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Childrearing Traditions and Weak Policing Are Failing Armenia’s Abused Children

A group of activists and NGOs organized a public exhibition on family violence in Armenia.

Image is from the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women Facebook page. Photo taken at a public exhibition in Yerevan on October 1, 2015.

A few months ago, a pair of pink children's shoes and an attached sign appeared in Republic Square in Yerevan. It read, “I couldn't do my homework. Dad got angry. He hit me in my face. Blood dripped from my nose… [signed] Mariam, 8 years old, Yerevan”.

The display was part of a public exhibition organized by a group of activists to raise awareness about family violence in Armenia. Dozens of shoes were placed alongside stories of personal abuse, which nonprofits recorded from victims of violence against minors.

It is difficult to say how big a problem child abuse is in Armenia. Milena Abrahamyan, a journalist from Kvinna till Kvinna, notes that family violence is considered to be a private matter in Armenian society:

Working against domestic violence in Armenia is not easy, especially since many people do not even admit that it exists.

According to the Armenian children's rights commissioner's annual report in 2014, local police investigated only 10 cases of domestic violence against children. There are more than 819,000 children in Armenia. Commissioner Karen Andreasyan stated:

Խնդրի […] լուծմանը խոչընդոտում է այն, որ […] բազմաթիվ դեպքեր չեն բարձրաձայնվում և հետագայում չեն բացահայտվում, քանի որ երեխաներն անձամբ հազվադեպ են դիմում օգնության, իսկ ծնողների […] կողմից […] բռնությունը […] համարվում է օրինաչափ` որպես երեխայի […] դաստիարակելու միջոց:

The problem is difficult to solve because violence cases are not voiced and further disclosed. Children rarely ask for help and violence exercised by parents is considered to be a normal approach to childrearing.

The laws of Armenia guarantee basic rights to children in its Family Code, Labor Code, and Criminal Code. As a member of the United Nations, the country has been following recommendations on protecting children through amendments to key domestic laws, trying to protect children better from exploitation, abuse, and trafficking.

Last year, Armenia was supposed to conclude an 11-year process to develop and endorse a comprehensive National Plan of Action for the Protection of Children’s Rights. Armenia's strategic plan includes promoting investigations of domestic violence cases, establishing hotlines in hospitals, police stations, and local governments, and psychological consultation in educational institutions, as well as public awareness campaigns and temporary accommodations for victims. A range of draft laws are still awaiting legislative debate, though the UN's agency for children, UNICEF, paints a grim picture of the child-protection laws in Armenia that have already passed.

However, despite these developments and the presence of political will, the implementation of laws still remains a problem as few working mechanisms have been established and resources, both human and financial, have been insufficient to translate provisions of laws into results for children.

Despite these obstacles, youth activists in Armenia are doing what they can, calling on society to reform its approach to childrearing, and demanding that the government take more active steps to protecting minors at risk. So far, that effort has focused on raising awareness about child abuse, one pair of pink shoes at a time.

  • Nena Carrion

    Shouldn’t the note in the top picture be translated into English? I’m not sure if every reader here can understand Armenian.

    • Nena Carrion

      What a shame! I just saw the translation is on the text. Please, sorry! That happens when you express an opinion after taking a closer look.
      :S

      • Margarita Gaboyan

        That’s fine :)

    • Margarita Gaboyan

      Dear Nena, the translation is in the first paragraph.

  • RealActivist

    Margarita, I don’t eliminate that you’re doing this out of good intentions, but this is short-sighted, plus your argument about the culture of upbringing is based on an absolutely false premise. You simply can’t generalise like that. You’re not a cultural anthropologist, and I doubt that you have credentials of a sociological scholar. It’s a known fact that Armenians worship their kids. Armenia is the safest place on earth to raise your children, where else in the world you would be able to safely let your kids e.g. go to the supermarket, walk home by themselves? Family is one of the strongest institutions in Armenian culture, the entire world can learn from this culture not the opposite. America or EU have nothing to teach Armenians on this issue, the cases of abuse are 100 times more evil over there, I don’t want to elaborate, you’ve probably guessed what I’m referring to.

    What your article does is attempting to create a false association of two concepts, abuse and Armenian family, this is absurd. It’s like you intend to aid the creation of more absurd policies, that don’t reflect the reality on the ground. You are harming, instead of helping to strengthen the institution of family. If you really intend to help, your work should be directed against the corrupt politicians that worship and spread around the pseudo-liberatarian and pseudo-european values in Armenia, against the corrupt policemen, and judges.

    • Margarita Gaboyan

      I am responsible for what i say not how you interpret it. All the arguments are strictly based on the primary data. If you have other data proving that the majority of Armenian families did not ever exercise domestic violence against their children especially in rmarzes, then I am sorry. The security of the country has nothing to do with their attitude towards their children. I did my survey personally and even when answering the questions it was obvious that parents think they have right to use force when children do not listen to them. I saw many cases in the streets.. So if you live in Yerevan or elsewhere in Armenia, be more attentive.

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