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Sara Petrosyan

Children's Day 2015: Armenian Government Charged with Not Adequately Protecting Mothers and Children

Carousels, balloons, concerts, ice cream – that’s right, it’s Children’s Day; or to be specific, the International Day for Protection of Children.

Here in Armenia, children were in the news last week when a food poisoning outbreak was reported in two Armavir kindergartens. Scores of kids were hospitalized with intestinal flu.

There was also the case of unhealthy chicken being supplied to a number of kindergartens in Yerevan’s Nor Nork district. The supplier was fined 500,000 AMD (US$1045), but the damage had already been done.

So what did Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan have to say on the occasion of Children’s Day? Here’s his holiday wish to Yerevan’s children:

All grownups wish their children to have a safe childhood, live a carefree life and fulfill their dreams.

The Yerevan Municipality, for its part, does everything possible for your everyday life to be interesting, and your yard, environment and the whole city to be beautiful and comfortable for you.

Be healthy and happy and justify our hopes. And we, grownups, will do everything possible for you to be protected and happy. I wish you carefree childhood, my little friends.

Naturally, Yerevan’s mayor had nothing to say regarding the unscrupulous chicken supplier. It’s as if the children of Yerevan, under the mayor’s constant protection, are living a fairytale existence free from harm.

One month ago Save the Children published its 16th annual State of the World’s Mothers report. Using the latest data on women’s health, children’s health, educational attainment, economic well-being and female participation, the report ranked 179 countries, showing where mothers and children fare best and where they face the greatest hardships.

Armenia, sad to say, was ranked 103rd. Even Azerbaijan fared better in 90th place.

In 2015 alone, there were two reports by international organizations critical of Armenia for the “inadequate” protection of mothers and children. Preliminary reports issued by Nils Muižnieks, (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights) and Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography) had a lot to say in this regard.

NGOs in Armenia registered seven deaths related to family violence in 2013 and twelve in 2014. The courts formulated certain unprecedented decisions linked to family violence in which the violations basically related to the right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights), the prohibition of torture and human or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 3), when the government failed to provide corresponding protection for individuals from violence, adequate examination of appeals regarding family violence, the right to respect for one's "private and family life, his home and his correspondence (Article 8), and the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14).

In a majority of the cases, acts of domestic violence also impacted children, as victims or eyewitnesses, states the report prepared by Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Muižnieks stressed that victims of domestic violence, mostly women and children, must be protected and not charged with breaking up the family. “The government assumes the obligations of organizing defense against domestic violence and one must not expect NGOs to replace the government in this respect,” concluded Muižnieks.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio urged the government of Armenia to pay more attention to acts of violence against children.

Even though the number of cases of sexual exploitation of children in Armenia is low, according to official figures, however Maud de Boer-Buquicchio noted, “There are gaps in terms of awareness-raising, detection and reporting mechanisms of cases of abuse and violence, including sexual violence, against children.”

While Maud de Boer-Buquicchio welcomed ongoing legislative reforms in Armenia, she asked that legislators hasten Armenia’s international obligations to bring the country’s Family and Criminal Codes more in line with one another, including adoption procedural matters.

“I also urge the Government to review the status of the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, to provide it with coordinating and supervisory functions and binding decision-making powers in respect of comprehensive child protection policy, define procedures for aligning a comprehensive child protection strategy with the national plan of action for the protection of the rights of the child, incorporating a gender perspective, and allocate necessary resources for its implementation at the local level,” concluded Maud de Boer-Buquicchio at the end of her May 2015 fact-finding mission to Armenia.

Minister of Justice Hovhannes Manukyan, in a Facebook post today wrote, “Let us express our attitude towards children with specific measures”. This can be taken as an indirect response to the proposals made by international organizations in their reports.

The minister writes that Armenia cooperates with local and international bodies concerned with protecting the rights of children.

The freshest example of this is this month’s launch of an Armenia joint project with UNESCO to facilitate the accessibility of justice for children in the country. It includes a domestic and international examination of criminal and criminal judicial legislation designed to defend children’s rights and accessibility to justice.

Photo: Yerevan Municipality

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