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Diasporans Respond to Domestic Violence Bill with Grassroots Support

Change.org Petition Emerges Calling for Action

A petition calling for the Armenian government to pass a law criminalizing domestic violence emerged last Friday on the website Change.org. The petition, addressed to Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, is the result of a grassroots effort by Armenia’s widespread global diaspora to have some say in the current debate taking place in the country.

A sign at the gates of Armenian Parliament reads “Approve the law against domestic violence” (Photo: Change.org)

The author of the petition, Annette Moskofian, is a diasporan, originally from Iran, who resides in London. Moskofian says she has been active with women’s issues in Armenia since her first trip to the country in 1995, when she witnessed a young man repeatedly hitting a young woman in public as she was driving away in a taxi.

“I asked the taxi driver to help the woman and call the police, and he said don’t worry, this is a domestic matter between the couple,” she recalls, “I was deeply shocked and upset witnessing this, and at the same time that the taxi driver thought this was not an important issue for the police to get involved in.”

Moskofian serves on the advisory board of the Women’s Support Center (WSC) in Yerevan. She says she launched the petition independently, but that ultimately she felt it spoke on behalf of a much larger demographic. “We [diasporans] were shocked and outraged with the way the law was misinterpreted as being anti-Armenian family values,” she says of the outcries by conservative groups, which claim the bill threatens to disrupt the traditional Armenian family unit. “I felt a strong statement from the Diaspora would be beneficial, especially for all the women who have no voice.”

Directly addressing the Prime Minister, the petition reads, “As you are aware, many groups in Armenia and the Diaspora are working tirelessly to raise money, donate resources, time and energy to help Armenia in any way possible. We do this because we believe in the future of our country, in a civil society where human rights are respected, where women have the same economic opportunities as men and are treated with dignity.” According to a 2016 report by Alexandr Gevorgyan for the Migration Policy Institute between 2011 and 2015, remittances from the diaspora to Armenia accounted for 17-20 percent of Armenia’s GDP.

The idea for a bill to criminalize domestic violence has been in the works for several years now. In 2007, the Women’s Rights Center in Armenia began drafting bill that would define the nature of domestic violence and set out mechanisms to punish perpetrators and help victims, but it was rejected by the government in 2013. Much of the debate posed by those in opposition to the bill stems from the notion that it does not represent local values (often described as “traditional”) but, rather, favors European interests.

Those promoting the bill say that for far too long what is “traditional” has been determined by those in power, primarily men, and the term has been used exploitatively to justify behavior that not only benefits a small group of people but also carries potentially lethal consequences. At least 50 women have been killed as a result of domestic violence in the last five years.

Moskofian, an active member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), calls for people to sign the petition to help pioneer a more just Armenia. She says these were the values upon which the independent Armenian Republic of 1918 was founded: “[We] had strong, progressive legislation and respected equality of genders. Our present Republic needs to be even more progressive and democratic than the previous one.” The petition has received over a thousand signatures in the days since it was launched.

 

12 Comments on Diasporans Respond to Domestic Violence Bill with Grassroots Support

  1. avatar Judith Saryan // October 25, 2017 at 2:47 pm // Reply

    Please sign this petition and send a strong message to the Prime Minister of Armenia Karen Karapetyan. Strong steps are needed to combat domestic violence. Laws that specifically criminalize DV are by far the most effective deterrent.

  2. Annette was definitely instrumental in initiating the change.org petition after a strong backing and support from the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA)an organization that has for the past 26 years been at the forefront of dealing with women’s issues while others remained silent concerning gender issues and domestic violence… a taboo subject for Armenians.

  3. avatar Proud to be an American // October 25, 2017 at 4:36 pm // Reply

    Gender issues such as this are a black eye for Armenia. The reluctance of the government to admit that women are human beings deserving of the same rights and protections as men are a reason why Armenia refuses to allow the diaspore to have any voting privileges or independent minister from the diaspora in the government.

    As long as the diaspora continues to send money, the government will feel no pressure to change and women wil, continue to suffer.

    The diaspora must use its economic leverage. Aid individuals only. Don’t send money where the oligarchs can skim off the top.

