The Armenian government will amend its bill aimed at combatting domestic violence in response to criticism voiced by conservative members of the ruling Republican Party (HHK), Justice Minister Davit Harutiunian said on Wednesday.
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. Several senior HHK figures have added their voiced to the criticism.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and the HHK spokesman, demanded on Wednesday that the Justice Ministry revise provisions of the bill that “contradict traditional Armenian family values.” “There are many contentious clauses that require explanations,” he told reporters.
Sharmazanov complained that the bill is vague on “psychological violence” and “economic violence” defined by it. “Tell me, what is psychological violence?” he asked. “If my [underage] daughter or my son says that he or she wants to smoke and I don’t let them do that, will they be able to say that ‘my dad subjects me to psychological violence?’”
Sharmazanov said the authors of the bill must also clarify who would be running the special shelters financed by the state.
Harutiunian said, meanwhile, that some provisions of the draft law will be “specified” in order to address concerns voiced by the critics from the HHK and other groups. But he made clear that the amendments will not be significant.
In that regard, the minister stressed the importance of making “psychological violence” in Armenian families an administrative or criminal offense. “Successful countries are the ones which promptly react to psychological violence so that it does not escalate into physical violence,” he said.
A senior representative of the Armenian police called for the passage of the bill when she spoke at parliamentary hearings in Yerevan on October 17.
The police recorded 3,571 cases of domestic violence from 2012-2016. According to the Yerevan-based Women’s Resource Center, more than 50 Armenian women have been beaten to death and murdered otherwise by their husbands or other relatives in the last five years.