The Ministry of Social Issues proposes changes to the Criminal Code of Armenia in an effort to protect the right of children to live in biological families, reinforce the state policy of strengthening families and mutual support between family members, penalize interference into private family affairs. The measures come amid the child trafficking and illegal adoption scandal erupted in Armenia in late 2019 with the investigative bodies bringing criminal charges against 4 individuals, two of whom are high profile health officials, 1 is a head of an orphanage in Yerevan, another person is a clandestine broker.
Minister of Social Issues Zaruhi Batoyan claims that impelling or compelling a person to relinquish their parental rights is a serious challenge in Armenia as has been found out during the investigation of illegal adoption and child trafficking cases.
According to the new measures, an individual who impels or compels another person to relinquish parental rights will be fined in an amount 200-500-fold of the minimum salary, or will be detained for a maximum of 3 months, or imprisoned from 1 to 4 years.
Sanctions are tighter for medical staff who commit these crimes by abusing their official power and exert life or health-threatening violence or threat of it. The sanctions in this case include imprisonment from 2-5 years, accompanied or not accompanied by a ban on professional activity or holding certain positions for up to 3 years.
If these crimes are committed by an organized group or if the crimes negligibly lead to the victim’s death or other severe consequences, the penalty will be 4-8 years accompanied or not accompanied by confiscation of property.
“When parents relinquish parental rights, the child is deprived from such developmental opportunities as enjoyed by children living in families. Although such children are placed in care institutions, studies show that even the best conditions in these institutions do not protect children from experiencing trauma.
We have quite many cases when parents, especially vulnerable mothers of new-borns with whom certain health issues, particularly Down’s Syndrome is detected, are compelled or manipulated to drop their parental rights in abuse of their vulnerable situation,” said Minister Batoyan in the Government meeting of February 13, 2020.
The changes to the Criminal Code are in compliance with the following conventions and bodies of international law signed by Armenia: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Pornography, Article 3; UN Convention on Adoptions (the Hague Convention), Article 4; European Convention on Child Adoption, Article 5.