Activists and other members from civic society gathered this week outside of the Armenian parliament to protest against the suggested changes in the Law on Temporary Unemployability Benefits which regulates pre- and post-natal maternity leave pays in Armenia.
As of today the law guarantees an equivalent of the average monthly salary for women on maternity leave during 140 days but the government-proposed plan wants to calculate the salary based on the length of service in the most recent job, leading working mothers who stayed less than a year at the same employer to get only 40% of her normal salary during her maternity leave. Women who have been with the same employer for 3-5 years would get 60% and starting from 5 years mothers would receive 80% of their normal salary. The government states that the money it would get from introducing this reform will be used to ensure that some money is given also to unemployed mothers.
The protest last week and yesterday gathered a larger number of protester than usually take part in activities concerning women’s rights in Armenia which can be seen as proof that this is something upsetting a larger part of civic society here. Knarik Mkrtchan activist from Women’s Resource Center Armenia comments “Not only women, but also other members of the family will suffer because of this law, since the budget of the family will be cut.”
Activists and women’s rights defenders in Armenia supports the suggestion to also provide unemployed mothers with funds during their maternity but strongly oppose that this money should be provided by cuts in the pre- and post-natal maternity leave pays for working mothers. They also strongly critique the part of the proposed reform which requires calculating the salary based on the length of service in the most recent job since this would hinder women’s carrier possibilities as they would need to take this under consideration when offered a new job.
Knarik Mkrtchan, again: “The adoption of the law will cause extra discrimination against women while applying for a job.”
Poster from ArtAct
An event which occurred earlier this year where a female activist participating in a demonstration in Yerevan was involuntarily kissed by a serving officer was recently addressed at a meeting about the safety of human rights defenders in Armenia. A higher ranked police officer attending the meeting upset activists when he stated there was no way of telling whether the woman liked the kiss or not.
In the photage from the event you can see the activist being drawn away from the action and, while restrained from behind by the unknown police officer, she gets kissed in the neck. Something which Shushan Petrosyan, a member of parliament at the time commented by asking if there is anything bad in kissing?
This can also be seen in the light of a victim blaming statement about women’s safety in public recently announced by the Armenian Police. Among the recommendations of how to act and dress in order to avoid violence in public is the advice to not walk alone and only make dates in crowded illuminated places wearing clothes that wouldn’t limit you movements or “attract wild fanatic’s attention”. The police even go into details concerning hair styles and jewellery and tell women to distrust unknown men. Talk about using a rhetoric which both risk scaring women to stay at home and which tells society that how women dress and behave is the explanation behind violence and harassment towards them.
Elvira Melisetyan from Women’s Resource centre comments on the event both stating that it is in line with what women have faced when reporting sexual violations to the police before and that it gives activist a position where they can openly target the victim-blaiming culture within the Armenian police: “I will dare to say we were not surprised finding the statement of police, because we face the consequences of their main way of thinking in our daily work regarding Sexual violence prevention in our community. Several women have reported the main approach of police there in the police station. Police has just legitimized their approach towards these kind of situations. If previously we were fighting against this on a grass-root level, trying to raise awareness on the particular cases where police used victim-blaming while investigating, now we fight openly because of the statements police made officially. This is a good sign for us on the way to strategy planning for fighting against sexual violence, now we can face police openly with our statements and demands. No doubt that this statement enlarges the risk of having more cases of SV, as now the abuser has some more ”approved explanations” for their actions. This makes us be more attentive and more proactive according to elimination of sexual violence in our community because Police officially showed they are not for a victim and not with a victim in this ”fight”.
Directly after the statement was made official independent activist posted images of them self with texts like “Don’t tell me what to wear. Tell them not to rape.”
ArtAct group decided to dedicate an entire album of posters to addressing the stupidity of the police using a mixture of humour, facts and attack.
The messages exist in both an English and Armenian version if you visit the Art<3Activism Facebook page.
Petra is currently at Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation Women’s Resource Center in Armenia and we will be able to follow her work and reflections as she will be guest blogging with us.
When I have told people I will be in Armenia for 10 months the most frequently asked question in Sweden is “what will you be doing there?” followed by “Armenia, where is that exactly?” and “do you have to wear a veil there?”. Since I have already answered question number one in an earlier blogpost I will try to shed some light also over the two remaining questions.
Armenia was declared independent 23 august 1990 before the collapse of Soviet union and is situated in the Caucasus area with Turkey to the west, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south and Georgia to the north. 80% of the Armenian borders to neighbouring countries are currently closed. The territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, which was an autonomous region of Azerbaijan with a majority Armenian population, escalated into armed conflict in 1988, three years prior to the collapse of Soviet and still remains unsolved.
March has been a hectic month at Women’s Resource Center in Armenia,
8 March is not the only date here devoted to women, also 7th of April has a similar content, so the entire month is seen as women’s month.
International women’s day is celebrated in the country since the 20′s after being introduced by Soviet as a result of the demonstrations in St Petersburg 1917. Women’s day, or Working Women’s day as it was originally called, was during the time an utterly political day with slogans such as “8th of March is the day of rebellion of working women against kitchen slavery” or “Say NO to the oppression and vacuity of household work!”.
Petra befinner sig just nu i Yerevan där hon samarbetar med Women Resources Centre Armenia (WRCA) under 10 månader. Vi kommer kunna följa hennes arbete och reflektioner här på bloggen.
Nu är jag på plats i Armenien och har börjat etablera mig på Women’s Resources Center Armenia (WRCA). Det är mycket på gång just nu, i förberedelserna inför Internationella Kvinnodagen har en feministisk plattform mellan olika organisationer och aktivister startats och det är många idéer som bollas. 8 mars har ju så många olika ansikten, en dag för protest mot orättvisa och ojämställdhet, en dag för firande av systrar, mödrar och dottrar, en dag för politiska aktioner, aktivism, demonstrationer och events. Jag blev ombedd att ge exempel på hur Internationella kvinnodagen manifesteras globalt för att ge en inspirationsinjektion i förberedelserna.Här kan ni se presentationen i form av bilder, tyvärr utan ordflöde, men “en bild säger mer än 100 ord”?
Visar också lite bilder från en tidigare marsch och aktion mot våld i hemmet som WRCA arrangerade i November tillsammans med andra organisationer som ingår i koalitionen “Stop Violence Against Women”. Enligt en relativt färsk undersökning känner varannan här i Armenien någon i sin omedelbara närhet som drabbats av våld i nära relationer.