Consequences of hindering access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Armenia
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are enshrined in various human rights treaties and conventions and should be thoroughly protected on an individual level. In Armenia women and girls are the primary targets of the existing inequalities and violence. Gender-based discrimination against women and existing stereotypes result in violation of human rights of women and limit their freedoms and participation in decision-making. Disappointingly, women are often limited even to make decisions in regard to their bodies and private lives.
Girls and women in Armenia face various sexual and reproductive health and rights issues mainly caused by the lack of sexual and reproductive health education, limited usage of and access to modern contraception, and harmful attitudes towards women and their sexuality, such as stigmatization of girls and women being sexually active before marriage. In the Armenian context sexuality is presented as a negative concept and sexual activities are associated with guilt, fear and disease especially for the unmarried girls and women. Sexuality education is not provided in secondary schools of Armenia, as it is considered to be spreading immorality and destroying Armenian traditional values. Family is not a safe space either for adolescent girls and young women to raise sexuality issues and questions, as parents are usually shy and unwilling to talk about sex-related issues with their children. As a result, youngsters are compelled to acquire information on these issues from insecure sources (friends, television, Internet etc.), which do not provide correct and accurate information.
As a result of these factors, it comes as no surprise that rates of unintended teen pregnancies remain high in Armenia. Girls and young women resort to clandestine abortion procedures, which pose threat to their health and lives. According to the health care experts, Armenian girls and women apply all possible means to do abortion- introducing different objects and tubes into uterus, drinking various herb drinks and other so-called “domestic methods”. These unsafe abortion methods cause serious health consequences for girls and women, even leading to death. The most common abortion method is inducing abortion at home with usage of a stomach-ulcer pill Cytotec, without the supervision of a trained medical personnel. In many cases the pill poses serious health risk, such as heavy bleeding, but for many girls and women it’s the only affordable method – a pill costs over a dollar, whereas a surgical procedure costs around 35-50 $. It’s a cost many girls and women can’t afford. Ultimately, they bear harmful consequences of neglection of their rights.
On the International Day of the Girl, I want to speak up for girls and women’s SRHR in Armenia. No sexuality education, limited access to modern contraception and safe abortion procedure put health and lives of Armenian girls and women at risk. Violation of their rights must end.
Written by Lusine Kosakyan
Society Without Violence, Armenia