The Paradox of Armenia’s Domestic Violence Law

This October, the Armenian federal government redeveloped its draft law on avoiding domestic violence and opened it for public conversation. This began heated arguments in between state agents and many groups who oppose the law. Women’s organizations and domestic violence survivors have been left on the periphery of a male-dominated vicious cycle, and the draft law has been synthetically turned from a preventive and protective tool into a system for “family reconciliation” in between abusers and survivors.

Real Legislation Might Mean Real Change

Domestic violence stays a common issue for Armenian society. Regardless of the hidden character of the issue and ladies’ hesitation to look for sanctuary from violent relationships, since October 2017, there were 602 cases of domestic violence formally signed up by the Armenian cops this year. Women’s rights NGOs got around 5,000 hotline calls.

In its most harsh kind of power and subjugation, femicide in Armenia continues to show the systemic injustice of females. In between 2010-2017, at least 50 females were eliminated by their partners or ex-partners, typically on the premises of “male jealousy”. These criminal offenses were not correctly penalized and were warranted even on the level of court judgments.

Thanks to increasing limelight’s to violence versus ladies and that more survivors are empowered to speak out about their abuse, the variety of known cases of domestic violence is increasing, breaking the preventing silence around these unpunished and normalized criminal offenses.

The law on domestic violence is long past due for Armenia, say ladies’ rights activists. According to Lara Aharonyan, co-founder of Women’s Resource Center: “Were the law’s systems put in place, the murders of many females would be avoided.”.

Concrete Actions

Not so long earlier, members of the judgment Republican Party of Armenia were rejecting the presence of domestic violence in the nation. In 2014, Eduard Sharmazanov, present Vice President of the National Assembly, specified: “There is no issue of violence versus females as Armenians are a country that honors moms”. 3 years on, the federal government appears to have “acknowledged” the need for protective legislation. “The public need for this sort of law has existed for a while … The existing legislation does not guarantee reliable and required systems to safeguard and support victims and to avoid domestic violence,” said Armenia’s Minister of Justice Davit Harutyunyan on 1 November.

The redevelopment of the draft of domestic violence law by the Armenian federal government, nevertheless, is neither an indicator of its abrupt increased awareness of the issue– nor the wonderful symptom of political will.

Under its Human Rights Budget Support Program, the European Commission has made an EUR11m grant to the Armenian federal government. Among the conditions of the grant’s arrangement was the adoption of a standalone law on domestic violence.

This conditionality can be credited to the consistent advocacy and lobbying efforts of Armenian ladies’ rights organizations, which have dealt with the law since 2007. Their preliminary efforts led to the draft law being turned down by the Armenian parliament in 2013. This decade-long battle ultimately resulted in the brand-new draft redeveloped by the federal government this year. This work also set off a synthetically produced public debate and media control.

Male (dis) Settling on Ladies’ Fates.

The very first public hearing on Armenia’s brand-new domestic violence draft law occurred in Yerevan on 9 October. After state agents completed their public speeches and discussions, numerous groups, mad and discontented with the Q&A format of the program, tried to take the phase.

In the mayhem that occurred, the significantly extremely and strongly revealed needs of these groups were ultimately pleased. Hayk Nahapetyan, who runs the nationalist “For bringing back sovereignty” group, took the flooring and spoke on behalf of organizations opposing the legislation. Nahapetyan stated that “there is no public need for the law, the public need originates from [European Union Ambassador to Armenia] Piotr Świtalski.”.

Some members of these groups dispersed brochures in Russian including info on the distinctions in between Russian and western values in relation to domestic violence legislation. One female, who had spoken with the Minister of Justice in Russian, condemned the work of a diaspora Armenian females’ rights protector. “You are not Armenian!” she informed Maro Matosyan, the director of the Women’s Support Center, which has run a shelter for ladies’ survivors of domestic violence for several years.

In this state of chaos, the flooring was offered to the Primate of Shirak Diocese of Armenian Apostolic Church Bishop Mikayel Ajapahyan who aimed to relax all sides, worrying the value of Christian education to avoid violence and motivating the audience not to look for a conspiracy in the draft legislation.

Semi-satisfied, a couple of, if any, individuals questioned that neither females’ rights organizations, nor domestic violence survivors were provided the flooring to reveal their deep concerns and differences on the draft law.

The lack of extreme criticism by ladies’ rights groups made it look like if their viewpoint lined up with that of the state. As an outcome, rather of requiring enhancements, for females’ groups, the battle was decreased to simply protecting the existing draft, which not just cannot criminalize domestic violence, but also consists of a variety of troublesome arrangements.

