‘Sex-selective abortions are social rather than health issue. The given bill is primarily a message to the public and seeks to protect those women who have to make abortions under their family members’ pressure,’ stated Garik Hayrapetyan, UN Population Fund Executive Representative, at the Media Center hosted panel discussion on the bill initiated by the Armenian Health Ministry. The bill proposes to ban doctors from informingparents of their future child’s gender until 30 weeks of pregnancy.
The other panelists included Karine Saribekyan, head of the Health Ministry’s Mother and Child Healthcare Department, and Anush Sukiasyan, expert with Parliament's Standing Committee on Healthcare, Maternity and Childhood.
‘In case of a third child, the male to female ratio is as high as 160 male children for every 100 female children, which is a catastrophic number,’ noted Karine Saribekyan, adding that Armenians are still driven by the psychology of ‘keeping the hearth burning’, for which the birth of a male child is considered a compulsory condition. The speaker believes that Armenia will have lost 100.000 female children by 2060 if the current tendencies continue.
With respect to the international experience, Mrs. Saribekyan noted, ‘South Korea contemplates criminal punishment for both the doctor and woman, whereas in Armenia only medical specialists would face a fine as an administrative punishment.’
The speaker compared the psychology prevalent among couples without male children in the past with modern couples’ attitude noting that ‘women used to deliver up to the winning end, i.e. a male child, which increased the birth rate in the country.’
‘We should plant intolerance towards sex selective abortions in Armenian mothers and fathers,’ says Anush Sukiasyan, expert with Parliament's Standing Committee on Healthcare, Maternity and Childhood. The speaker recalled the fact that the bill was previously discussed in the Parliament's Standing Committee on Healthcare, Maternity and Childhood, with a proposal to prioritize the elimination of stereotypes existent in the Armenian society.
Head of the Health Ministry’s Mother and Child Healthcare Department does not exclude that the parents will resort to various means to find out the fetus gender, however, it will be done only by one out of ten couples.
‘The fundamental right is the right to life. Parents will learn the fetus gender after 30 weeks, with 10 weeks left for the preparation,’ insisted Karine Saribekyan, head of the Health Ministry’s Mother and Child Healthcare Department, in response to the question on the right to information.
Garik Hayrapetyan, UN Population Fund Executive Representative, stressed the impossibility of defeating the sex-selective abortions merely through this law. Thus, a package of long-term activities is required.
The bill is based on the findings of a report on Prevalence of and Reasons for Sex-Selective Abortions in Armenia (2012-2013) issued by UNFPA, Health Ministry of Armenia and the Republican Institute of Reproductive Health, Perinatology, Obstetrics, and Gynecology.
The discussion was initiated by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting Armenia Branch office in cooperation with the Media Center.