Sex-selective abortion in Armenia

Reaction against sex-selective abortion increases day by day in Armenia. Last week, a campaign is started for raising awareness about this issue.

Women have problems in different parts of the world. Some of those problems cost their lives. Along with discrimination against women in business life, deprivation from education, domestic violence, sexual abuse, damaging traditions, women trafficking, forced prostitution, honor killing, women also are not equal before inheritance and civil laws and don't have the right to choose their husbands, to marry and divorce. 

However, violation against woman rights has a more fundamental and brutal starting point. Not letting the girls to be born or killing them when they are only weeks or months old. In short, subjecting them to sex-selective abortion. 

I saw young girls who cry holding their stomach and beg to their mothers-in-law for not having an abortion or men who say that they have 2 girls and they will keep trying until they have a boy. When I was pregnant with my daughter, our physician didn't want to reveal our baby's sex until the 6th month of my pregnancy. Later, we found out that she did this for preventing sex-selective abortion. When we learned that we were expecting a girl, the nurse said, “Don't be sorry. You'll have a boy later.” This shows how bleak the situation is. 

Because of the male-dominance in Caucasus, having a boy makes people proud. However, several studies show that most of the parents want to have boys in everywhere in the world.  

In Armenia, sex-selective abortions are mostly decided by the elders of the family. This practice tends be more common on second or third pregnancies. Being unable to have a boy damages the honor of the women and causes male violence. However, there are also “mothers” who make having a boy a matter of pride and keep having abortion until they conceive a boy. 

The campaign started

Reaction against sex-selective abortion increases day by day in Armenia. Last week, a campaign was started for raising awareness about this issue. Sponsored by “Sose Women's Issues” and US Embassy, the campaign is very simple. Organizers want parents to take selfies with their daughters and share them on their social media accounts with #ՍելֆիԱղջկասՀետ or #selfiewithdaughter hashtags to show how much they love their daughters. Bureaucrats, diplomats, artists, journalists and Armenian citizens from various  professions took part in the campaign and share the selfies taken with their daughters. Here is the link for the campaign.

Experts thinks that this practice might cause serious demographic problems. Banning sex-selective abortion might be a solution, but it is pointed out that this might be considered as human rights violation and it is not always possible to determine the cause of an abortion. Another suggestion is to conceal the  sex of the baby until the 4th of the pregnancy. However, with the advances in technology, it is possible to learn the sex of the baby with tests that can be done at home. And physicians also concerned that women might harm themselves, if they put such bans in action. 

Increasing danger 

South Korea, China and India were the countries where sex-selective abortion is practiced most in '70s. However, in '90s, three countries in Caucasus became well-ahead: Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. 10% of the girls are aborted. 

Last year, Yerevan-based Mediamax carried out a similar campaign with the support of UN. They wanted fathers to write an essay telling how much they love their daughters and what their daughters mean for them. All essays were published and three of them were awarded. 


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Aline Ozinian