Growing up, Zaruhi Batoyan often dreamed about wearing a dress. As a little girl, her mother used to look at her thin arms and say “let’s wear long sleeves” since her instinct was to cover her daughter’s body, disabled as she was born. “I wanted to wear a dress that would show my shoulders and my arms,” recalls the now 38-year-old activist.
Today Batoyan wears colorful, sleeveless dresses and advocates for people with disabilities to be taken out of the closet and be allowed to live a full life - including a sexual one. Since founding “Disability info”in 2013, an Armenian media platform, which provides information about, and for, people with disabilities, Batoyan has challenged the stereotypes surrounding disabilities, specifically girls.
When it comes to relationships, taboos add up to stigmas. Women with disabilities “either do not marry and never become mothers or they marry men with disabilities,” she says defending her right, and that of other women with disability, to fancy a person, to have a date, and eventually a full-fledged sexual relation.
It is far from easy. Zaruhi, who was elected in May 2017 as a member of the Yerevan city council, laments that Armenian society fails to sees people in wheelchairs as people; people with desires, interests, and passions - as people “who can’t make love with another person.”