Sex-selective abortion resulting in disastrous gender imbalance in Armenia

Third highest sex-selective abortion rate in the world

By Dave Andrusko

According to a distressing story in Reuters, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) “estimates that in Armenia, nearly 93,000 women will be missing by 2060 if the country’s high pre-natal sex selection rate remains unchanged.” Armenia, which became an independent nation in 1991, is located in the South Caucasus region between Europe and Asia.

In 2012-2013, reporter Anna Pujol-Mazzini writes, there were 114 boys born in Armenia for every 100 girls, “the third highest sex-selective abortion rate in the world after China and neighboring Azerbaijan.”

On average, worldwide, there are slightly more boys born (102-106) than girls (100), according to the UN.

Abortion was legalized in the former Soviet republic in 1995, and according to Pujol-Mazzin, it is legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Almost 40 percent of Armenian women have had at least one abortion, according to UNFPA. Women’s rights campaigners say some of the women they work with have two or three abortions in one year alone.

Last year the government outlawed sex-selective abortions, Pujol-Mazzin writes. Although doctors can be fined for performing sex-selective abortions, it’s not known how many have been prosecuted.

As part of an educational campaign to reduce the overall number of abortions, under the new law, there is also a three-day “reflection period” between an initial request for an abortion and the abortion itself. In addition, according to Reuters, women must also attend a counseling session.

Government officials told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it was difficult to measure the impact of the law alone on the declining rate of sex-selective abortions but the legal change alongside awareness raising campaigns played a big part.

“It takes a long time to change mindsets,” Gayane Avagyan, head of the maternal health division at the Armenian ministry of health, said in an email.

“I think there is a change because huge work has been done to raise the level of public awareness.”

Activists reiterate the critical importance of changing deeply engrained attitudes and perceptions about the value of girls and women “with the ultimate goal of getting families to embrace having daughters.”

“You can see the difference in communities in how the girls are raised and how the boys are raised,” Sevan Petrosyan, who manages a project aimed at tackling gender inequality for World Vision in Armenia, said in an interview in the capital.