Hasmik Haroutyunyan, a member of the Rights Without Borders NGO in Armenia, told Hetq that a recent government bill to amend the benefits received by those temporarily unable to work will deprive women who give birth in the country’s prisons from receiving maternity allowances.
Haroutyunyan points to Article 17 of the amendments bill that would modify Article 23 of the existing law, stating that, “Maternity allowances will not be granted to convicts serving time in correctional facilities.”
She argues that such an approach is discriminatory and rife with negative socio-economic consequences for women inmates.
Hetq contacted the public affairs division of Armenia’s Department of Corrections to find out how many women are detained at the Abovyan Correctional Facility. Division head Gor Ghlechyan replied that 188 women are currently behind bars at the facility – 45 are in pre-trial detention; 143 have been convicted; and 13 are serving time in an open regime.
Ghlechyan said that there are no expectant mothers at Abovyan, but that there are three children under the age of two living there.
The NGO has raised its concerns in its website and Facebook page, noting the fundamental principles of European prison laws according to which inmates maintain all their rights that haven’t been legally stripped from them at the time of their conviction.
“What is most interesting is that the argument as to why convicted women must be deprived of maternity allowances hasn’t been justified in any form,” Haroutyunyan told Hetq.
Yesterday, just before this article was to go to press, the Armenian National Assembly’s website posted a revised edition of the bill in which the reference to expectant mothers has been removed from Article 17.
Ani Aghagyulyan, the NGO’s attorney, says that the government automatically altered Article 17 from the original amendments bill.
“The law is modified, and a new concept of maternity allowances is defined. By keeping Article 23 the same, in essence, convicted women giving birth in prisons will not receive maternity allowances until the time when someone begins to protest for their rights. If you look at the changes to other articles you see it says to substitute the words ‘temporary inability to work’ with ‘maternity allowances’. But in the revised bill there are no changes proposed for Article 23,” Aghagyulyan said.
Top photo: Hasmik Haroutyunyan