Domestic violence, in particular increased legal protection for domestic violence victims, is a contentious issue in Armenia. Until 2017, there were no laws on domestic violence. Tensions between gender advocates and conservative groups centred around values and ideas on the “traditional, nuclear family” and a commonplace narrative that the state has no right to interfere in what is perceived to be a private, family matter, despite its risks to personal safety. However, due to international pressure, the Armenian Government passed a law in 2017 that allowed the legal system to intervene in domestic violence cases. (1)
This law offers very little protection to survivors. First reports of domestic violence to the police will result in an official warning to the perpetrator. The second time someone reports domestic violence, or in more serious cases, the perpetrator can be expelled from the home for 20 days. A third order justifies an appearance in court, where the maximum sentence is a six-month communication ban, with two possible three-month extensions of the ban. There are also widespread reports from survivors who have taken their abuser to court of judges pressuring them to resolve issues with their abuser for the sake of their family. For serious physical violence (i.e., if a victim is hospitalised), perpetrators may receive a fine. Prison sentences for domestic homicides are often short - Diana Nahapetyan was murdered by her husband in 2014, yet he faced just three and a half years in jail. (1)
As a result, comprehensive data on levels of domestic violence are difficult to source. In 2019, there were 2,682 police call outs for domestic violence however, due to the lack of state protection, the actual number is likely to be much higher. Armenia’s Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women reports receiving over 5,000 calls to their hotline every year (1). In 2018, research found that 4.6% of women aged 15-49 had been subject to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous 12 months (2) and, overall, an estimated 60% of women have experienced domestic abuse at least once in their lifetime (1).
Women at Work
Employment laws do guarantee women equal access to employment opportunities, however women entering the workforce face gender bias in the types of work that they can do. As a result, the majority of women in Armenia are employed in just three sectors – agriculture, education and health – which tend to be low paid. Women are significantly underrepresented in higher-paid business roles, for example only 1 in 5 small and medium-sized enterprises are estimated to be owned by women. More than two-thirds (71%) of managers are men, compared with less than one third for women (29%). Overall, just 51.4% of women of working age are participating in the formal labour force as of 2017, compared to 70.6% of men (3). Women spend more time on unpaid and domestic work, 21.7% of their time on average, compared to 4.4% spent by men (2).
There are many barriers to women progressing in the workplace, too. One in four women reported leaving their job as a result of sexual harassment. 5% of women said they had to have sexual relations with someone in a managerial position to keep their job (4).
Women in Parliament
Women’s representation in politics and decision-making domains remains a critical barrier to gender progress in the country. Currently, due to limited representation, women have very little influence over policy decisions. Attitudes towards gender roles also do not favour women in politics. According to the World Values Survey in 2014, 62% of Armenians strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that men make better political leaders than women do (3).
There is a 25% quota system for women’s representation in political parties, however, as of February 2021, only 22.7% of seats in parliament were held by women (2). Women represent just 11% of local council members (as of 2019), 24% of National Assembly members, 8% of Government Ministers, and there are no female governors (5).