October 23 2012
Real War on Women: Domestic Violence Overlooked by Armenia
Each week, I focus on ways women’s basic rights are threatened all over the world. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and domestic violence is a crime that threatens women—and in more cases than you might think, men--of all nationalities across the globe.
Women and men who are victims of domestic violence in the U.S., at least know that there are laws and a justice system in place that is meant to protect and defend those who experience domestic violence. Women in Armenia sadly do not have the same comfort or confidence.
According to conservative estimates, one in four Armenian women experience domestic violence, but reports of domestic violence prevalence run as high as 70 percent. And when domestic violence does occur against an Armenian woman, there is substantial pressure not to report it. Those who do report the violence to authorities have very little legal support.. Amnesty International reports:
Violence in the family is not defined in law separately from other kinds of violence involving strangers, and abused women face powerful pressures not to report violence to the police…women who report violence are seen as threatening the family and are pressured to keep domestic violence a private “family matter”…Women who try to report violence in the family often experience social isolation, as friends, relatives and neighbours reject them. This culture of preserving silence on violence extends to the police force.
Women often experience reluctance on the part of the police to get involved, and in some cases the police endorse the view that domestic violence is a "family matter".
Simon Maghakyan with Amnesty International reports this violence transfers into other areas as well: Girls as young as 12 are often married off and women in Armenia are at a huge risk of human trafficking.
Also according to Amnesty International, “Armenia is the only country among its Council of Europe neighbors without legislation criminalizing domestic violence. Armenia’s government has been arguing that it will pass comprehensive legislation once the Council of Europe finalizes its convention on the issue.” One young girl’s story goes like this:
In 2011, a 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her father, and the police carried out no effective investigation. But the worst was yet to come. The society turned against her and her mother, with the parents of her classmates demanding her expulsion and neighbors demanding their eviction. The rape victim’s mother says her daughter is suicidal.
Armenia must stand against cultural and systematic violence and declare that domestic violence, under any condition, is not okay. It must pass legislation that holds criminals accountable, and ensure the justice system enforces those laws. Furthermore, education must combat the culture of violence that keeps witnesses silent and police forces from defending victims.
Domestic violence shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere, and American women should be a strong voice for women in countries that lack such basic rights and protections.