On Dec 13 the Armenian parliament passed a law for “prevention of domestic violence, protection of the victims of domestic violence, and restoring solidarity with the family”. (The vote was 75 for, 12 against, and 8 abstentions).
It seems that domestic violence especially violence against women is a very serious issue in Armenia. Here is a quote by a high-ranking police officer as reported by Panorama.am.
“602 cases of domestic abuse have been recorded in Armenia within nine months of 2017, with criminal cases launched into 142 of them.
The same period saw 1791 cases of violence against women, 146 cases of violation against the minors, out of which 52 cases referred to crimes against sexual immunity and freedom, Colonel Nelly Duryan, head of the 3rd division of the General Department of Criminal Investigation of the Armenian Police, said during today’s parliamentary debates of the draft law”.
Working with families and children for 20 years, Ms. Duryan had to point to the prevalence of domestic abuse cases in Armenian families, highlighting the need to take all the possible measures to help the abuse victims and she added. “I think this law is aimed to that end. It is not appropriate to consider these [figures] low,”.
Indeed “these [figures]” are not low, rather very high by any standard. As Ms. Duryan said, let us hope that this new law will help minimize domestic violence, especially against women that have the highest numbers (1791) as quoted above. No doubt that there are many cases that are not reported to police that make the situation even worst.
It seems there are some social/cultural “traditions” that discourage women to report the crimes, as one victim who did not want to be identified for fear of more abuse, said. “I was probably not very strong, but the main factor was the honor of my parents.”
It is troubling to hear this statement. It should be the other way around. The cowardly husband who beats his wife is the one to feel dishonored and not the wife, the victim, or her parents. She should be considered a brave and honorable person by the public at large for reporting a despicable crime. But sadly, this does not seem to be the case.
Prior to the passage of the law, the Justice Ministry posted the proposed law against domestic violence on its website over two weeks to receive feedback from civic groups and citizens. Some 560 website visitors have backed the bill, while 505 others have opposed it. Very troubling numbers indeed.
During the debate in the parliament, few Members of Parliament (MP) thought that this troubling “tradition” (ավանդույթ) is the result of Armenians living under the domination of foreign rulers for centuries. Here is a quote by MP Nikol Pashinyan, (who was among the majority who supported the passage of the law), that best exemplifies these opinions.
“Մենք 700 տարի պետականություն չենք ունեցել, և երբ ասում ենք՝ ազգային ավանդույթներ, պետք է հաշվի առնենք, որ մեր ատ ավանդույթներ ձևավորվել են գերված ժողովրդի պայմաններին համապատասխան”.
Loosely translated “For 700 years we had no statehood, and our national traditions are shaped by the conditions of the peopled who lived as slave people. (գերված ժողովուրդ).
Surely 700 years without our own statehood had its effects on our culture and traditions, but that is hardly a qualification for a “slave people”. What is troubling here, is the thinking, the “slave-mentality”, (Ստրկամտութիւն), that puts the blame on others for our own shortcomings. (This “ստրկամտութիւն” is evident in our thinking, especially political thinking, throughout our recent 700-year-old history).
Needless to say, since 1991 we have had our own statehood and it was built on the ruins of the Soviet system. If there were any past “traditions” they must have been substantially reduced which in this instance does not seems to be the case. Sade indeed.
Domestic violence, especially against women, is a crime and should be dealt with it accordingly and the passage of this law is a good start. The larger issue seems to be the woman’s rights issues in Armenia.
Needless to say, women make up more than half of the population in Armenia. (A census in 2016 showed that out of 3 109 000 people 1 662 000 were women). Accordingly, they should have significant power and influence in society, which does not seem to be the case.
I wrote a Monologue about this issue dated April 29 2017 and no need to repeat myself. Here is a short quote from that Monologue made by the American University of Armenia (AUA) which had organized a conference titled “Empowerment of Girls and Women in Armenia”, and it reads.
“The conference was the first step in AUA’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative which will identify issues, foster awareness, and help set an agenda for research, social activism, and academic programming”.
Let us hope that, they will make good on their promise, and actively start the process to gain equality for women in Armenia in political, socioeconomic, cultural, and all related issues and thus help Armenia become a country where equality and justice are the norms and not the exception.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian