A senior representative of the Armenian police on Tuesday called for the passage of a government bill aimed at combatting domestic violence and helping its predominantly female victims.
The bill drafted by Armenia’s Justice Ministry would introduce criminal and administrative liability for specific cases defined as domestic violence. It would also obligate the state to protect female victims by providing them with special shelters or banning their violent spouses from approaching them and even their children.
The proposed legislation is strongly backed by women’s rights groups campaigning for much tougher government action against the practice. But it has met with fierce resistance from some conservative groups and nationalist public figures. The two sides argued bitterly during a public discussion on the bill organized by the Justice Ministry on October 9.
The heated debate continued during hearings on the issue held in the Armenian parliament on Tuesday.Colonel Nelly Durian, head of a national police division dealing with children’s rights and domestic violence, was among senior officials who attended and spoke at the hearings.
“We have violence within families and must do everything to help its victims, to help children, women and even those individuals who resort to violence,” said Durian. “I think that this bill is aimed at doing just that.”
The police recorded 3,571 cases of domestic violence from 2012-2016. Women’s rights groups have long accused the police of being too lenient towards men systematically ill-treating their wives or children and even turning a blind eye to their violent conduct.
Echoing statements by law-enforcement officials, Deputy Justice Minister Vigen Kocharian said that Armenia’s existing criminal and family codes do not sufficiently empower relevant authorities to tackle the problem. Hence, the need for a special law against it, Kocharian told the hearings.
“About 47 percent of cases of sexual abuse of minors take places in family milieus,” the official said. “Some people may not be concerned about this problem, but we are concerned.”
Hasmik Khachatrian, a young woman who was abused by her husband for almost a decade, also made a case for the bill’s passage during the discussion. She said it would protect victims of domestic violence and spare them “the kind of obstacles which I have encountered.”
The draft, which is due to be debated by the Armenian parliament soon, defines four types of such abuse: physical, sexual, psychological and economic. Some lawmakers asked Kocharian to elaborate on psychological and economic violence, which prompted a particularly heated discussion among participants of the hearings.