DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN ARMENIA
http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/2010/05/domestic-violence-against-women-in-armenia BY SANAN SHIRINIAN
There is an old folk saying in Armenia, “A woman is like wool, the more you beat her, the softer she will be.” Whether it is the result of a traditional mindset, rampant poverty, or simply a lack of knowledge, domestic violence has been a historically widespread and unacknowledged social issue in the Republic of Armenia. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia was forced into period of transition from a Communist state to and independent republic. This abrupt change proved to be an especially traumatic and violent one. War with neighboring Azerbaijan, regional trade isolation, and a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that devastated the second largest city, were just a few of the catastrophes which further paralyzed an already struggling country. Furthermore, near-absolute economic collapse, due to rapid privatization, exerted considerable strains on the country’s population. This was reflected in significant emigration to Diasporan communities (Amnesty International, 2008). These harsh situations created an environment where women” the most vulnerable citizens of the country” were highly susceptible to violence. Armenia, a traditionally patriarchal society, allows custom to dictate norms and practices, even in the 21st century. Armenian women are ideally meant to be chaste and passive. Custom says they are expected to marry the first man who asked for their hand, and prove their virginity by showcasing a bloody sheet the morning after the wedding ceremony. Tradition also dictates that men are providers of the family, while women are child bearers. Armenia’s unstable economy has resulted in an unprecedented unemployment, creating a situation where men are unable to perform their roles as financial providers. As a result, some men have adopted a widespread ritual of beating their wives. Vast unemployment pushes men towards alcoholism and gambling addictions, habits which encourage the ill-treatment of their wives. “Most” people attributed high levels of domestic violence to the devastating economic conditions in Armenia. International research indicates that women who live in poverty are more likely to experience violence than women of higher socio-economic status (Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, 2000, pg. 27). Since traditional Armenian culture is intolerant of any discussion of issues pertaining to sexual rights of women, divorce or domestic violence, the crime is severely underreported and rarely prosecuted. The hush-hush culture of these taboo issues has truly led to a circumstance where countless women have fallen victim to the hands of abusive husbands, extended families and the government. II. Background
In Armenia, there are no laws explicitly defining or prohibiting gender-based discrimination, a practice which is evident in numerous facets of society (Amnesty International, 2008). Although battery itself is outlawed, women who attempt to report battery at the hands of abusive husbands are often faced with resistance from the police, the courts, their families and society in general. The only legal options available to women are to either initiate a criminal action or to file for divorce (Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, 2000, pg. 6). There are no legal alternatives for women who do not want to pursue criminal action but would like to protect themselves from future abuse. The government has not created restraining orders or other remedies to allow the husband to “cool off” while keeping the woman safe (Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, 2000). The pressure from society not to report cases of domestic violence plays a key role in ensuring the violence continues. “An Armenian man always has the last word,” a police officer from the Province of Gegharkunik told a survivor of domestic violence (Amnesty...