Specialists point out several reasons why the prevention of the issue remains slow and complicated in Armenia. First of all, there is a low public awareness of legal norms which is accompanied by stereotypes the society holds. Secondly, violence victims do not trust law enforcement agencies and, most importantly, Armenia lacks a separate relevant law.
“It is important to adopt a law criminalizing domestic violence which will afterwards establish mechanisms to detect violence acts and punish offenders. The law has not been adopted by the National Assembly so far and one of the reasons is that a lot of MPs don’t find this issue problematic,” said Perchuhi Kazhoyan, representative of the Coalition to Stop Violence against Women, adding that there is a positive shift in this regard.
“We have filed the amended bill to all the MPs. Presently, the legal committee at the National Assembly is discussing the bill,” added Perchuhi Kazhoyan.
On December 8 the Media Center hosted the joint press conference of US Ambassador John A. Heffern; Henriette Ahrens, United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i.;and Perchuhi Kazhoyan, representative of Coalition to Stop Violence against Women. The press conference featured the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence in Armenia.
John A. Heffern prioritized the adoption of a separate law which will cover criminal prosecution, protection of victims and prevention.
“Having a new domestic violence law, a specific law, is so important that deals with all these factors: protection, prevention and prosecution… Domestic violence has a tremendous economic impact on the society and the country as well… We have discovered since we passed our law in 1994 that billions of tax dollars have been saved since passing our law in the USA,” said the Ambassador.
Heffern added that the USA supports the activities of the RA Police in this regard. “The policemen of the Police Department dealing with domestic violence cases have been trained in the USA, with our support,” he said.
Violence against women, Henriette Ahrens believes, remains a serious issue in Armenia. The Police of the Republic of Armenia reported that in the period of January-August 2014 there were 1500 attacks against women. Henriette Ahrens said there are numerous cases of domestic violence that are not detected.
“Both women and men must participate in the prevention of violence. Only in that way it will be possible to eliminate violence in human relations,” she added.
The speakers called on the society, Government, non-governmental organizations and mass media to join their efforts to eliminate such serious stereotypes as social inertia and low public awareness of legal norms.
“It is not only the law that will change the situation. It is important to have joint efforts and a specific policy,” stated Henriette Ahrens.
It should be noted that in Geneve in January, 2015 Armenia will present the Universal Periodic Review which will declare the actions the country has taken to fulfill the human rights obligations. One of the obligations is a separate domestic violence law which was turned down by the National Assembly in 2013. Armenia has outstanding commitments under the 201-2015 Strategic Action Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence.