Radio Free never accepts money from corporations, governments or billionaires – keeping the focus on supporting independent media for people, not profits. Since 2010, Radio Free has supported the work of thousands of independent journalists, learn more about how your donation helps improve journalism for everyone.

Make a monthly donation of any amount to support independent media.

“Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”: how Armenia is tackling domestic violence

We now have two shelters, organised by NGOs, with space for five women and their children in each. They are always overcrowded, but do their utmost to provide for needs – laying out mattresses on floors, for example, so that their wards can sleep. And the shelters aren’t just for sleeping in: their volunteers run classes to improve literacy to help women find work, and also help them find flats and schools for their children. This is the ideal, but women often leave shelters and return to their husbands. Sometimes a shelter takes the same woman eight times in a row – we never turn anyone away. No one says, “You’re hopeless, we looked after you and it was no use – you went back to your husband and now you’re asking us for help again”. It’s a serious psychological problem, and it’s not easy to solve.

Do women often return to their husbands, and why?

The first reason is a psychological one: many women find it really difficult to leave their husbands. The second is economic: if someone can’t support herself and her children, she goes back to her abuser. And the third reason is children. The bodies dealing with children in need lack professionalism. When deciding which parent should have the custody of children after a divorce, they look at their financial situation. Whichever has a flat and a car gets the kids. And as it’s usually the husband who has the advantage there, the children stay with him. So the wife has to make a choice and she thinks, “What if I can never get the kids back, and I can’t find a job, and I’ll never have my own flat?”

Also, the people who take decisions about these things usually have positions in local authorities and we know well enough that, in a family where there is domestic violence the woman has little contact with official bodies, whilst the man may well have and so can influence those decisions. Not to mention the risk of corruption.

Are there any recent statistics on domestic abuse victims going to the police?

There are police statistics for ten months of last year. There were 2682 call-outs connected with domestic violence, most of them ending in cautions. In 2019 there were 84 reported incidences of violence against women’s sexual freedoms and sexual immunity, as against 77 in 2018.

Our system isn’t particularly sensitive: it doesn’t understand the full range of issues around domestic violence. And even if the police have some grasp of work with it, the courts can undo all their good work.

Do you feel that the new law has given women more confidence to raise their issues?

Yes, definitely. The police used to arrive at people’s homes and say, “He’s your husband – put up with him”. Now they aren’t allowed to do that. Large numbers of police officers have gone on courses and learned about domestic violence and now they have to pass tests on knowledge of the law. When the phone rings, they ask whether there is violence in the family or not, and if there is, a special squad is sent out to deal with the situation.

Our coalition hotline receives over 5,000 calls a year, more than the police do because women fear that getting the police involved will only make things worse. If a police officer walks into someone’s home, a husband will realise that his wife has called the cops. But when a woman calls an NGO hotline, she can get confidential advice and help. Which doesn’t mean that her problems are solved: this requires the introduction of serious penalties.

The people who disapproved of the law on domestic violence are now opposing Armenia’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention. Is there any link here to references to LGBTQ+ rights?

The term “partner” appears there – a term that doesn’t exist in Armenian legislation. So everyone immediately imagines that the term can only refer to same-sex relationships, whereas it applies to any relationship outside marriage, including the period between an engagement and a wedding. If a fiancé shows violence against his fiancée, what then? This can’t be domestic violence, because they don’t have the appropriate stamps on their ID cards and don’t live together.

This year there was a case where a man killed a woman who had twice spent time in our shelter. He wasn’t her husband, but they were partners. The police didn’t get involved because the concept of domestic abuse supposedly doesn’t apply to partner relations. But we keep telling people about this case: how else could she be protected?

Are many activists involved in supporting women?

Not many, because we are vulnerable: they threaten us; say that we break up families. No one talks about the hard work we do and how we rescue women from nightmare situations.

What, after all has the law on domestic violence managed to do over the last year?

What it has done is that it has allowed women to phone the police. You could say that we now have a law and it can always be improved upon. In the year before last, we held a consultation with colleagues in Georgia, where a similar law was passed a decade ago. It was laughable, covering just two or three pages, but they said, “Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”. It’s always easier to improve a law than to pass one. The Georgians spent ten years improving theirs, and now they have a very good law that complies with every international standard. And they have also ratified the Istanbul Convention.

We now already have a rough draft of how we can improve our law. Our government has also approved our proposed amendments, and they are now open for public discussion. We have added a paragraph on partnership relations and one on stalking. The process is under way, and we have high hopes of it moving in the right direction.

Print Share Comment Cite Upload Translate Updates

Leave a Reply


Maria Koltsova | Radio Free (2020-01-20T23:00:00+00:00) “Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”: how Armenia is tackling domestic violence. Retrieved from

" » “Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”: how Armenia is tackling domestic violence." Maria Koltsova | Radio Free - Monday January 20, 2020,
Maria Koltsova | Radio Free Monday January 20, 2020 » “Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”: how Armenia is tackling domestic violence., viewed ,<>
Maria Koltsova | Radio Free - » “Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”: how Armenia is tackling domestic violence. [Internet]. [Accessed ]. Available from:
" » “Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”: how Armenia is tackling domestic violence." Maria Koltsova | Radio Free - Accessed .
" » “Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”: how Armenia is tackling domestic violence." Maria Koltsova | Radio Free [Online]. Available: [Accessed: ]
» “Pass a law, even if it’s a bad one”: how Armenia is tackling domestic violence | Maria Koltsova | Radio Free | |

Please log in to upload a file.

There are no updates yet.
Click the Upload button above to add an update.

You must be logged in to translate posts. Please log in or register.