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Protests against femicide take place in Armenia

10 March 2020
Protestors read the names of the victims of domestic violence. Still from video.

Rallies against domestic violence were held in Yerevan and the city of Gyumri after a man killed his partner and nearly killed her daughter last week.

The rallies took place on 8 March, International Women’s Day. 

In the Facebook event page for the march in Yerevan, organisers announced that their aim was ‘a radical resistance, an unceasing struggle against the patriarchy, arbitrary authority, and normative thinking.’ 

The small march of roughly two dozen people was dedicated to 13-year-old Nazeli Khachatryan who was severely beaten by on 5 March, allegedly, by her mother’s partner. Her mother was allegedly killed by the man during the same incident. The girl is currently in critical condition at a hospital in Yerevan. 

The protesters ended their march at the parliament. 

Outside the parliament gates, they read aloud the name of domestic violence victims, how they were killed, and by whom. 

During the protest in Gyumri, roughly 80 protesters marched through the city while holding signs that read, ‘There is no justification for violence,’ ‘Women are murdered because of your silence,’ ‘The nation is not an army, women are not objects,’ and ‘Stop murdering us.’

Armenia’s most recent femicide

Nazeli Khachatryan was  severely beaten by her mother’s partner on 5 March. He had also beaten her mother.  The perpetrator then left the mother and daughter in their home, without medical attention, for eight hours, before calling the authorities. By the time the authorities arrived, Nazeli’s mother had already succumbed to her injuries, while Nazeli herself was in critical condition — she was rushed to the Sourb Astvatsamayr Medical Center in Yerevan.

According to Anna Chobanyan, the Head of the Intense Care Unit at Sourb Astvatsamayr,  the young girl had suffered bruising all over her body, as well as a broken nose and jaw, fractured ribs, abdominal swelling, and a cerebral contusion. She also had internal bleeding. 

This was the fifth femicide in Armenia this year.

According to media reports, the 28-year-old man alleged to have committed the crime is in pre-trial detention and will be charged with manslaughter. Neither the name of Nazeli Khachatryan’s mother nor the name of the alleged killer has been released. 

‘Victims of a mindset’

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the young girl on 8 March.

‘Many of us are saddened for this young girl and her murdered mother’, Pashinyan wrote in a Facebook post about the visit. ‘But, let’s finally admit the fact that the girl and her mother were also victims of the mindset that says violence — especially violence against women — can be justified.’  

The day after the murder, MPs from the ruling My Step coalition, Hmayak Daniyelyan and Nazeli Baghdasaryan, called for stricter legislation against domestic violence. 

Up until 2018, Armenia did not have separate legislation on domestic violence or violence against women. In 2018, a domestic violence law was passed which give legal ground for law enforcement agencies to prevent domestic violence cases despite protest and debate against the law.

Armenia has also signed the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, which aims at preventing violence against women. However, it has not yet been ratified by Armenia’s parliament and has in the past year been contested and protested against by conservative circles.

Zaruhi Hovhannisyan, a human rights activist and public relations representative at the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women, a Yerevan-based anti-domestic violence NGO, told OC Media said that the aim of the march was not only to raise awareness about domestic violence in the country.

She said the protesters also demanded that the state implement effective tools to properly prevent and criminalise cases of domestic violence and called on people to alert the authorities when witnessing incidents or evidence of domestic violence. 

‘During the march, we also visited the victims’ house to also inform their neighbours that they should have alerted law enforcement agencies if they had seen the mother and daughter with bruises,’ Hovhannisyan said. ‘People have to understand that their indifference costs people’s lives.’

Hovhannisyan also said that their fight is to ensure separate legislation for criminalising domestic violence.

‘Today’s legislation considers violence that takes place on the streets, and cases of violence against women in the home as the same’, she said. ‘But they’re completely  different.’

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