on Adoption could be crucial to children such as these at Zatig Orphanage.|
A paragraph in Armenia's Law on Adoption allows an adopting mother
to "imitate" pregnancy.
According to the law, a woman who has been
approved to adopt has the right to mimic a pregnancy - a right afforded in deference
to cultural attitudes surrounding a family's attempts to have children.
Armenia, where even domestic life is rarely private, shared instead by neighbors
and relatives, women are often reluctant to reveal that they are adopting. In
a society where a woman's worth is sometimes defined by her child-bearing ability,
women do not wish to be known as "infertile".
cultural characteristic, the Law on Adoption has stipulated that a woman may imitate
(The clause in the law is intended to make it possible for
a woman to get a birth certificate for a newborn, stating that she has delivered
Some women leave the country for several months and when they
come back go straight to the hospital or orphanage to take a child. Others put
pillows on their abdomen to make it correspond to pregnancy. Some even over-eat
to gain weight.
But the controversial portion of the law may be about to
change, as it will be under review this fall by the Government.
of Social Security says the portion of the law allowing imitation pregnancy is
"The pregnancy imitation makes women suffer," says
Karine Hakobyan, Deputy Minister.
"Those women who can not give birth
suffer the inferiority complex, and some of them prefer to endure a sham pregnancy.
But pregnancy imitation makes them suffer even more, because they have to pretend
each minute they are pregnant. And after all that they risk mental problems,"
Many women who adopt children share this opinion.
years ago Zara Avagyan adopted a six-month old boy from Zatik orphanage. She was
faced with whether to fake a pregnancy or announce that she was going to adopt
a son. After long hesitation, she chose the latter.
"I thought that
if I chose to imitate pregnancy I would first of all deceive myself," Avagyan
says. "Besides I don't believe that in Armenia you can hide your private
life. I haven't decided yet if I would tell my boy that he is adopted. It is my
business but I am afraid that someone might tell him before I will."
addition to abolition of the "pregnancy imitation" clause, the working
group of the Social Ministry will also advocate abolishing third-party participation
in adoptions on behalf of prospective parents living abroad.
all the foreigners who wish to adopt a child in Armenia don't come here, but send
a middleman," Hakobyan says. "But I think adoption is something which
should not be done through a third person. We want parents to be in charge of
a child from the very first minute they take him. If parents want to save travel
expenses or do not have time to come to Armenia to see children wishing to be
adopted, we can not trust them."
Hakobyan says that under proposed
changes a government body supervising the process of adoption will have more authority
to oversee adoptions and receive regular information about the state of the adopted
"For the past couple of years the number of foreigners who
wish to have a child from Armenia has increased," she says. "In Armenia
we can follow the information about adopted children, but we lose ties when children
The number of foreign families making adoptions in
Armenia is increasing. In 2001, 163 children were adopted - 120 by local families
and 43 by foreigners. In 2002, 178 were adopted - 116 by locals and 62 by foreigners.
And in the first half of this year, 80 children were adopted - 43 by locals and
37 by foreigners.
It is a wide spread opinion in Armenia that the process
of adoption by foreigners involves thousands of dollars paid in bribes.
says that if the suggested amendments are approved by the Government there will
be no loophole for corruption of officials administering the adoption process.
Mnatsakanyan, the Director of Zatik orphanage, says that neither he nor the directors
of other orphanages are authorized to participate in adoption procedures.
who work in the orphanages know each child and can help parents to take a child
by describing him. It is not right that we can not help our children to find a
good home. And the accusation of bribery in orphanages is very harmful,"
Avagyan says that adopting her son from Zatik cost
about $130, spent mostly on paperwork.
Minister Hakobyan says a clause allowing fake pregnancy is foolish.
"First I gave the application to the City Council. Then I collected
the information about the family budget and the health reference guarantying that
I was healthy and able to take care of a child," she explains. "In about
a month the people from the Council came to my home to see the living conditions."
a single woman living on a musician's salary of 20,000 drams (about $34) a month,
Avagyan was not financially qualified for adopting. But her sister, living in
the United States, wrote a letter confirming that she would help support the child
by sending $300 each month.
The whole procedure of adopting her son took
about six months, and Avagyan says she was satisfied with how the process worked.
But when it came time to take a child, she was told that there was only
one child she could adopt.
"When I saw the boy he was six months old,
but looked as if he were three months," she recalls. "He was small,
thin and pale and I thought maybe he had a serious health problem. Then he looked
at me with his big brown eyes, and in the following second I realized that if
I have to take a child it is him."
She named the boy Hakob and says
that he is smart and healthy now. And she hopes that by the time Hakob learns
the truth of his history, they will be a real family.