The girl’s name would be Naneh. A sweet name for a girl, Armineh Gabrielyan says. The girl, who was never born. Armineh was forced to make an abortion.
"I still remember my girl’s every movement, I remember her every heartbeat, her - inside me. I still love her," she says (Armineh Gabrielyan’s name has been changed to protect her privacy).
Mane, Ani, Elen, Lilit, Narine, Astghik, Mary... these are all popular Armenian female names. Names of daughters, who were never born.
Armineh was 22, when she graduated from university and got married.
"After a month, I learnt that I’m pregnant," Armineh says. "When my husband and his family learnt that it was going to be a girl, they made me kill my baby".
Armineh cannot have babies anymore, because of the abortion. Now in her thirties, Armineh’s eyes get wet and hands tremble as she tells the story.
And she's one among tens of thousands.
According to Armenia’s National Statistics Service (NSS) the number of abortions varied between 12 to 14 thousands from 2008-2010. While there is no official data on how many of the aborted children are female, latest data released by Karine Kuyumjyan, Head of Census and Demography Division at NSS, more than 43 thousand children where born in 2011, of which more than 23 thousand were boys, while the number of girls was 20 thousand.
The experts warn, that such a difference in number accounts for female abortions.
"Traditionally, Armenians have the expectation, that the first child of the family must be a boy," anthrapologist Ani Asatryan says. "Boys were considered the “labor force”, while girls were a liability, as the family had to provide dowry to get her married," she goes on to explain.
According to the anthropologist, this trend is widespread in patriarchal societies, where the head of the family is the father. It is widely believed, that the male is the one to continue the generation.
As technology to detect baby's gender becomes more accessible, the stereotypes prevalent in the society turn deadly for the female fetuses, causing alarm among human rights organizations, highlighting a deeper trend of discrimination against women in the society.
"The very moment when people ask weather it is a girl or a boy, discrimination and violence starts," Anna Nikoghosyan, the representative of the non-governmental organization "Society Without Violence" told us during a protest action they staged on December 3, 2011 to protest discrimination in the Armenian society.
"I wasn’t born, because I was a girl," one of the posters held by protesters said. "I want to live without fear!" another one ran.
"RA Law on Ensuring Equal Rights for Women and Men" has been introduced in the Armenian National Assembly last month.
The author of the bill Filaret Berikyan told the journalists in a press conference on January 25th, that it is necessary to define concrete measures against discrimination, as defined by the Armenian constitution and international agreements.
Armenia has ratified the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in the Republic of Armenia in 1981.
A victim of tradition and discrimination, Armineh voices her discontent. "I lived with my baby for 3 months. I cherished the thought how I will raise her, take her to school, to a dance studio... Never do that [abortion]. Never! You will always regret it. A baby is a gift, no matter girl or boy."
Article and digital story by Mariam Mkrtchyan, Mary Sargsyan, Mary Zohrabyan, Ofelia Tovmasyan and Lala Artsruni
This article was one of the assignments at the Youth in the 21st Century: Debating and Producing Media Workshop organized by Open Society Foundations-Armenia, Open Society Foundations Youth Program and IDEA (International Debate Education Association) from Jan 26 to Feb 6, 2012 at Aghveran. The authors were participants at the workshop.