- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
February 20, 2004

Matters of the Heart: The “prenup” comes to Armenia in new code on the family

If you are a 16-year-old girl and decide to marry (which is not a rare phenomenon these days) then you must wait at least one year to conform with the law in Armenia and to have the marriage legally registered.

Under a new Family Code proposed by the Government, which aims to update legislation on marriage, future newlyweds will be encouraged to organize not only their romantic affairs but their financial relationship too.

“Working out a new law project was extremely important since the previous Code on Marriage and Family was adopted in the 1970s and is now outdated,” says Astghik Matinyan, chief specialist of the Standing Committee on State and Legal Issues at the National Assembly.

“Taking into accout the requirements of the time and the experience of foreign countries in this sphere, the new “Family Code” includes numerous points on marriage contracts, responsibilities and other issues which did not even exist before.”

Though the code has not been included for discussion at the National Assembly yet, its subject matter has raised interest not only among lawyers but also many of the ordinary public too. Some aspects of the law have become the subject of numerous TV debates and discussion programs.

The new code covers marriage, divorce, property division, changing children's names, marriage contracts and other details which are likely to move the issue of human rights to another level.

“The code will change many things,” says Ara Saghatelyan, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice. “Beginning with family contracts up to property division and protection of rights. Everything will be new with the new law.”

The idea of a marriage contract, or pre-nuptial agreement, is included in the code, according to which future spouses set out their respective rights and responsibilities. Employees of Yerevan's numerous marriage offices hope that the result of the new marriage contracts will be less trouble in divorce cases.

Many young couples are unwilling to think of divorce when they're just getting married

“It's been three years that the contract on property division has existed, but only one family has used it,” they say. “In many cases, when we tell about marriage contracts, many get offended saying they're getting married to be happy, so they don't have to think about getting divorced right at the beginning. However, at the end when it comes to divorce men become very scrupulous and in many cases the wife and the child end up in the street. In this case, the new code can become a real salvation.”

Besides contracts on responsibilities and property division, the code has introduced interesting articles on the health of those who are getting married, which is a new question in Armenia.

The code's 19th article includes a provision stating: “If one spouse at the moment of marriage registration has hidden the fact of having a venereal disease or being infected with HIV, or of having a mental disease or being a drug addict, then the other spouse has a right to apply to court to declare the marriage invalid. ”

“Many get married unaware of their spouse's health problems, which can lead to many problems, even divorce,” says Ruslana Gevorgyan , adviser to the Minister of Health. “So, knowing beforehand whether they can have children, whether there have been infectuous diseases is much better than being unaware.”

According to the head of the Mother and Child Care department at the Ministry of Health, Karine Saribekyan, the new code will give couples an opportunity to go through medical tests, which will be favorable for a healthy marriage.

People have to respect each others' rights and be able to protect themselves and the adoption of the code will help this,” says Saribekyan. “So a preliminary medical test is important and, by the way, will be free of charge for poorer couples. It will solve many issues which we face very often as protectors of a mother and child.”

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Ombudsman Appointed

Ombudsmanship proves to be women's job in South Caucasus. Larisa Alaverdyan, Armenia's first ombudsman, was appointed by President Kocharyan, Thursday, February 19. Armenia is the third country of the region to appoint a woman for this position of human rights protector.



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