Arman Sahakyan, Representative of “New Generation” Humanitarian NGO, Violeta Zopunyan, Head of “Center for Rights Development” NGO, Anahit Simonyan, Project Coordinator at “Women’s Resource Center”, Anahit Chilingaryan, Advocate, participated in the discussion.
“Because of discrimination, a person is disposed of rights and opportunities. In Armenian, one can come across discrimination in all spheres of life – labor market, social and political life, health and education. Many are subjected to discrimination, but they do not even realize it because there is a lack of awareness in the society,” Anahit Simonyan said.
According to her, there are also many cases of gender discrimination, as a result of which women's right to work is limited.
"Half of the women does not work in Armenia, but 40 percent of the unemployed women have high education and chance to work. But because of the discrimination they are deprived of this opportunity and do not work, as a consequence of which Armenia's GDP annually loses about $50-60 million," Simonyan said.
Arthur Markaryan said that 11 NGOs and 2 journalistic organizations were brought together in 2015 to create a coalition "Fight against Discrimination and for Equality" aiming to create a body in Armenia that would be committed by human rights organizations to reduce and neutralize different manifestations of discrimination.
“A strategic plan of actions was created and the coalition works on the faults of the formats of adopting the law and conducts activities against such cases. One of the goals is to reduce discrimination in the private and public sector. In both public and private sector one can be refused a job because of physical appearance, disability, religious beliefs and other features. Based on all these, our coalition launched the formation of a strategy to combat discrimination,” Makaryan added.
Violeta Zopunyan noted that in 2015 the Ministry of Justice with several NGOs initiated the process of drafting Law on Discrimination. According to her, the number one issue that should be resolved by the law is defining the concept of "discrimination".
“We do not have the definition of what discrimination is and on what grounds people are exposed to discrimination. It is important that the law is passed as it is in international treaties, international standards. There is no need to invent a bicycle, because all these already work in the international experience. The law will prevent discrimination cases and the discriminated individuals will have the opportunity to defend their rights,” Zopunyan said.
She Chilingaryan said they are cooperating with the Eurasia Foundation, which launched the initiative with the Ministry of Justice and the working group still works on the draft.
"We still do not have clear information, whether the bill was developed or not. We sent a request to the Ministry in July, and we were told that analyses were made on the adoption of the law and there is no information about law draft," Chilingaryan said.
She presented their proposals, which were submitted to the Working Group for including in the draft.
"The main proposal is that all information campaigns, cracking stereotypes must be made through the law, but we do not have direct responsibilities that have to be placed on our public bodies. Anti-discrimination, tolerance and diversity preaching should be defined by law as the state's positive obligation. We believe that an independent body should be set up for the fight against discrimination, which should have sanction powers to implement the law, not to put additional burden on the courts and issue binding decisions," Chilingaryan underlined.
He explains that the body should not try to find the guilty ones and punish them, but to try to reconcile the two sides and to find interim solutions both for the victim of the discrimination and the conductor.
"And they can make decisions, assign actions, the fulfillment of which will be mandatory," Chilingaryan added.
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Lilit Arakelyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”
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