Violent Concerns: Survey In Armenia Exposes Widespread Domestic Abuse of Women
Thursday, June 26, 2008 11:43 AM

More than one in four Armenian women is a victim of domestic violence, according to a recent survey.

The study of 1,006 women across Armenia found that at least 28 % were subject to domestic violence and 17 % were exposed to frequent heavy physical violence. 66 % had experienced psychological pressure.

Sixty per cent of interviewees agreed that “domestic violence is a wide-spread problem in Armenia” and half of them said that they personally knew an average of four women who were undergoing domestic violence.

However, the survey also revealed a widespread acceptance among women of violence in the home. It found that 67% of women in Armenia justified the use of physical force if a woman has been unfaithful to her husband; 52% defended it in cases where a woman has ignored her children; and 42 % thought it was acceptable to use force if a woman disobeyed her husband or went somewhere without his knowledge.

Even though almost three out of ten had experienced physical abuse at home, and two out of ten frequently suffered violence, only a third of such women considered themselves victims of domestic violence. The study found that 61% agreed with the view that “a good woman always obeys her husband even in case of disagreement”.

The survey was conducted by the Turpanjian Center for Policy Analysis at the American University of Armenia at the request of the Women’s Rights Center. Women in ten provinces of the republic plus the capital Yerevan were interviewed in 2007.

“Of course these figures do not fully reflect the existing situation; they may be double or even higher, because interviewees usually try to conceal their family problems,” says the head of the Women’s Rights Center NGO Susanna Vardanyan.

Sociologist Aharon Adibekyan commented: “Brutal treatment from a man is very frequently seen as a natural and normal thing for women, especially in rural settlements; they don’t even think they are victims of domestic violence.”

A survey of 1,200 women by the “Sociometer” center for independent sociological research, headed by Adibekyan, recorded even higher levels of domestic violence in 2002. It found that 41% of women experience violence at home, a quarter of the incidences occurring while their children were present.

Adibekyan did not put much store in the different figures, saying that they probably reflected different methodologies used. But he believes that some attitudes are changing.

“Self-esteem is much higher among representatives of the young generation, they are more informed and realize their own rights, and naturally demand better treatment,” he says.

Anna Badalyan, a psychologist with the Motherhood Foundation, says the number of calls received at a hotline has fallen compared to previous years, but the number of individual visits has grown noticeably.

“This means that women are gradually overcoming the stereotype that problems should be solved silently and obediently, because they have understood that it makes their psychological situation worse. They ‘stagnate’ in their own problems, making the depressive condition deeper,” says Badalyan.

She says the problem exists regardless of whether the wider society recognizes it, and it needs to be solved. The psychologist says that all sorts of violence, including sexual violence against children, exist in Armenia.

The Women’s Rights Center NGO, which has operated for the last ten years, has already given help to about 12,000 women through its hotline (080 080 850); some 52 % had undergone psychological violence, 41% physical and about 6 % sexual violence.

The center has initiated a law on domestic violence and has formed a task group to discuss its preparation that includes high ranking officials from the police, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the healthcare sector.

Vardanyan, the center’s chief, says that even discussing a draft law means that there has been a change in attitudes.

“We could not even speak of it five years ago; the idea was scorned at high levels, with people saying that there is no such problem in Armenia and that these were only individual cases and not general,” says Vardanyan.

The most recent survey showed that 72 % of respondents believed that “Armenia needs a law on domestic violence”.

Vardanyan says that the draft law may be presented to parliament in the autumn. It considers three major issues – prevention of domestic violence, provision and organization of security for victims, and bringing transgressors to court.

“The law is important, because non-governmental organizations that operate today may not work tomorrow; for instance, if some day I don’t manage to find a donor for my NGO to finance the hotline or temporary shelters, then the state will be obliged to create such shelters or create hotlines by law,” says Vardanyan.

Vardanyan says that the number of cases of domestic violence is relatively high in European countries too but, unlike in Armenia, “the problem is not concealed and ignored there, but instead solutions are sought”.

Data from the United Nations says that at least one in every three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by a man in her lifetime. Among women aged 15-44, gender-based violence accounts for more death and disability among women than the combined effects of cancer, malaria, traffic injuries and war.

Published in: Gayane Abrahamyan, "Violent Concerns: Survey exposes widespread domestic abuse of women,", 6 June 2008