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Human Rights Defender’s Report on Violence against Women

The report on the activities of the RA Human Rights Defender in 2019, which is being discussed in the National Assembly today, touched upon the situation with the issue of domestic violence in Armenia. Arman Tatoyan states that domestic violence is a global problem that affects all societies and, unfortunately, this phenomenon has different manifestations and levels of prevalence in Armenia.

 

The Defender reminds that back in 2015, during the UN periodic review of a second period, a number of countries offered Armenia to take steps to solve problems in this area. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights also touched upon the issue of violence against women and domestic violence in a report developed during her visit to Armenia in 2018.

 

In 2019, the Human Rights Defender received alarms about domestic violence cases, which doubled compared to the number of complaints last year. A study of the issues raised in individual complaints shows that these are, in fact, not only violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, but also affect the exercise of other people’s rights, in particular the exercise of women’s access to justice, which in turn leads to a number of rights violations and difficulties in restoring those violated rights. The study of individual complaints has revealed systemic problems, which can be conventionally divided into several parts:

 

  • Inadequate legislation or lack of regulation in combating and preventing domestic violence,
  • stereotypes, low level of legal awareness and distrust of state bodies,
  • Lack of cooperation between the services provided by the state, as well as between state bodies,
  • Lack of accurate statistics on domestic violence,
  • Insufficient professional training and lack of awareness of state and local self-government bodies and officials.

 

Statistics:

 

According to the RA Police, 796 alarms received in 2019 about the domestic violence, were followed by warning, and 260 – emergency intervention decisions. Of the measures taken, 124 were violated, 90 of which were reported to the police by the victim of domestic violence, and 34 were found by a police officer.

 

The data provided by the authorities show that domestic violence has a disproportionate effect on women in particular. Thus, according to the RA Police, 485 cases of domestic violence were investigated in 2019, of which 2 by the partner, 329 by the husband against the wife, 10 by the wife, 41 by the parent on the child, and by the child on the parent. 53, by 50 other family members.

 

However, according to the same source, the share of decisions on refusing to initiate a criminal case is quite large, taking into account the total number of reports submitted. Thus, in 2019, 359 cases were not processed, which is about 74% of the total cases. Moreover, the decisions to reject the initiation of a criminal case in about 98% of cases were made on the basis of Article 35, Part 1, Clause 4 of the RA Criminal Procedure Code, that is, the applicant’s complaint is missing.

 

And finally, about 69% of the 468 proceedings completed in 2019 were terminated, and about 60% of the dismissed cases, in turn, were not justified.

 

The gaps in the legislation

 

According to the authors of the report, flawed legislation creates barriers to the protection of victims of violence and the prevention of such cases. As a result of the discussion of the complaints submitted to the Human Rights Defender, legislative issues were raised.

 

In addition, not all types of domestic violence are subject to the mechanism of liability under domestic law, according to which the competent authorities are unable to respond to these cases.

 

The authors believe that the lack of adequate protection for victims prevents the effective fight against domestic violence.

 

In addition, the Ombudsman’s report states that he may be prevented from responding effectively to domestic violence by being liable under Article 62 1 1 (7) of the RA Criminal Code and mitigating the punishment, namely, the illegality or immorality of the victim’s conduct that led to crime.

 

By the way, the above-mentioned issues have been raised since 2017 in the report of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Armenia, with the support of the Council of Europe, in the report of comparative analysis of the RA criminal legislation and international standards, where clear proposals were presented. However, the proposals have not been implemented so far, which is problematic.

 

Stereotypes, distrust of state bodies

 

The biggest challenge in combating and preventing violence against women is the misconceptions and stereotypes about domestic violence. Examination of the discussions with representatives of the Human Rights Defender and representatives of the State and Local Self-Government in several regions of the country, as well as the complaints addressed to the Defender, makes it clear that these stereotypes exist in various circles of society, including the representative of the competent authorities. And the stereotypical approach by the authorities of the competent state bodies often leads to double death, which can hinder the further detection of such cases, as a result of which most of the victims avoid resorting to the competent authorities again.

 

The authors of the report note that misconceptions about the role and violence of women in society are also fueled by misrepresentation by the media about violence. Moreover, television programs and films can have a negative impact on the formation of misconceptions about violence, which have been voiced for years.

 

Participants unanimously agree that one of the factors in domestic violence is Armenian TV series, the main audience of which is women, where the positive image of a man is often presented as ruling, not including his wife in the decision-making process, resolving conflicts sometimes by force and sometimes by beating, and that of a woman – as obedient, weaving small plots around a daily cup of coffee. According to the participants, since the media does not present such characters as unacceptable and even reprehensible, but on the contrary, justifies such an approach by saying that “we represent reality”, the same unacceptable reality continues to be reproduced, especially among young people.

 

State support for victims of domestic violence

 

The RA Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence, Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence and Restoration of Solidarity in the Family envisages the establishment of support centers and shelters. However, it should be noted that in 2019, the issue of full support for those who have been subjected to violence by the state and their family members has remained problematic. The problem is that some support centers were established only in 2019, during which time there were only 6 support centers in the country, three of which were in Yerevan and the other three in Syunik, Shirak and Lori regions.

 

For example, the shelter’s services were provided by two non-governmental organizations, the information about which is posted on the ministry’s official website. In 2019, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs presented two new initiatives: “Shelter Services for Victims of Domestic Violence” and “Services for Support Centers for Victims of Domestic Violence” initiatives, which were included in the RA State 2020 in the budget.

 

In addition, in 2019, the ministry announced grant competitions for state-funded shelter services for persons subjected to domestic violence, as a result of which it is planned to have 2 shelters for victims of domestic violence in the territory of the Republic of Armenia. As a result of the tenders, 2 shelters with state co-financing will operate in the territory of the Republic of Armenia from 2020.

 

What to do next?

 

According to the RA Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, in order to effectively address the multidimensional problems of domestic violence, it is planned to develop and adopt a strategy and action plan on combating violence in the family by the end of the year.

 

The Human Rights Defender’s recommendations for resolving this issue, as well as the report, can be found in full here.

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