Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense and carries a maximum sentence of 15 years; authorities prosecute spousal rape under the general rape statutes. According to official statistics, they registered 14 cases of rape and three of attempted rape during the first nine months of the year, none involving spousal rape. Such crimes continued to be underreported due to social stigma, as well as the absence of female police officers and investigators.
While the law provides penalties for domestic violence that are the same as for other forms of violence, authorities did not effectively prosecute domestic violence. Spousal abuse and violence against women appeared to be widespread. Law-enforcement bodies reported 532 cases of domestic violence during the first nine months of the year, of which 337 involved abuse by a husband, wife, or a partner. Women’s rights NGOs reported that, in the period from July 2012 to August 30, domestic violence caused the deaths of eight women and serious injuries to more than a dozen others. Most of the cases occurred in small towns and rural areas.
According to a review of services provided to victims of domestic violence released during the year, there were several ad hoc and permanent shelters in Yerevan and in the regions, all run by NGOs using private or international funding.
According to local observers, most domestic violence continued to go unreported because victims were afraid of physical harm, apprehensive that police would return them to their husbands, or ashamed to disclose their family problems. There were also reports that police were reluctant to act in such cases and discouraged women from filing complaints, especially outside of Yerevan. The majority of domestic violence cases were of low or medium gravity. In such cases a victim can decline to press charges, and perpetrators often pressured victims who reported domestic violence to withdraw charges or recant previous testimony.
According to media experts and women’s rights NGOs, locally produced soap operas, popular and frequent on all television channels, appeared to legitimize violence against women and spread intolerance toward homosexuals.
On October 31, member of the Republican Party and president of the Armenian Football Federation, Ruben Hayrapetyan, stated in a press conference that no Armenian man would allow his daughter to play football (soccer), that a man has to lead the family, and Armenian men and women “should not be equal to each other.”
In 2012 the NGO Women’s Resource Center in Goris published a report on bride kidnapping based on interviews with 150 married women from the southern Syunik region. The report concluded that bride kidnapping was common practice and assumed a variety of forms, ranging from romantic elopement to coercive abduction. One in five respondents was barely acquainted with or did not know their kidnapper. According to the report, 9 percent of respondents were forced to have sex the day/night of their kidnapping. The majority of kidnapped women married their kidnappers. While most of the respondents were in love with the persons they married, others married due to shame, despair, or because their family did not allow them to return home. During the year there were reports of prosecutions of bride kidnapping cases.
On June 24, the Office of the Prosecutor General reopened an investigation that police had suspended into the July 2012 death, originally ascribed to suicide, of Maro Guloyan of the Kotayk region. While authorities initially opened a criminal case against the husband on charges of inducing suicide, Guloyan’s family believed that the husband, Gevorg Guloyan, killed his wife, who was pregnant, on the day she decided to leave him. After successfully demanding an exhumation of the body, the family discovered numerous injuries on Maro Guloyan’s body not recorded during the autopsy. According to the family’s lawyer, the body did not exhibit signs associated with death from suicide by hanging. The lawyer noted many other discrepancies throughout the investigation and alleged that law enforcement bodies protected the husband, a relative of the mayor of Abovyan, the administrative center of the region. As of November 18, the investigation was in progress.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although it addresses lewd acts and indecent behavior. While there was no public data on the extent of the problem, observers believed sexual harassment of women in the workplace was widespread.
In August there were multiple reports of sexual harassment of female activists by police during protest actions, including verbal harassment and groping that took place while police detained the activists. In one case a police officer, later identified as senior sergeant Hakob Khachatryan, was photographed apparently kissing or attempting to kiss an activist on the neck at a protest action on August 24. According to the activist, the officer had been harassing her throughout the day. On August 29, a female member of the National Assembly and member of the ruling Republican Party, Shushan Petrosyan, stated in a press conference that a kiss was better than battery, and the incident looked very “tender.” According to press reports, authorities suspended Khachatryan pending investigation of the case.
Reproductive Rights: According to the law, couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The male spouse and his parents often made such decisions, including decisions on gender-selective and other abortions. There was little access to, or information about, contraception. Skilled attendance during childbirth was more accessible in large towns and other population centers. There were reports that women, especially those in rural or remote areas, faced insufficient access to general and reproductive healthcare services.
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy equal legal status under family law, labor law, property law, inheritance law, and in the judicial system, but discrimination based on gender was a continuing problem in both the public and private sectors. Women generally did not enjoy the same professional opportunities or wages as men, and employers often relegated them to more menial or low-paying jobs. While providing all parties in a workplace relationship “legal equality,” the labor code does not explicitly require equal pay for equal work, and according to official data for 2010, there was a significant gap between the average monthly salary of men and women, and the average monthly salary for younger women was higher than that for older women. Women remained underrepresented in leadership positions in all branches and at all levels of government.
On May 20, the National Assembly adopted a law on Equal Rights of Men and Women and on Ensuring Equal Opportunities. The adoption of the law sparked a debate in the society around the concepts of “gender” and “gender equality.” Some groups began disseminating misinformation on social network sites, targeting women’s NGOs, and rights defenders. These groups manipulated the wording of the law and began to associate “gender equality” with homosexuality, propaganda, and pedophilia. Women’s rights defenders were labeled “traitors of the nation,” “destroyers of families,” and a “threat to Armenian values.” Some materials reportedly called for violence and destruction of property, targeting women’s organizations and LGBT persons.
On August 23 and September 3, the Women’s Resource Center reported to police bomb threats that it had received through Facebook. Police identified one of the two Facebook users who made the threats but did not initiate a criminal case because the person identified reportedly repented. On November 25, the Women’s Council chaired by the prime minister issued a statement expressing concern over the existing tension in the society generated by the misinterpretation of the terms “gender,” “gender equality,” and “gender identity,” as well over the information campaign against women’s NGOs. The council urged law enforcement bodies to be more vigilant in order to prevent such cases and, if needed, to punish the perpetrators strictly. The statement also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to uphold its obligations under domestic and international law to protect and promote women’s rights.
Gender-based Sex Selection: The government continued to support surveys about gender-based sex selection in the country. According to the most recent survey released by the UN Population Fund in May, the ratio of boy-to-girl births in various regions of the country ranged from 111 to 124 boys per 100 girls in case of firstborns, and 160 boys per 100 girls in case of second or next children. The government has not taken measures to address the gender imbalance.