The National Assembly of Armenia passed the Anti-Human Trafficking on Air Act on Thursday requiring notification to all air passengers about the threatening high number of women and children being transported from/through Armenia by traffickers for sexual exploitation purposes without the passengers’ knowledge or consent before airplanes take off.
The notification process will include distribution of brochures in three languages (Armenian, Russian and English) to all passengers shortly describing human trafficking and asking passengers to let the attendant know they are in danger at any time during/before the flight and they will be guaranteed safe evacuation and persecution of their traffickers.
Before the airplane takes off, a video-recording or an attendant will announce in three languages (Armenian, Russian and English) that if there are any children on the airplane who are traveling with somebody else’s passport they are at high risk of being raped and abused in the countries of their destination. They will be also given additional two-minutes of presentation about how to identify human trafficking. The passengers will be told if they have a slight doubt they may be a victim of human trafficking they will be in safe protection after notifying an attendant. Two unidentified enforcement agents, trained to combat human trafficking, will be on the flight to help the victims before the plane takes off or after it arrives or to interfere during the flight if absolutely needed.
“Even if this Act saves one life it will serve its purpose,” said Raffi Hovhannisyan, an American-born Armenian legislator who sponsored the bill. “It is time to fight the horrible abuse of already oppressed women and children from poor and unprotected families who are treated like animals after being tricked into human trafficking.”
Armenia is not only a resource for human traffickers, experts say, but also a transit country for other victims of eastern European and central Asian origin. The victims, often from single-mother families, are told they will be working in restaurants and cafes in rich Middle Eastern or European countries. Once they get to their destinations, they are beaten and forced into prostitution serving dozens of men every day against their wills.
A handful legislators who voted against the bill expressed concerns for the funding of the project. But several Armenian NGOs and charity organizations vowed to contribute to the project. “We will do everything in our power to support the fight against human trafficking in Armenia,” said a spokesperson for the U.S.-based Cafesjian Foundation.
Armenia’s President Robert Kocharyan signed the bill into law the following day, expressing his admiration for the legislature’s readiness to combat modern day human slavery. “The Armenian leadership can have no moral leadership in the fight for Genocide recognition if it ignores the sexual exploitations and physical and psychological tortures of women and children at the hands of human traffickers.”
The sponsors of the Act still expressed concerns about a fabricated news item posted on Blogian.net and republished by other websites several months ago announcing the passage of a “bill combating human trafficking” claiming Armenian parliament’s official website as the source. The webmaster of Blogian.net, an Armenian-American student, had deliberately fabricated the story with hopes that Armenia’s leadership and parliamentarians would finally start thinking about ways to fight human trafficking.
“I am glad Blogian.net brought the inevitability of this issue to our attention ,” Hovhannisyan said, “But I thought I was dreaming when I read the news attributing statements to me I had never made – not that I didn’t wish I had made them in the first place.”
Several Armenian-American groups also denounced Blogian.net for “misleading tactics” and “spreading lies in uncivilized ways.”