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Domestic violence: The problems exacerbated by the state of emergency are not new

The incidence of domestic violence in Armenia has increased under quarantine conditions. Because the centralized accounting system, which was supposed to be operational at the beginning of the year, is not yet operational, different sources make different numbers. In general, the increase in domestic violence ranges from 30 to 50%, but almost all sources claim that the statistics available at the moment cannot reflect the real picture, as the movement of most of the victims is limited and in many cases they  just can’t alarm. In addition, according to experts, the state of emergency revealed all the shortcomings of referral mechanisms aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence in Armenia.

 

Recently, during an online discussion on domestic violence organized by Article 3, Nelli Duryan, Head of the Department for the Protection of the Rights of Minors of the RA Police and the Department for Combating Domestic Violence, said that since March 16th, the Police had 180 alarms of domestic violence, and in the same period last year that number was 170.  She noted that in 2020 there was only one murder as a result of domestic violence.

 

At the same time, the representative of the organization mentioned that some women do not want to apply to the police and want to use the services of non-governmental organizations. According to her, she stressed that the police is ready to support and cooperate with NGOs. If, for example, a woman who has been abused wants to move to an NGO shelter, they are willing to support the victim of the violence and relocate her.

 

Between March 16 and the end of April, the Ombudsman’s Office received 23 calls for domestic violence, most of which involved the husband’s physical violence against his wife, combined with violence against children. According to Nina Pirumyan, head of the research and education center of the Human Rights Defender’s Office, there have been cases when the victims did not want the alarm to be processed by the police after providing consultation. “In this sense, it is important to change public perceptions, because applying to the police does not always lead to a criminal case. In the case of domestic violence, the police have a special toolkit, and its actions and decisions are primarily defensive.” I mention this because these days we have had a case when the caller specifically asked the Human Rights Defender’s Office to deal with the issue, not the police, that is, there is a problem with the perception of the role of state bodies, “she said. It is not only one state structure that has work to do, it is the coordinated work that can bring certain results.

 

The Women’s Support Center, as well as the Coalition to Stop Violence against Women, has seen at least a 30 percent increase in domestic violence alerts over the past two months compared to the same period last year. In a conversation with WomenNet.am, Maro Matosyan, Founder-Director of the Women’s Support Center, noted that this growth is present all over the world, as it is impossible to be closed for months in an area with a person accustomed to violence and to hope that that person will not apply violence. That’s why the Women’s Support Center is convinced that the real situation is much worse than the number of alarms.

 

According to Maro Matosyan, unlike many countries, the state system in Armenia is not yet ready for a quick response to domestic violence. For example, most of the women who are subjected to violence in our country are deprived of the means of communication or they are not in their name and have no alternative means of sounding the alarm.

 

Our interlocutor added that both the Family Violence Act and the Criminal Code should be amended to emphasize the prevention of violence and the protection of victims. Likewise, the system must be prepared for such force majeure situations, when the increase in violence becomes inevitable.

 

In her speech during the discussion convened by Article 3, Maria Karapetyan, a member of the National Assembly’s “My Step” faction, noted that many of the problems exacerbated by the state of emergency are not new, they existed before. According to her, after the end of the state of emergency, the problem of domestic violence, unfortunately, will continue to be relevant in our society, and this is the basis for a number of issues to be addressed in legislation. For example, one of the solutions that Maria Karapetyan sees is to have support centers and shelters in at least all regions so that people can use the services, even if they can’t cover distances. As of today, she reminded, there are only two shelters in Armenia.

 

In addition, we need to change a lot of things in the Criminal Code, including conceptual and profound changes in the law on domestic violence. I think we need to focus more on protecting victims of domestic violence and less on reconciliation tools, that is my position. I think that when people really want to be together and restore their broken relations, they do not need a mediator, and the state’s intervention and help is needed when insurmountable problems arise and it is necessary to protect people from violence, “Karapetyan said.

 

Returning to the Criminal Code, where amendments should be made, the MP pointed out that the state should consider the possibility of imposing criminal penalties, if a person is forced to terminate a pregnancy, has sexual harassment, and the crime of beating should be reviewed.

 

“In short, there is a wide range of changes that need to be made. This applies not only to punitive but also to mitigating circumstances that need to be corrected. The draft amendments to the Criminal Code are being drafted and will be put into circulation soon. I hope that the changes we expect will find a place in that draft, “the MP said, adding that we have a lot to do in terms of having a non-violent society.

 

It should be noted that according to the data of the beginning of March of the RA Police, 1789 violent cases have been registered in the RA since 2010, a warning has been applied to 1364. I wonder how this statistic will change after the quarantine is over, when the affected citizens will have the opportunity to sound the alarm and raise their concerns.

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