings are held prior to the consideration of the state report. The Committee will consider Armenia’s CEDAW Report to see what progress (if any) has been achieved since the previous reporting period this Friday, November 4, 2016.
Video of the CSI’s speech (53:36-56:00 minutes)