This week, the Equal Rights Trust has issued its legal analysis of the Draft Law of the Republic of Armenia “On Ensuring Equality” (unofficial translation), which was put forward by the Ministry of Justice for public consultation last week. The Trust welcomes the move by the Government of Armenia towards adopting a comprehensive equality law. However, we are concerned that the Draft Law currently falls short of international standards and best practice. It is not comprehensive, and limitations on its scope and a lack of effective enforcement provisions will impede its efficacy. We urge the government to take note of our legal analysis in updating the Draft Law before it is considered for enactment.
There are numerous ways in which the substantive and procedural provisions of the Draft Law, and the mandate of the equality body the Draft Law currently envisages, can improve. With respect to the substantive provisions, we recommend, amongst other things, that the Draft Law be amended to:
- Identify a failure to provide reasonable accommodation as form of discrimination (in Article 4(2)). The omission of this form of discrimination from the current Draft Law presents a serious limitation to the scope of protection which it provides.
- Recognise that positive action is an essential element of the right to equality, and that state bodies have a requirement to take such action. Positive action (together with the failure to make reasonable accommodation) is currently wrongly framed as a mere exception to discrimination (Article 4(3)).
- Guarantee “participation on an equal basis with others”, rather than “equal opportunities”, and ensure that this guarantee applies in all areas of life regulated by law (Article 1).
- Remove the interpretative clause of the Draft Law (Article 6), which gives special status to the Armenian Apostolic Church and its values and is thus discriminatory, and risks leading to restricted protection for certain groups including women and persons from the LGBT community.
- Provide explicit protection from discrimination on the following grounds which are well-recognised under international law: health status, descent, maternity, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, civil, family or carer status, nationality and economic status.
- We also identify that the Draft Law’s procedural elements require a wholesale review. We recommend the replacement of current Articles 8 and 9 with a new chapter on Enforcement, covering the following areas: (i) Access to Justice; (ii) Victimisation; (iii) Standing; (iv) Evidence and Proof; and (v) Remedies and Sanctions.
Finally, the Draft Law deals with the establishment of a new equality body, referred to as the Equality Council, under the office of the Public Defender of Armenia; two of the functions under its mandate are to investigate complaints of discrimination and issue recommendations. In respect of such body, our analysis underlines that the Government must ensure that the body is independent, adequately resourced, competent and effective. Further, the Government should engage with civil society to ensure that the body established is considered by this critical group to be independent, adequately resourced and a legitimate and objective actor.
The Trust is working closely with our partners the Non-Discrimination and Equality Coalition, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and other Armenian equality defenders to advocate for the improvement of Armenia’s legal framework on equality. Together with our partners, we will continue to support advocacy efforts at the national and international level for these recommendations to be taken into consideration by the Government and incorporated in a timely manner in a revised Draft Law “On Ensuring Equality”. We welcome contact from any international and Armenian partners who wish to join us in this effort.
For further queries please contact Karin Frode firstname.lastname@example.org
Our full legal analysis is available here