Free «Domestic Violence against Armenian Women» Essay
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One usually regards the family as a social institution, which is replete with love and warm relationships. However, unfortunately, the opposite situation is often true. Violence is common in families nowadays. In recent decades, scientists recognize domestic violence as a serious and widespread problem that generates many other social issues. In order to reveal the nature of gender problem in Armenia, Shirinian reminds an old folk “A woman is like wool, the more you beat her, the softer she will be.” One has to mind that this results from rampant poverty, traditional mindset or a lack of knowledge, and the problem of domestic violence has deep historical roots. It is unacknowledged social challenge in Armenia. Gender and domestic violence in the country accepted magnitude of disaster. In society, people consider this topic a taboo. Police that learned about domestic or sexual violence often does not take any measures. Despite equal qualifications with men, women are underrepresented in the legislative and executive authorities as well as in the labor market, especially in rural areas. As a result of Armenian traditions and economic situation, the issue of domestic violence became a serious problem in the country.
Domestic violence is a real threat of a deliberate action of physical, sexual, psychological or economic pressure on the part of one member of the family. Violence against women and girls not only destroys families and lives of those who are exposed to it, but also jeopardizes the economic and social progress of the whole society. Women are silent. Thus, their torturers scoff at them day by day, and victims of domestic violence continue to endure pain with no sound. Such behavior became typical for the Armenian society: the number of children with mental health problems has been growing steadily.
Violence against women is a form of aggressive behavior and the use of force to harm in forms varying from verbal abuse and threats to beatings and rape. Women are much more likely than men to be victims of economic, psychological, physical, and especially sexual violence. In Armenia, women who suffer from domestic violence have very meager resources to force to reckon with them. One kind of abuse does not limit the violent male behavior toward women. It takes form of beating, brute physical force, sexual abuse, authoritarian control, and psychological abuse (threats, constant degrading, manipulation of vulnerabilities and fears as well as insulting comments). Both physical and psychological violence contribute to the injury of women nervous system and deprive them of the right life choices. Another form of violence is sexual abuse, which one can consider as any sexual assault against the will of man and the will of woman. Sexual violence is more insidious since sex is usually a source of pleasure and a close intimate relationship. However, it is particularly traumatic for a woman. Many females have a fear of men and suffer from sustainable aversion to sexual relations. For some, it lasts a lifetime.
The effects of domestic violence can often be very difficult. It leads to clinical and non-clinical consequences. Women who have suffered from violence can experience personal strain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex PTSD, Stockholm syndrome or battered woman syndrome. In many cases, Armenian women endure injuries and even die. “Over thirty percent of all murders between 1988 and 1998 were committed within the family…, eighty one percent of domestic murders were committed by men, and in thirty five percent of all cases the victims were wives or girlfriends.” (Minnesota Advocates) Nevertheless, the problem of domestic violence remains a taboo subject in Armenia.
The catalyst for the ensuing controversy was the terrifying criminal offense in relation to 20-year-old woman, mother of a young child. “Hasmig recounted a horrific story of abuse that her late sister, mother to an infant girl, suffered and the impotence and unwillingness of the police to act when faced with cases of domestic violence.” (Barsoumian) She died because of the beating of her husband. Social networks of Armenia warmly discuss this case after the death of Zaruhi Petrosyan because of brutal beatings, which resulted in brain hematoma, broken fingers, and bruises all over the body. The neighbors and her sister argue that Zaruhi constantly suffered from drubbings, which her relatives have been giving to her at their home in the town of Masis, Armavir region, near Yerevan. Hasmik Petrosyan, her husband, and mother-in-law permanently beat her. Her body was covered with numerous bruises. The woman wanted to end it all but because she was an orphan, Zaruhi had virtually no one to ask for help. Human rights groups hope that the case of Zaruhi Petrosyan will be a turning point in their efforts to achieve the implementation of legal safeguards in incidents of abuse in the families and domestic sphere (Barsoumian).