  4. avatar Nadya Derian // October 25, 2017 at 6:15 pm // Reply

    I applaude Annette Moskofian for donating her time and knowledge for this cause .We , all diasporans , should get involved in this domestic violence issue . I live in Los Angeles and I witnessed a coworker coming to work her face all black and blue saying that she was hit by her husband . This is unacceptable in any country let alone USA. Women should live without fear in the family , they should live with dignity .
    Thank you Annette!

    • As a father of 2 beautiful daughters I shudder at the thought of women being beaten by their spouses, and the change of laws in Armenia cannot come soon enough. Another law that denies girls of any heritage is also archaic. However, USA today with their issues like, racism, gun laws that cause the death of over 12,000 people a year, capital punishments (only western country in the world), policies of destroying other countries and killing millions in the process, is hardly a shinning example to follow.
      Please refrain from using your criminal country as a reference of justice.

  5. avatar Garo Bornian // October 26, 2017 at 4:58 pm // Reply

    The problem is global,not only in Armenia,there is no simple solutions,Perhaps finding a way to make the men feel stupid when they use violence,serves.
    In Europe it is more than 25%,in USA more worse ,the UN secretary in 2006 said
    “Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten”.

  6. Please DO NOT SIGN this petiton. it is the begining of destroing family which is the most important for people.

    • Please sign the petition and do not hide this issue behind ‘family values.’ Violence against women by their husbands (and in laws; mother in law) must stop. Beating, dehumanizing and hurting women cannot be and should not be considered Armenian ‘traditional’ ‘family’ values. Domestic violence destroys families and not just individuals.

  7. The people who are destroying families are the ones who beat their wives and children like animals…. I hope when they pass the law it will not stay on paper only, it has to be enforced by the law.

  8. Sorry to read some “pathetic concerns” above. There are many more acute problems in Hayastan and so called ‘domestic violence’ is not on top of the list…helpless elderly who have helped to be the present day country riches are almost starving…soldiers in the army…children…those are the 3 milestones that we all have to protect…youth remaining without jobs and leaving the country…university level educated having no access to earning money to support their families…prostitution has been a phenomena that was traditionally strange to us…shall I continue the list hayrenakitsner? Many of you have perhaps been to Hayastan as guests but never resided here to know the hardships and humiliation of a standard armenian man who has a family but no job…do not try to spoil family roots, this is NOWAY a bill to go for…FYI by law women here are able to claim assistance from police. nice laws are plentiful yet remain on paper. This law if adopted shall open the Pandora box…be watchful…it does not protect us, women of Hayastan, but opens doors for for legalization of other “unprotected” layers of the society. I am sure those who have signed the ‘petition’ do not want this to happen…

  9. Well, we can say what we like about other pressing problems in a country where apparently corruption is rife and wealth distribution is far from what it should be. We know unemployment can cause all sorts of problems, from depression to crime and so on… It is a sad fact but not unique to Armenia alone. It is not however to be used as an excuse to beat up your wife or kids or kill them because she/they said something that happened to annoy you or hurt your feeling! A lot of it is due to stupid old traditions based on so-called ‘man’s pride’, and lack of proper education with regard to building a good family unit in which members of the family are respectful to each other. Respectful, but not fearful. So, it is a complex situation where lack of things like income, education, social security, affordable health and welfare are causing serious mental issues culminating in domestic unrest and violence. The government has a lot to answer for and although its main duty is the welfare of its citizens, those in positions of real power are interested mostly in the welfare of their own families, not the public’s. Selfishness, jealousy and greed combined with a position of power is the biggest obstacle in the way of achieving an acceptable level of comfort and happiness for any nation. How can this status quo be improved? Because, obviously this style of ‘democracy’ is not working well. Revolution? Does anyone have the right answer?

  10. avatar Bernita smith // November 7, 2017 at 4:52 pm // Reply

    HE SMACK ME, BEAT ME, AND PULL MY HAIR
    AND THE JUSTICE SYSTEM DIDN’T EVEN CARE
    HE ABUSE MY BODY AND CRUSH MY SOUL
    BUT THIS IS A STORY SO MANY OF US HAVE TOLD
    I CRIED OUT FOR JUSTICE BUT IT WAS NOWHERE AROUND
    NOT EVEN WHILE HE WAS BEATING ME DOWN
    THE JUSTICE SYSTEM COULDN’T HEAR MY CRY
    BECAUSE A WOMAN VOICE CAN’T REACH THAT HIGH——A SILENT CRY!

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