The Law on Preventing Domestic Violence and Protecting Domestic Violence survivors in Armenia as an Apple of Discord
20.10.2017 Yerevan, Armenia
By Mariam Kurshudyan
Armenia ranking in matter of gender issues is amongst the lowest in the world1. The most widespread pressing gender issues in Armenia are the discrimination and gender-based violence.
Discrimination against women in the economic, political, social, and other spheres of Armenian society is accompanied by a common acceptance of domestic violence which is another widespread social issue in the Republic of Armenia. In the century of law and equal rights it's one of the most actual problems to be solved. Domestic violence is not a family conflict. It is a crime that purpose to gain control over another person. This violates basic human rights such as the right to life, the right to personal freedom and inviolability, the right to honor and dignity and many others. Domestic violence occurs in such forms as psychological, sexual, economic and physical. Violence is committed in any family regardless of social belonging. It does not have social boundaries and occurs in all social groups2.
Additionally, domestic violence is characterized by high latency. Thereby, only a small part of the facts of domestic violence became known to the state bodies and to the public. Usually victims of domestic violence have recourse to the state bodies only after the onset of grave consequences in as much as women are embarrassed to admit that they are subjected to violence by their spouse.
Main factors that contribute to the violence against women in the Armenian society are:
- - Traditional Armenian family and perception that men are superior-patriarchy
- - Violent behavior tolerated by society in general and militarism
- - Perception of women as property, objectification of women
- - Bad socioeconomic conditions, growing poverty and social polarization
- - Absence of trust in law enforcement representatives.
- - Lack of a Domestic Violence Legislation
Domestic violence is not only a women's problem. This is primarily the problem of society, where the violation of the individual's rights to security, physical integrity and dignity towards women occurs across-the-board. Violence in the family is not a private matter of the individual. It is a violation of human rights. Prevention of domestic violence should become a priority of the national security policy of the Republic of Armenia.
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights establishes that interference in personal and family life is not only permissible but necessary when it is in accordance with the law and is “in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.3
Due to the gaps in the law in RA it is not possible to ensure the safety and protection of persons under threat of domestic violence. There is an acute shortage of shelters for abused women and children, and the shortage of affordable housing exacerbates the physical and moral vulnerability of victims of domestic violence, since the victim and the perpetrator continue to live together under the same roof, even if criminal proceeding were instituted.4
Protecting families from unauthorized interference at the same time should not allow impunity for violence that violates the rights of a specific family member.
Impunity for the killings of women is a global concern. Trends in data show that the highest levels of femicide correspond to regions with the highest overall rates of lethal violence; however, this is not the case with post-Soviet countries, many of which have disproportionally high rates of femicide with respect to intentional homicide (UNODC 2011). In 2015, Armenian security forces recorded 447 domestic violence reports. This number does not take into account those classified as “irreconcilable families” or those not reported at all.
According to official date on DV5, from 2010-2015 30 women died in Armenia as a result of domestic violence6. Armenia's first femicide report records the death of women killed by intimate partners and family members from 2010-2015 and sheds light on acts of violence that are uniquely experienced by women in Armenia7. From 2015-2017 20 new cases of femicide happened in different regions of Armenia. The scale of murders of women in their own houses has been escalated. The numbers of cases of domestic violence reported by non-governmental organizations shows the lack of awareness and understanding of “illegality” of domestic violence issue. RA Police and Ombudsman also confirm this situation in the country. ''Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and protection Domestic Violence victims'' in Armenia was drafted by non-governmental organizations in cooperation with the government in 2009 and was presented to the Armenian Government in 2010.The proposed draft legislation included preventive measures to reduce the number of criminal cases related to domestic violence through the establishment of a referral and protection mechanism throughout the country such as establishing hotlines and allocation of premises to shelter victims and other services. However, Armenian Government rejected the Law on Domestic Violence in January 2014. Despite the rejection of the draft law on Prevention of Domestic Violence, the necessity of adoption of a comprehensive separate legislation on domestic violence was recommended during 21st Universal Periodic Review of Armenia in January 2015. In particular, the States encouraged the Government and National Assembly of Armenia to pass legislation that would enable to more fully comply with its international human rights obligations, implement comprehensive legislation to effectively combat the widespread cases of violence against women and offer further protection to victims of domestic violence.
According to official statistics in 2016 in eight months 452 cases of domestic violence against women were registered, in 2015 - 784, in 2014 - 575, in 2013 - around 500, in 2012 - 625 incidents. Moreover, according to the data published by Investigative Committee of the RA, murders in the result of domestic violence in 2015 constitute 17 percent of the murders in the republic..8 Additionally, in the first half of 2015, 38 criminal cases were initiated on cases of juvenile offenses against sexual and reproductive health, 47% of which were initiated by a family member.9 At the same time it should be emphasized that domestic violence has a high level of latency, which means that the picture of domestic violence is even more worrying.
In particular, studies conducted by international and non-governmental organizations show that domestic violence is widespread in Armenia. According to a survey conducted by the OSCE-supported ''Proactive Society'' NGO, 59.6% of respondents have been subjected to domestic violence, and according to non-governmental organizations, 40 women were killed as a result of domestic violence during 2010-2016.10
The existing legislation is incapable of responding adequately to emerging challenges. It does not provide for effective legal remedies for the prevention of domestic violence and for the protection of victims of domestic violence. The activities of state bodies carrying out such functions don't suggest any systematic regulation; the right of access to justice is not guaranteed to all victims of domestic violence, in some cases due to the gaps in the law, it is not possible to ensure the safety and protection of persons under threat of domestic violence, centralized accounting, there are some other gaps in the field.
In order to fill the above mentioned gaps, the Government of the Republic of Armenia emphasized the need for effective legal mechanisms for preventing and responding to domestic violence in line with international standards in the paragraph 40 of the Action Plan on the Human Rights Protection National Strategy, which the RA approved on February 27, 2014.
In the context of the aforementioned national as well as a number of international legal developments, the draft law of the Republic of Armenia "On the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of the victims of Domestic Violence" (hereinafter "the draft") was redeveloped. During the development of the draft the international experience was taken into consideration and now it is already in the web-site of the Ministry of Justice of RA and it is in the public discussion level now. In 10 days all comments to the draft will be reviewed by the Ministry of Justice and the final draft should go to the Government of RA. After all there will be a voting for or against the law in the National Assembly of RA and the results will be known in December.
Mariam Kurshudyan, human rights defender, activist and member of "Educational and Cultural Bridges NGO" took part in the public discussion on draft of the "Law of Preventing Domestic Violence and Protecting Domestic Violence Victims" in the National Assembly of Armenia.
1 The “Global Gender Gap Report 2013”, Published by the World Economic Forum, ranks Armenia 94 out of 136 countries in gender equality.