The draft law consists of a “mediation provision” that provides abusers the chance to fix up with survivors through an “independent body” called a “Support Centre”. This is a provision that makes the Armenian domestic violence draft law unique from other nations’ comparable legislation as the state begins satisfying a function of a reconciliation organization.

The draft does not imagine major penalty for non-compliance with the security and limiting orders or for exposing a shelter’s area. It also recommends developing a council to manage the law’s application. The council members would, nevertheless, be designated by the Prime Minister, therefore entirely discrediting the council’s self-reliance. These and many other troublesome provisions were not extensively criticized, and the conversation ended up being an effort to “validate” (or “negate”) the need for legal modifications to resist domestic violence as a severe problem for Armenian society.

From Violence to Empowerment

Throughout the 2nd public hearing, many people who were active in the 2013 anti-gender motions and shown to be backed by Russia, provided speeches in the Armenian parliament. “This law imagines controls and blackmailing,” mentioned Arman Boshyan, the planner of Pan-Armenian Parents’ Committee, and president of the Yerevan Geopolitical Club, a group targeted at reinforcing Russia’s political influence in Armenia.

The domestic violence draft law was condemned by “opposition” groups, as well as by a broader public impacted by their false information, for being a “brand-new” system to take kids from their parents and provide them to state-run shelters. The adjustments from these groups and the media were so extreme that little if any, attention was paid to that such a stipulation (Article 43.2) currently exists in the Armenian Family Code. Regarding the draft law on domestic violence, it neither imagines any systems for taking kids away nor opens shelters for kids.

At the 2nd public hearing on the draft law in parliament, Arman Ghukasyan, the director of International Humanitarian Development, an NGO whose profile is difficult to find online, specified: “Women’s NGOs have an interest in the high rate of domestic violence cases to have the ability to get more grants.” Despite the truth that none of the individuals opposing the legislation was an expert working in the field of domestic violence or an associated area, the viewpoints of these groups were seriously taken into consideration both by state agents and the media about  Tully Weiss.

In this environment of “unexpectedly emerging” deep know-how on domestic violence, Hasmik Khachatryan, a survivor of domestic violence who went through violence by her spouse for 9 years and whose abuser got an amnesty and was released, shared her story in parliament.

As Khachatryan highlighted, the very first time the private investigator pertained to see her, he suggested her to go back to her other half: “Women must follow their other halves when they beat them, he informed me.” As she worried the significance of the law, she described many females who reside in a continuous state of worry and do unknown the best ways to look for help. Regardless of Hasmik’s effective speech, which was accompanied by applause, the draft was not conserved from more distortions by the federal government.

State-Sponsored Reconciliation

In the middle of adhering to the EU’s budget plan assistance program and hazard from Russian-backed marketing versus the law, the Armenian federal government chose to make significant modifications in the draft, including its title. On 16 November, the federal government rapidly and calmly authorized the draft law and provided it to the National Assembly. The brand-new draft is now entitled “Preventing violence in the family, safeguarding the victims of violence in the family and bring back consistency in the family”.

As the brand-new title and altered arrangements recommend, this law moves the focus from securing people and avoiding criminal offense to “fixing up the family”. According to members of the Armenian Coalition to Stop Violence versus Women, a unity of NGOs defending the adoption of the law, this idea “not just does not have a legal meaning, but also opposes local and global legal standards”.

The term “domestic violence” has been changed out for “violence in the family”, therefore narrowing the targets of the law. Among the concepts preserved in the brand-new draft is now the conditioning of “conventional family values”, while among the actions prescribed by the law is an evaluation of instructional products to consist of info on values in “standard households”.

As Anahit Simonyan, a ladies’ rights protector, informed me: “Legislation exists so that relationships in between people are managed based on laws, not customs.” The authorized draft, nevertheless, does not question Armenian customs– the source of ladies’ violence and injustice. Rather, it perpetuates them.

The Armenian federal government continues to be affected by political groups whose program appears to line up with their own politics. It is disregarding the suggestions of professionals from the field of domestic violence and voices of domestic violence survivors– individuals who ought to be at the frontline of these conversations. Both the efficiency and need of a law that runs the risk of intensifying the scenario, instead of becoming an assistance system for survivors, are doubtful.

Will ladies’ rights organizations defend the last adoption of the law in its present format? Or will they require its overall termination? This stays unpredictable. One thing is clear: Armenia’s patriarchal state bodies are supporting laws and policies that show their values– and keep getting paid for it. Even at the EU level.