Another woman, who went to the police to report on a husband, who threatened her with a knife, did not receive help from policemen, who has said that it was family matters (Minnesota Advocates). One can characterize Armenian identity as interdependence of the family. One of the key obstacles that interfere solving the issue of domestic violence is social attitude that considers it as a family matter that should not be open for public judgment or discussion. As many as “eighty eight percent of respondents believed that domestic violence is best handled as a private matter rather than through the authorities.” (Amnesty International) People of Armenia regard any attempt of public interference into the situation as try to destroy afamily. In turn, women should bear upon everything and keep silent.
It is worth noticing that not only men restrict these negative attitudes. Such stereotypes are widespread among women. For instance, they believe that life after marriage includes abuse. After the wedding, woman is expected to move into the household of her husband. Consequently, her mother-in-law plays a major role in the violence against female. According to Amnesty International, “across the cases of physical abuse, in eighty five percent of cases husbands were the perpetrator, and in ten percent of cases, mothers-in-law”. Fathers-in-law also prove to be violent towards the wives of their sons.
Background of Armenian Problem
People’s behavior, which was inherited from the Soviet times and also connected with difficult socioeconomic spectrum as well as certain detraditionalization of the Armenian society significantly affect the domestic relationship. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia experienced the transition from a communist order state to an independent republic. This sharp change was violent and traumatic. Regional trade isolation, the war with Azerbaijan, and earthquake, which devastated large city, catalyzed the negative effect influencing the country’s development. Moreover, an economic collapse that rapid privatization caused had a significant impact on the population. These factors contributed to the formation of situation, in which women became the most vulnerable part in the community and susceptible to violence one.
Armenia’s society is traditionally patriarchal. Under such conditions, customs dictate norms even in the 21st century. Armenian women have to be passive and chaste. According to country’s traditions, a female has to marry the first man who asks for her hand. In addition, there is an obligation for women to prove their virginity. Moreover, traditions dictate that man should be the provider of the family while woman is perceived as a child bearer. Armenian unstable economy resulted in groundbreaking unemployment, which created the situation when man was unable to perform the role of financial provider. As a result, many of them adopted a ritual of beating wives. The widespread unemployment pushes male population towards gambling addiction and alcoholism.
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One can attribute the high level of domestic violence to the devastating economic conditions in the country. Women who live in poverty are at higher risk of experiencing violence than female representatives of high socioeconomic status. Since women are traditionally oriented towards children and family, the high percent of female population is unemployed. This long-established woman’s role of mother and housekeeper turned her into household slave. Females’ inability to contribute money to the family budget negatively influences their authority. Therefore, economic situation causes an increase of women’s dependency on their husband.
As traditional Armenian culture refuses female sexual rights, the crimes related to domestic violence are underreported. The pressure from the society forbidding the announcement about the cases of domestic violence is a key factor of contributing to the growth of violence towards women. “An Armenian man always has the last word.” (Amnesty International) The society blames women for the acts of domestic violence explaining these actions as a result of her misconduct and excessive demanding. The first question that police officer asks in cases of sexual assault is “What did you do to encourage this?” (Amnesty International) There is an advice for women to accept their husbands as they are while changing their own attitudes. Such negative social norms keep Armenian women away from looking for justice.
Authorities’ Response and Measures
Historically, Armenian government asserted that domestic violence was not a problem within the country. Officials and society did not recognize most types of abusive behavior as a social issue. The authorities did not acknowledge this due to strict mentality, which does not suppose people talking about personal lives. Along with government standstill, medical industry considered domestic violence as a private matter. Today, the Armenian authorities have created a state commission to combat gender-based violence. Its mission consists in coordinating the activities of various organizations in the field of intersexual violence. In addition, the commission is charged with the development and implementation of the national plan of action towards combating gender-based violence. The creation of this apparatus was a significant step in legislative changes process. The measure was one of the stages, which the Armenian authorities’ intergovernmental organizations and NGOs, including Amnesty International, recommend.
At the same time, one has done nothing to change the current legislation in force. A draft law on domestic violence is still at the discussion of the working group. The bill in the version of May 2009 envisages the creation of a unified system of public response and support for victims (i.e., protective provisions for police, centers for psychological assistance to victims of domestic violence, and asylum). However, it does have flaws that need correcting. In particular, the law does not require from the police to record all complaints and allegations regarding cases of domestic violence. The part relating to emergency assistance from the police and the issuance of protection orders is spelled poorly.
