Combating violence against women VS national values – Armenians protest ratification of Istanbul Convention
A rally was held today against the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which aims to prevent violence against women and domestic violence. The rally took place near the parliament.
Much of the Armenian public that domestic violence is not prevalent in the country.
The Armenian parliament held a discussion on the ratification of the convention with the participation of senior officials of the Council of Europe, and activists who are fighting to ensure that parliament does not ratify this document take to the streets again.
Activists are convinced that the convention threatens traditional Armenian values.
The head of the Volia initiative, Vahagn Chakhalyan, announced that their rallies will continue:
“Citizens are ready to organize demonstrations of disobedience in different cities of Armenia. We say that this is not yet necessary, since the document is not yet at the ratification stage. And if the National Assembly of Armenia does not listen to the voice of citizens and goes against their opinion, then protests will be held in all cities.”
This time, the protest rally took place first in front of the parliament building. A few hours later, it was decided to march along the streets of Yerevan.
On the Istanbul convention
Armenia joined the convention in January 2018, even under the former authorities, but then the issue did not cause such a scandal; Armenia did not ratify the convention officially.
The Istanbul Convention (or “Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence”) was signed in 2011 in Istanbul.
Of the 47 Council of Europe member states, 34 have ratified the Convention, and 11, including Armenia, have only signed. Russia and Azerbaijan did not sign it, and Bulgaria generally recognized the convention as unconstitutional.
According to the government program, the Istanbul Convention was to be ratified in the second half of September 2019.
Opinions on ratifying the convention
MPs from the Prosperous Armenia parliamentary party agree with the opinion of the activists; tThey even joined the collection of signatures against the ratification of the convention, organized by the Volia initiative.
According to MP of the Prosperous Armenia Party Gevorg Petrosyan, the Istanbul Convention contradicts the Armenian Constitution and the country’s value system.
The fact that in 2018 alone in Armenia more than 400 criminal cases were opened in cases of the use of violence against women, the MP commented on as follows:
“We have legislation that punishes domestic violence. It is impossible to ratify under this pretext what, in essence, is aimed at the destruction of our national system of values.”
Gevorg Petrosyan means the “Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence, on the protection of persons affected by domestic violence and on the restoration of harmony in the family.”
It was adopted at the end of 2017 – again after heated debate and protests in general, it entered into force in January 2018, and began to be applied practically from July 1, 2018.
In connection with the intensification of the protests, the chairman of the parliamentary commission on state and legal issues Vladimir Vardanyan explained: at the moment, the ratification of the Istanbul Convention is not on the agenda of the National Assembly.
“But we need to clearly understand the following: Armenia is a member of the Council of Europe, and in a certain sense we should go in this direction. There should be discussions of the (convention).”
Why do many people think that domestic violence is an issue?
The fact is that victims of violence generally do not report to the police.
Very rarely do women come forward to talk about violence against them; even rarer do people go to the police. This creates the impression in society that there is no violence against women in Armenia.
At the same time, as psychologist Anush Aleksanyan explained to JAMnews, victims of violence remain silent because they are afraid of the reaction of society:
“The society does not have the right attitude towards people who have been abused, there is no support. Therefore, they simply remain silent or speak on condition of anonymity. We also don’t have a culture of discussing such topics,” says the psychologist.
Aleksanyan considers it a big problem that society often justifies the rapist and blames the victim.
The psychologist explains that people are silent about violence against themselves out of guilt – the inevitable consequences of violence. After all, they are also carriers of the stereotypes of their society and often share the opinion of others that they have a share of guilt in what happened.
As regards sexual violence, the Armenian Penal Code does not provide for legal action at all if the rapist is the legal husband of a woman.
This project is funded through the Democracy Commission Small Grants Program, U.S. Embassy Tbilisi. The contents of this publication are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of State.