The Armenian Ministry of Health has suggested amendments to the voluntary sterilisation law of the 1990s that would allow courts to order the sterilisation of people with intellectual disabilities.
The original 1998 law provided provisions for the voluntary sterilisation of individuals, while the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Health on Friday would allow courts to order the sterilisation of people who are ‘incapable’.
The bill does not define ‘incapability’.
The bill underlines the importance of giving applicants the appropriate information and time to decide, stating that medical sterilisation, through vasectomies and tubal ligations, is a ‘relatively irreversible intervention’.
Mushegh Hovsepyan from the Disability Rights Agenda, a local disability rights group, said that ‘even with its problems’, the current law ‘at least does not harm people’.
He said the amendments change the voluntary nature of the law and that no one had the right to decide whether a person with a disability could have a child or not except for the person in question. ‘If people without disabilities can make that decision, then people with disabilities should be able to’, Hovsepyan told OC Media.
‘Right or wrong, it is decided by the person’, he stressed.
Hovsepyan said that labelling a person ‘incapable’ was already a violation of basic human rights. ‘Incapacitation is the civil death of a person when the state says: “Hey, you can’t make a decision about your life because you’re having difficulties with it” ’.
Hovsepyan suggested helping people with disabilities to get appropriate support and explaining to them ‘in a simple and accessible way’ what consequences undergoing voluntary sterilisation could have.
‘But never to decide for them. Neither a guardian, the court, nor any other institution can decide that.’
The Ministry of Health said it would take Hovsepyan’s suggestions into consideration, and that the bill would be ‘edited’. However, the activist said he was uncertain if this would include the removal of provisions to allow forced sterilisation.
Forced sterilisation is considered a violation of a number of international accords, including the Istanbul Convention, which Armenia signed but has yet to ratify. It also violates the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Armenia ratified in 2010.
The bill is up for public discussion until August, after which it is due to be submitted to the government.