Sunday, November 13, 2011

Adventures in Baking, or Reading Armenia’s Constitution

Today was Sunday, and one of the few Sundays in a long time where I allowed myself to stay in, read, lounge and otherwise take it easy.

I recently purchased the little 64-page booklet that contains the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (yes, I know you can read it online AND even get an English-translated version, but I wanted to hold the stapled pieces of paper in my hands and read the original Armenian).

And I found a few rather interesting tidbits: For example, did you know that prisoners can’t vote or be elected (Article 30)? Perhaps I can understand why they can’t be elected, but why can’t they vote?

Also:

  • “Adult capable persons are obliged to take care of their parents who are incapacitated and in need of such care” (Article 36). Note the word obliged. Adult children have an obligation to take care of their parents.

  • The vaguness of Article 8: “The church shall be separate from the state in the Republic of Armenia” and yet “The Republic of Armenia recognizes the exclusive historical mission of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church as a national church, in the spiritual life, development of the national culture and preservation of the national identity of the people of Armenia.” No comment.

Some parts were just too funny (or too sad, depending on how you look at it):

  • Article 27: “The state shall guarantee the existence and activities of an independent and public radio and television service offering a variety of informational, cultural and entertaining programs.” Independent? A “variety of informational, cultural and entertaining programs”? I guess I just have different definitions of “independent” and “variety” (and I haven’t even touched upon the other aspects of Article 27 which “guarantees” freedom of expression).

  • Article 32: “Everyone shall have the right to fair remuneration in the amount no less than the minimum set by the law, as well as the right to working conditions in compliance with the safety and hygiene requirements.” Ha!

  • Article 33: “Abuse of monopoly or dominant position in the market and bad-faith competition shall be prohibited.” Can we say monopoly on sugar, anyone? (And that’s just one example.)

  • Article 45: “Everyone shall be obliged to pay taxes, duties and other compulsory fees in conformity with the procedure prescribed by the law.” Again I say ha!
However, in all of this, what really stood out for me was Article 35: “The family is the natural and fundamental cell of the society.” Note, the family — not the individual, the family. (Also connected to this point: Article 48: “The basic tasks of the state in the economic, social and cultural spheres are to protect and patronage the family, the motherhood and the childhood.” Italics mine.)

I confess, this explained a lot.

And this was only Chapter 2! I confess, I haven’t read the entire Constitution yet, but after Chapter 2 (“Fundamental Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms”), I needed a break.

So I decided to do a little baking of my own.

And here’s what I came up with: oatmeal cookies with walnuts and mixed dried fruit (apricots, cherries, apples — all local, and all prepared by my partner’s mom). Delicious!

P.S. Confession: I didn’t bake them on my own. It was a team effort :)



6 comments:

  1. Happy reading! I am absolutely not a constitutional scholar, but I can clear up a couple of those headshakers, because we've had this discussion about the "family" clause elsewhere (I believe it was on Mika's blog a while ago). Surprisingly, that sentence comes directly from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 6, clause 3, so the Armenian government isn't responsible for thinking it up. There seems to be quite a bit of controversy surrounding the statement, as you can see through some of the links on the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_declaration_of_human_rights

    As for prisoners' voting rights, they are prohibited in many of the states in the U.S. (and elsewhere); in fact, some felons are permanently disenfranchised even after they serve their time. You can compare different countries' policies here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felony_disenfranchisement

    There are plenty of problems in the Armenian constitution--as well as many points like those you've stressed that are not being enforced--but it's good at least to compare with other countries (and conservative U.S. states, from which lots of bad ideas like capital punishment, chemical castration, etc. propagate) and with the Universal Declaration. At least it gives you a baseline for critical assessment.

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  2. Wow, Ani, thanks for the insightful comment. I was actually quite surprised to find out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has the family clause (you're right: Armenia's version is pretty much a copy) because I would have thought the individual is the cell/nucleus/what have you of society and not the family.

    Also didn't know about prisoners' voting rights, so thank you for sharing.

    Since I started reading Armenia's Constitution, I wanted to do exactly that: compare with other countries, so I glanced at the US Constitution and of course Canada's, but did not explore them in depth (there's only so much constitutional reading a girl can do in a day!).

    Thanks again!

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  3. so, the Constitution reading is the right reason for making something delicious ))))))))))))
    keep reading Armenian Constitution and for sure keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep writing Adrineh jan

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  4. yep, your posts make such a good reading!!!

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  5. Your posts aren't so bad either, Artur jan :)))

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