Will it be a girl or a boy? The answer to this question often decides life and death in Armenia. Every year 1400 girls are not born in the country. The fetuses are interrupted because they are women.
The selective abortion means that: Armenia, a country of three million people, has one of the highest rates in the world.
An important role is played by the widespread belief that children are valuable and that daughters are a loss. "Selective abortion is related to culture and children should ensure continuity of lineage, continue family heritage and take care of the family," says Narine Beglaryan. He works for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. "The daughters usually move later into her husband's family."
Relationship between boys and girls unbalanced
Previously, families had to wait to see if a boy or a girl had been born. Then came technological progress. Since the mid-nineties, there are ultrasound machines in Armenia. Since then, sex, at least with a certain probability, already in the twelfth week of pregnancy notice. In week 14 it is usually clearly visible.
Since then, the number of female births has decreased. Starting from 2000, the gender distribution was therefore strongly unbalanced. In that year only 120 girls were born from 120 boys born. At the same time, fewer children are born in Armenia. Over the years, a woman has had more than four children on average, today she doesn't even have two.
"In Armenia, most women-in-law put pressure on pregnant women to give birth to a boy or their husbands, and it is often a woman's decision because she wants to give her husband a gift," says Karine Saribekyan. He directs the department of maternal and child health, which is part of the Ministry of Health.
The second and third children had a lot of pressure to have a boy. (Read here the protocol of an Armenian whose family urged to terminate the pregnancy.)
"Ten to 15 abortions per woman were normal"
In general, abortions have a long tradition in the region: in the Soviet Union, they were an element of family planning, a form of contraception. From ten to fifteen abortions per woman were normal, says Saribekyan. This continues today: a 2016 UNFPA study shows that almost half of Armenians who have ever had a partner have ever had a terminated pregnancy.
From 2016 abortions are illegal after the twelfth week of pregnancy in Armenia. If a woman rejects her, she must first participate in a counseling session and then a three-day reflection period. However, the selective abortion rate is slowing: in 2017, 111 boys and 100 girls were born.
"Many women wait to see the sex of children on the ultrasound scan, so the doctors falsify the documents and even run away after the legal deadline," says a Gegharunik gynecologist, who wants to remain anonymous.
The gynecologist also left in the nineties female fetuses. Today he no longer performs any abortion after the twelfth week. He worries about women's health, he saw the heads and hands of four-month-old fetuses, in the end he could no longer be in agreement with their conscience, he says.
Many women try to end pregnancies by their own means. Among the other with the drug Cytotec. In 1985, he brought the pharmaceutical company Pfitzer to the market. In fact, it is used against stomach ulcers and obstetrics, but the drug can also lead to long lasting and uncontrolled work – and ultimately to a miscarriage.
Although Cytotec has long been used in gynecology worldwide, the Group had never requested approval. Pfitzer has not distributed it in Germany since January 2006. In other countries, the drug is still available, in Armenia, it costs less than four euros, says an expert from the Women's Resource Center in Armenia.
Lara Aharonian activist
The human rights activist Lara Aharonian, known in Armenia and often attacked by conservative forces, criticizes the new law prohibiting abortion after week 12. "Attacks doctors and creates obstacles for women", he claims. Feminists like them warn that abortion is itself stigmatized.
The Aharonian is generally not against abortion, regardless of gender. Rather, he wants to fight back-to-back role models and strengthen the position of women in society. For the selection of female fetuses is a feature of gender inequality. For them it is clear: the topic is not only about health, but education. The government, the Aharonian states, should move the issue to the education sector.
Irina Hovhannisyan is fighting abortion in the province of Gegharkunik
125 kilometers from Yerevan, in the eastern part of the country, Irina Hovhannisyan is fighting selective abortion. Here, in the province of Gegharkunik. comparatively many of these accidents occur. Hovhannisyan would like to teach and educate the serious subject with a puppet theater. After the show, the spectators discuss. Hovhannisyan shows a poster; Adam can be seen on this. "What would Adam be without Eva?" He asks, reaching the next poster.
2060 is a critical year, because if things continue in this way, it could have a strong impact on the country's demography. So there may be a great shortage of girls by 2060. Hovhannisyan is thinking of inviting a pastor to the next play. He wants to reach out to those women who are often in church and more conservative, women who want to seek advice from a man.
A puppet theater should help in the fight against selective abortion
This is something activists like Lara Ahoranian think critically. "It is dangerous to invite the clergy to dialogue because they are generally opposed to abortion," he says. Furthermore, some campaigns should include stereotypes and therefore encourage women to play a specific role. But the Ahoranian has hope.
In April 2018, with a feminist group, it was part of the "Velvet Revolution" of Armenia, at the end of which the corrupt government of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan was ousted from the court. Now the former journalist Nikol Pashinjan is Prime Minister. The Aharonian wishes to remind the new government that women's rights count among the social reforms it has promised.
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