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Armenia: Violence against Women

The world’s oldest Christian nation may have many things to be proud about, but when it comes to women’s rights the ex-Soviet Armenia is possibly in denial. With widespread human trafficking as its worst manifestation, violence against women in Armenia is alarming the world. Will a recent Amnesty International report detailing domestic abuse and government inaction bring about change?

Bloggers react by sharing their own stories of violence against women and one even mocks a report that he suggests doesn’t reflect the Armenia he knows. My own post on Blogian, however, provides a background to the problem of domestic violence in Armenia.

An 8-page report by Amnesty International documents widespread domestic violence and sexual abuse of women in Armenia. According to the findings, while one in four Armenian women are physically violated by family members, many more are psychologically abused.

Worst of all, violence against women is a taboo in Armenia, with all-male government agencies reluctant to investigate “private matters” and women afraid to report abuse in the first place. Moreover, the report says that many women in Armenia help perpetuate the widespread abuse by treating violence as normal. Amnesty quotes an infamous Armenian saying that translates, “A woman is like wool; the more you beat her, the softer she’ll be.”
[…]

The England-based Armenian blog Unzipped: Gay Armenia posts Amnesty’s report, adding information about upcoming awareness events in Yerevan.

Women’s Resource Centre in Armenia organises march against violence against women on 25 November 2008.

[…]

There will be round-table discussion on sexual violence against women in Armenia on 27 November. Also, thanks to the initiative and cooperation of the U.S. Embassy and other organisations, Armenia's first-ever walkathon to raise awareness about domestic violence issues in Armenia is being organized in connection with the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence,” spanning from November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day. Walkathon for a Violence-Free Future for Women is on Sunday, November 30, 2008.

Another England-based Armenian blogger, Mark Grigorian [RU], posts the official Russian version bringing about a lively discussion. Russia-based blogger Besyonya, was the first to react to Grigorian’s post and leaves a comment detailing her own family’s tragic story.

Мою тетю избивал муж, когда за нее заступился отец (мой дед), то муж полез и на отца. В итоге дедушка убил этого мужа, это была самозащита. Сейчас уже нет и дедушки, но когда я приезжала домой, то там до сих пор женщины терпят от мужчин всё, пытались шикать на меня, когда я некоего пьянствующего родственника отправила выпроводила за двери.

My aunt was being beaten by her husband; when her father (my grandfather) intervened, then the husband hit the father too. As a result, my grandpa killed that husband: it was self-defense. Now, the grandfather is gone too, but when I visited home, there women still tolerate everything men do. They [the women] tried to shush me when I escorted a certain drunken male relative out the door.

Aregjan, a US-based Armenian blogger, also reacted.

… С домашним насилием надо боротся. Меня больше раздражают в таких случаях когда люди начинают ссылатся на
“традицию” и на “крепкость семьи” (великолепная семья, ага, где дети растут видя как отец каждый день избивает мать).

[…]

Violence against women needs to be fought against. What upsets me most is the case when people start citing “tradition” and “strong family” [in this situations] (wonderful family, for sure, when kids grow seeing their father beat their mother every day).

The blogger later reminds people not to forget the big picture, the culture of violence in Armenia (saying that it’s not a big deal when young men, for instance, engage in physical fights).

Armenia-based blogger Pigh, however, writes sarcastically that he is going to hit every fourth woman in Armenia in order to support Amnesty International’s claims that one in four Armenian women are physically abused.

Earlier this year, on my Blogian, I translated parts of my column for the Azg Daily. Talking about human trafficking as an extension of general oppression of women in Armenia, I discussed the denial of violence.

There is some “pride” in the denial of (the fact of) oppression against women. And if there is denial, then [men] know they are wrong. Last year, when several NGOs found out that about half of Armenia’s women had been subjected to physical brutality in the past year, a member of the 95% men-controlled parliament said that these non-profits simply seek grants and hurt Armenia’s image for the sake of their pockets. “They shouldn’t present Armenia as some African tribe where people eat each other.”

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