Armenia's Domestic Violence Legislation is Overdue

October 11, 2010

I was shaking from anger after watching a YouTube video (originally posted in Armenian) describing the 2-year abuse of a young woman that resulted in her death over a week ago. By now I should have been prepared not to shake from what has unfortunately become a pedestrian human rights abuse in my homeland – violence against women. But some words are worth thousands of pictures, and it was the words of Hasmik Petrosyan, a young woman from Armenia, describing the death of her 20-year-old sister Zaruhi at the hand of the latter’s husband and mother-in-law that got me feel nauseous. I did manage to put together a petition, though, and I hope that you will sign it.

You don’t need all the details to grasp my anger over Zaruhi’s death. Here is a summary. On September 30, 2010, Zaruhi Petrosyan, a 20-year-old mother of one from Masis, Armenia, was taken to a hospital for cranial brain hemorrhages, a broken finger, and bruises in different parts of her body. After saying her injuries were from a fall, Zaruhi died in Erebuni hospital. Zaruhi’s sister says the young mother was subjected to continuous domestic abuse since her marriage in 2008. Law enforcement allegedly knew of the abuse. According to media reports, Armenian police have arrested Zaruhi’s husband Yanis Sargisov. But, according to Zaruhi’s sister, Yanis Sargisov’s mother had also continuously beaten Zaruhi. A more detailed description in English (basically summarizing the video) is available at the Armenian Weekly.

Update: via Global Voices Online, here is the Armenian video with English subtitle:

What makes me angrier is Armenian government’s inaction on domestic violence even after international uproar a few years ago. In November 2008, Amnesty International issued a report on domestic abuse in Armenia stating that more than a quarter of women in Armenia have faced physical violence at the hands of husbands or other family members. Many of these women have little choice but to remain in abusive situations as reporting violence is strongly stigmatized in Armenian society.

Responding to Amnesty International’s report, Armenia’s government promptly promised to pass domestic violence legislation. That promise, however, has remained just a promise. For some Armenian parliamentarians, moreover, domestic violence legislation is out of line. A year before Amnesty International’s report, for instance, some local NGOs in Armenia found that about half of Armenia’s women had been subjected to physical brutality in the past year. An Armenian deputy, using blatant racism, stated 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,” he said.

Please join me in signing the petition to Armenia’s prime minister demanding that his government guarantee justice in the death of Zaruhi by investigating all possible guilty parties (not just the husband but also his brother and mother); investigating allegations of local law enforcement’s prior knowledge of Zaruhi’s continuous abuse; and expediting the passage of domestic violence legislation.