During the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks’s official visit to Armenia, his central focus when meeting with officials was domestic violence and women’s rights. Yesterday, during a press conference, Muižnieks stressed that he called on the authorities to implement legislation in practice.
While visiting women victimized by gender-based violence, he repeatedly heard how their cases were left without response in the criminal justice system.
“Survivors of serious physical violence, some of them with visible injuries, told me that police had actively discouraged their complaints against abusive family members… and that certain judges had rebuked them for acting in a ‘shameful’ manner. In effect, when it comes to violent crimes within the family, the system is more likely to protect perpetrators rather than victims,” said Muižnieks.
The latter noted, that prenatal sex-selective abortions in Armenia have resulted in disproportionate ratios (114 boys to 100 girls, while certain regions can lead to 124 boys to 100 girls), which according to the Commissioner is a result of gender bias.
A female journalist in the audience responded to Muižnieks noting that 11 families live in her neighborhood, where there are married couples, but she has never seen an act of domestic violence.
“I’m not married and there is no violence in my home, but I get an impression that all my neighbors have to start hitting each other, if there is such a level of gender imbalance. Of our 11 neighboring families, 8 of the women should have been subject to violence. But their environment is peaceful and calm. Why are they living in a peace and not subject to violence.” said the journalist.
Muižnieks stated that this issue is in reality a hidden one and that it is not easily discussed.
“I’ve heard many times during the course of the last week that this is a mother-worshipping culture, that we revere our women, that they have a special role in our culture and history. Then very good, then you shouldn’t hit them, and shouldn’t kill them, and you should investigate these crimes when they take place, and you should encourage women to come forward.
And send a clear political signal that it's unacceptable to hit a woman, and you should conduct research to find out the extent of the problem, because until now, as far I know, has not been done. As I say, if you do not have domestic violence in Armenia, you are absolutely unique in Europe, and to be honest, I don’t believe it,” responded Nils Muižnieks.