In the conflicting, post-conflict, militarized societies where patriarchal values and traditional gender norms are reinforced and rooted within everyday life, women face notably more acute challenges connected to gender-based violence, reproductive rights and healthcare.

The societies of the South Caucasus ranking to have the high numbers of gender-based violence and sex-selective abortion strive to overcome these problems, however, they still remain to be widespread nowadays.

Two women, Ani and Salome, tell stories about their struggle against social norms within their societies.

Women’s struggle for daughter. Armenia

A resident of Gyumri, 28-year-old Ani’s life completely changed three years ago. She had found the love of her life, formed a family, and was expecting her first child.

“When I found out I was pregnant, the world was mine, I was sure my husband would be happy too. I already imagined how we were preparing for my baby’s birth, I was mentally furnishing her bedroom, buying clothes, when I faced with the bitter reality: my husband’s demand was to check the baby’s gender first, and then start preparations, ” Ani says.

“I was 4 months pregnant when we learned that we were going to have a daughter. It was the most cruel day of my life, my husband only needed a baby boy”, Ani continues to recall.

When the baby’s gender was confirmed, her husband demanded: either the baby or himself. Ani didn’t sleep for a week, she says she waged a silent struggle between emotions and reason. Finally she made a clear decision that the baby should be born.

12% of population in Armenia consider sex-selective abortions as acceptable: according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report on “Men and Gender Equality issue in Armenia 2016”. More women (13%) than men (11%) considered sex-selective abortions acceptable.

The issue of sex-selective abortions is particularly acute in Gegharkunik region of northern part of Armenia, where the standards are almost on the same horizontal alongside with these and other leading countries with selective abortions in the world.

Women struggle against sexual violence.Georgia

In 2016, Salome was raped in the center of Tbilisi, by 2 people – One was an adult man and another an under-age boy. After a month she had started noticing symptoms of pregnancy. She was left alone with financial problems and the amount of money for abortion she needed, at that time was unavailable for her.

“After understanding that I was pregnant, a new wave of problems began, and the state failed to help me with some services. If there was not a relative, who helped me financially, I would face worse consequences – birth of a child, when I wasn’t ready for it at all.”

And all of this adds to the pressure from society. People who are often against abortion, on the other hand, even urged victims of sexual violence not to bear the child.

“I remember, a relative was talking to me and asked, ‘What do you want to do? Do you want to raise up a bastard?’” Salome recalls.

Salome is an example of how the effects of violence can be overcome, though many women are still in the shadows and it is difficult to say what the challenges are for them in the fight for rehabilitation after sexual violence.

More than 30 rape cases occur in Georgia each year, but the state does not have any support system for rape victims. The state cannot offer psychological consultation and rehabilitation. And if they need to terminate their pregnancy after rape, women are often left alone with financial problems.

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