Days of Awareness: Coalition of NGOs organizes events to draw attention to domestic violence

A group of Armenian organizations championing women’s rights are holding a series of events in the next 16 days as part of a broader international campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence.

The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women in Armenia has launched the events on November 25, which is declared by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and will last until December 10, International Human Rights Day.

The events commencing with a march held under the motto of “Don’t Tolerate Violence” are aimed at generally raising awareness among the population of Armenia about issues of violence against women as well as to prevent such violence in the future. More than a dozen actions are planned. Among them will be various public events, marches, film shows and training sessions, etc.

“Violence against women has become a serious problem around the world, and that is why more than 3,700 organizations in over 164 countries are participating in annual events and initiatives that enable them to raise their voice against this violence,” says Susanna Vardanyan, the founding director of the Women’s Rights Center NGO, one of the members of the Coalition.

Last year seven non-governmental organizations united to set up a coalition to champion women’s rights in the wake of the death of a young woman who suffered domestic violence.

Twenty-year-old Zaruhi Petrosyan died after repeatedly suffering violence at the hands of her husband and mother-in-law. That case elicited a wide angry reaction both in Armenia and its Diaspora, highlighting the issue of domestic violence in the country.

Petrosyan’s husband was eventually convicted by court and sentenced to 10 years in prison – the maximum jail term for the crime he was convicted of.

Today the coalition of NGOs considers his conviction to be a victory in the growing struggle against domestic violence in Armenia.

“Now everyone knows they will not go unpunished for treating women like that,” says Anna Nikoghosyan, a projects manager at another coalition member NGO Society Without Violence.

Surveys conducted in 2007 show that 39 percent of women in Armenia are exposed to violence in their families. Four types of domestic violence are singled out: physical, psychological, sexual and economic. According to specialists, women in Armenia most often complain of physical violence.

Women’s Resource Center NGO employee Siranuysh Davtyan says that whereas in 2008 they had only eight calls related to domestic violence, then in 2010 the number of such alerts increased to 130-140.

Vardanyan, of the Women’s Rights Center NGO, explains that the main source of domestic violence in Armenia remains the desire of one partner to establish control over the other wherein force (physical or mental) serves as a means to achieve the goal.

“We cannot talk about completely stamping out violence, because it will, in all cases, depend on the relationship between men and women, but preventive measures can be used to minimize such instances,” says Vardanyan. She, too, says that recent awareness campaigns have resulted in more women turning to the center for assistance.