Armenia ratified the UNCRPD in 2010 and the government took on its obligation to harmonize national legislation with the Convention and the human rights model of disability. Since 2013 the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA) has developed and revised the draft law “On the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and their social inclusion” but the law has failed to be adopted.
Within the frameworks of the RightsNow! project, MIUSA implemented a partnership with “Agate” Rights Defense Center for Women with Disabilities to advocate for strong disability rights laws and implementation.
Project partner, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), and expert John Wodatch, Former Director of ADA Division, U.S. Department of Justice, reviewed the draft law and came up with a number of recommendations, one of which was to remove disability prevention from the draft law.
During their technical assistance visit to Armenia in 2016, U.S. experts John Wodatch and Pat Wright, DREDF Former Director of Government Affairs, held a series of meetings with government ministers, expressing the importance of separating a civil rights based law from social benefits programs.
As a result of their meetings, disability prevention was removed from the draft law and other changes were introduced.
However, in autumn 2017 the Standing Committee that reviews the law in the National Assembly voted against the new version of the draft law and adoption was postponed once again.
With support from the Fundamental Freedoms Fund, MIUSA has continued the advocacy work with our partners. Through the “Advancing Rights-based Legislation in Armenia” project, a “Coalition for Inclusive Legal Reforms” was formed and is being administrated by Agate NGO.
The Coalition held meetings with Armenia’s Ombudsman, representatives from the various political parties and members of the Standing Committee, including Jemma Baghdasaryan, who has been a consistent champion in developing the draft law and promoting its adoption in her previous position of Deputy Minister in MOLSA, and now as a Member of Parliament.
On February 21, 2018, the disability rights-based law was again discussed in the National Assembly Standing Committee. Buoyed by support from the Minister of MOLSA and the Coalition for Inclusive Legal Reform, Jemma Baghdasaryan urged her colleagues in Parliament to move forward.
“The law is related not only to persons with disabilities, but to all of our society. Because if we speak about social inclusion, we can’t speak only about one part of society. All society should understand the law, its importance and be involved in the process”, she claimed.
Afterwards, Standing Committee members unanimously voted to move the draft law ahead, including key amendments proposed by the Coalition, to be heard in the full National Assembly during February 27-March 2.
Public hearings will follow in the upcoming weeks before the final vote on adoption of the disability law.