The NGO Women's Rights Center created the only applicable refuge for victims of domestic violence to the whole couuntry. This NGO gets finances only from donations and has not received any funds from the state. The shelter can accommodate up to five families. Today, in Armenia, there is no shelter network covering the whole country. In addition, one did not introduce laws against domestic violence.
The Armenian legislation does not have enough amount of laws that define or prohibit gender discrimination, which one can see in various spheres of life. Women who attempt to struggle with abusive husband with the help of laws face resistance from courts, police, family, and the society. The exclusive option that women can use is initiating a criminal action or divorcing (Minnesota Advocates). At the same time, the social disgrace associated with divorce is bigger than the one associated with domestic abuse. Society considers the woman who files for divorce the shameful demolisher of family’s dignity.
There is no legal alternative for those who do not strive to persecute criminal action. In such case, there is no possibility for woman to protect herself from future abuse. Armenian government did not create restraining orders or other preventive means for allowing men to cool down while woman remains in safety. Moreover, the corruption is an important challenge in the legal system of Armenia. Many officials (police officers, judges, forensic doctors) take bribes for ensuring favorable outcomes. Thus, despite official domestic legislation equally protects men and women, there is a severe divergence between genders in the regard to laws. Armenian women face various forms of discrimination. At a certain stage of its development, the state eliminates the burden of responsibility for what is happening in the family, at the same time giving a man fairly broad powers in relation to the woman.
The program of social reforms in Armenia should identify reorientation of family social policy, ensuring the rights and social guarantees, which it provides. The prior tasks should include the formation of a system of government measures to prevent violence in the family and guarantee the social rehabilitation of victims of all forms of violence. Currently, the problem of domestic violence is just starting to become the subject of social and public policy. An obstacle for addressing domestic violence is its weak population identification. The actual task is the formation of an adequate understanding of serious consequences of domestic violence to society. The selection of abuse as an independent social problem is only the first step towards its solution. In this way, there is a number of obstacles: the lack of comprehensive information about the extent and reasons for the use of force in the family, the lack of clear definitions and theoretical framework as well as the absence of a federal law that protects victims of violence.
Gender-based violence is a serious problem that affects millions of women and girls in different parts of the planet. Violence is not restricted to a specific culture, region, country or socioeconomic group: its roots lie in the continuing discrimination against women. In many cases, the primary cause of violence against females is a culture, in which outdated patriarchal traditions and attitudes thrive. In such countries, including Armenia, one considers violence an acceptable way to establish order and discipline. However, the point here is not always only about women who have become hostages of cultural stereotypes. In fact, even representatives of law enforcement agencies successfully exploit the patriarchal norms and lay all the responsibility for the violence on the victim. It turns out that the solution to this problem regarding women lies not only in working with them (forming confidence that they will be provided with the necessary support and assistance). There is also a parallel need to address the lack of confidence in law enforcement and judicial authorities on the part of citizens. They need to work to create a true idea of the severity of the problem and understand their responsibility for it.
Congestive extremity of life leads to an increase of borderline situations, psychotic reactions and conditions, violence and aggression towards weaker. The strengthening of the scale of domestic violence and brutal crimes against women reflect this. Violent actions of family members in relation to each other occur in all societies and at all times, but they are not always seen as a social problem. Violence against women is a serious issue in Armenia. The problem of domestic violence in the country is gradually becoming a topic of public discussion. Because of severe social pressure on women, social norms that indicate that they have to keep silence about the cases of domestic violence, there is a high risk that these crimes against females’ rights are committed with widespread indemnity in Armenia. However, the increased attention to this issue did not transform into a reinforced development programs that are aimed at alleviating the suffering of citizens and the correction of existing shortcomings in the legislation. Beyond public support of the family, there is an institutionalized culture of maintaining silence about cases of abuse that happened within a family and refusing in providing justice for victims of domestic violence. Beyond doubt, domestic violence is primarily a social problem, and one should see it as a complex issue, which includes measures aimed at the prevention of crimes against the person and ensuring the right of every member of the family as a citizen on the safety of life, liberty, dignity, and protection as well as measures aimed at social prevention. The analysis showed the importance of this direction, proving that governmental policies in Armenia to prevent violence in the family had not yet been formed.
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