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Persecution And Threats Towards Women’s Rights Defenders And Threat To Freedom Of Association And Expression In Armenia


Following the adoption of the law number 57 on “Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Men and Women” by the Armenian Parliament in May 2013, a heated debate started around the concept of “gender” and “equality”.

Extremist groups started disseminating misinformation on social networks sites, targeting women’s non-governmental organizations and women’s rights defenders in Armenia. In order to spread hate and fear in society, these groups are manipulating the wording of the law and associating “gender equality” with homosexuality propaganda and pedophilia. Women’s rights defenders are called “traitors of the nation”, “destroyers of families” and a “threat to Armenian values” and promoters of sexual abuse towards children and minors.

Almost anyone daring to speak about “gender” issues or women’s rights is being mocked and ridiculed online and broadcast media. Their photos are being circulated so people will identify them and attack them. Some of our members who have been targeted are afraid for their lives and security and taking extreme measures to stay safe.

In the face of this hysteria, Parliament members who adopted almost unanimously the law on gender equality is remaining silent and no concrete steps are taken by the government to protect and support the women’s rights defenders and those working on gender equality.

Following these violent movements, on several sites, there have been concrete threats and calls to violence towards our organization (WRCA), such as “ blow up the Women’s Resource Center, and Burn the women’s human rights defenders for raising gender issues and challenging gender stereotypes in society”. Our organization’s chairperson presented complaints to the Republic of Armenia Police and evidences of such threats of terrorism against the Center, but no specific actions have been taken so far.

Some members of Parliament, like opposition party Prosperous Armenia, Deputy Ms Naira Zohrabyan (European Integration Committee Chair) influenced by the reaction of a group of extremists immediately took a defensive position and suggested changing the law on gender equality. Another member of parliament from the ruling party, Mr Babukhanyan, presented an official complaint against the Women’s Resource Center and its defenders to the RA Prosecutor’s General’s office to investigate the organization’s activities, accusing its members of promoting sexual deviation and homosexuality among under-aged girls. Although all these allegations are not founded, it is creating black PR to the organization, increasing hate towards them in society and threatening their freedom of assembly. This is not the first time that the Women’s Resource Center has been targeted by the Deputy Babukhanyan. On several occasions, during parliamentary hearings, Mr Babukhanyan, stated publicly “that organizations like the Women’s Resource Center are destroying Armenian Families by working on domestic violence issues and they need to be shut down.” In 2012, in one of the online magazines he owns, an article was published stating the same message about the organization. Following which, the Women’s Resource Center took this magazine to court for defamation and won the case. He tried to review the case on different levels but the decision of the court remained the same and now his magazine needs to publish an official apology for spreading misinformation about our work. We believe that these attacks are direct consequence of that court case. His journalists continue harassing us during public actions and circulating misinformation about our work.

Our concern is that these extremist movements who are very pro-Russian (mainly publishing articles in Russian language and providing evidences from Russian sources) are also part of the present geopolitical situation in Armenia. Our concern is that these actions are part of the struggle between the Association agreement with the EU on one side and the unity with Russia on the other.

WRCA appeals to you to pressure our government to take concrete steps to defend the rights of women’s rights defenders in Armenia and initiate actions to stop the hate war and persecution of women’s organizations working on gender equality and violence against women. We urge you as well to raise the issue among our governmental officials to ensure the safety of the women’s rights defenders and their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

The Women’s Resource Center is a grassroots organization working in Armenia since 2003 on empowering women. Our main mission is to counter gender discrimination in Armenia and provide psychological and legal support to survivors of gender-based violence and sexual abuse. The Center has been also lobbying for amendments to the criminal law regarding sexual violence and more specifically toughening the sexual abuse articles against minors, which is very lenient in the law.

Source: Women’s Resource Center, AWID

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