A total of 84 cases of sexual violence were registered in Armenia in the past months of 2019, the reported cases having slightly increased in number compared to the same period of last year.
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Zaruhi Batoyan and Police Colonel Nelly Durian (who heads a special subdivision dealing with children’s rights and domestic violence) elaborated on the statistics on Monday, as they summed up their achievements and outcomes in the runup to the annual campaign 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
Launched in 1991, the global campaign is conducted in world countries every year in an effort to raise awareness of the situation of women and girls in different parts of the world and call for a strong action to step up advocacy in support of their rights and freedoms.
Thanking the initiators of the event, Minister Batoyan stressed the importance of credible reporting of news and public information as a key tool to preventing violence and providing the necessary support to the target groups (especially women victims). ”Public education has a big role in not only addressing the problems of women but also organizing, in an efficient manner, different kinds of processes – whether social or political,” she said, highlighting the government policies of rejecting all forms of violence in all the walks of life and the strong focus on women’s active role as policymakers.
“All the government programs are aimed at creating equal opportunities for young women in Armenia, as it isn’t possible otherwise to create a happy society. We cannot possibly create a secure society under conditions of women being subjected to violence and deprived of equal conditions to demonstrate their full potential and enjoy a free and happy life,” she said.
Batoyan added that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs also initiated reforms over the past year towards enhancing the legislative mechanisms to ensure the proper implementation of the laws (outlining especially the requirements for support shelters providing aid to women victims of violence and their children, and the procedures and timeframes of financial assistance).
The minsiter said they also organized public debates in all the regions of Armenia, ensuring an active engagement by women and the local NGOs and receiving support by the local government institutions. “It was also an unprecedented program as we offered women in the regions an opportunity to make their voices heard and to raise their problems. As a result, specific proposals were elaborated for, and submitted to, the respective agencies for consideration in their programs and future policymaking.”
As another important effort towards combating domestic violence in Arrmenia, Batoyan highlighted the strategy document (adopted by the cabinet in September) outlining the government’s gender policies and plan of actions for 2019-2023. “That too, is an important tool for not only addressing [the problem of] violence but also implementing specific programs aimed at preventing violence and providing aid to victims,” she added.
Elaborating on the 2020 government programs, Batoyan further unveiled plans for launching two public-funded victim support shelters and creating and developing family assistance centers in all the regions (to provide the necessary counseling to potential beneficiaries).
Noting that women account for slightly above half of Armenia’s total population (52%), Batoyan called attention to the repeatedly stated thesis that development and progress is ruled out in any society where women face pressure, restriction and violence.
Addressing the problem, Colonel Duryan said that their specialized subdivision, launched in February 2018 (based on a decree by the Chief of Police), has been working actively ever since to register, prevent and resolve cases of domestic violence against women and girls. “The police pursue victim-centered policies today, rapidly reacting to any case dealing with domestic violence, and violence against women in general,” she said, adding that their hotline service received as many as 378 emergency calls in the first ten months of 2019 (against the 585 in the same period of last year).
“The police, overall, received 2,682 emergency calls, registering 1,533 perpetrators; precautionary measures were taken in 1,166 cases and urgent intervention – in 375 cases,” she said, praising the collaboration with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Program and the Council of Europe Office in Yerevan (which assisted in the programs aimed at the retraining of specialists).
Duryan also highlighted the visits to the regions and meetings with local administration officials, as well as the training programs for secondary school teachers and policemen.
She added that the police keep the cases of sexual violence and abuse against women and underage girls under a special spotlight, taking operational measures to rapidly react to the reported incidents.
Elaborating further on the statistics, the police colonel said the registered sex crimes against minors increased to 49 against the 47 cases reported in January-October 2019. Duryan said they collaborated with the French ChildVoice Foundation and Arevamanuk NGO in Armenia in handling children’s cases to provide the necessary counselling and psychological aid.
She said that ahead of the 16-day annual campaign, all the secondary schools across the republic will launch a month of events (starting from today) under the slogan No to Violence to raise a stronger awareness of the urgency of the problem.
Thanking the US Embassy and other international partners, as well as the government agencies and NGOs for their support, Duryan admitted that considerable work still needs to be carried out to address properly the existing challenges. She expressed the willingness of the police to continue the close collaboration also in the future to contribute to the efforts towards creating a safe, prosperous and violence-free society in Armenia.