Structural and Cultural Causes of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia

Structural and Cultural Causes of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia

Project "Domestic Violence in Armenia: Covering the Crimes That Go Unreported" was published on NYTIMES.com — Image Credits

Among the primary contributors to gender inequality in Armenia are the persistent disparities in the political, social, and economic opportunities enjoyed by men and women. Basic targets of gender equality are yet to be achieved and engagement of women in political, economic, and public life remains limited. Moreover, during the past few years the political and economic participation of women in Armenia has decreased. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, in 2014, Armenia was ranked 103th out of 135 countries. In 2011, Armenia was ranked 84th. The overall change was driven by Armenia’s falling ranking in the economic and political participation of women.

Gender-based violence is the cause and the negative outcome of women’s multidimensional disadvantages in social and political life. The contributing factors of such comprehensive phenomena can be divided into two main categories: structural and cultural. Both factors are very much interconnected and interdependent. Moreover, a further comprehensive factor analysis is needed in order to assess factors affecting violence against women. But at least one correlation has been found and tested in many countries in the world: women’s economic status and disadvantaged position on the labour market contributes to the magnitude of gender-based violence (GBV) and violence against women (VAW). A similar finding has been noted in Armenia. The majority of abused women are unemployed or earn a very low income; many do not own property. This makes it extremely difficult for them to leave their abuser, as there is no place for them to go[1]. According to a UNFPA report, 40% of women don’t earn money and are therefore totally dependent on others in their household, which makes them extremely vulnerable in the face of violence[2].

Structural factors are clearly reflected in the situation of Armenian labour market. Only 56% of women aged 15-64 participate in the labour market[3]. Moreover, women with young children (under 5) are 17% less likely to be economically active than women with no children[4]. Women earn on average 36% less than men, a steady decline from 59% in 2002. Currently, Armenia has one of the highest wage gaps between men and women in the Europe and Central Asian Region[5]. The majority of unemployed women are not actively looking for jobs because the salaries are so low that they do not cover for the costs of childcare, household duties, and transport[6]. Finally, nearly one-third of households in Armenia are headed by women. The average monthly salary calculated per person in woman-headed households is 9,400 AMD, compared with 25,500 AMD in man-headed households.[7]

According to a CRRC barometer study (2014), 41% of women did not have any personal income during the past month while only 19% of men did not have personal income in the past month. Currently 69% of women and 41% men are unemployed. Of these, 54% of unemployed women and 37% unemployed men are interested in finding a job. The barometer also shows that 38% of women and 21% of men never have had a job. However, 64% of men and 49% of women are able to start working within the next 14 days. Forty per cent of women and only 29% of men are satisfied with their jobs. Furthermore, 30% of the population answered that it did not matter for them whether the country had a democratic form of government or not. Among them, there were more women (33%) than men (26%).

Women’s participation in ownership remains very low. Less than a third of firms in Armenia have some female participation in ownership and only 13% of firms have a situation where a woman manages at least five employees, which is well below the world average[8].

It has been proven in many studies that GBV and VAW are most likely to occur in societies with rigid gender roles, strict norms about men and women’s roles, and expected behaviour and association of masculinity with dominance, power and control. Quantitative and qualitative surveys on norms, attitudes and values in modern Armenian society tend to prove this point. One of the main contributing factors to gender-based violence in Armenia still remains strong in culturally rooted gender stereotypes about the role of men and women in society. According to the World Value Survey, survival values are still very dominant in Armenian society[9]. Survival values seem to be closely interconnected with women’s economic disadvantage and poor political representation, as well as violence against women. In addition to numerous statistics showing a decrease in women’s economic participation[10], the prevailing values and attitudes of society also prevent the empowerment of women.

The majority of the Armenian population agrees that when jobs are scarce, men should have more of a right to a job than women (65% of men and 48% of women agreed with that statement)[11]. At the same time, there is an obvious gender gap in support for women’s economic empowerment: 42% of men and only 25% of women disagree or strongly disagree with this statement.

Another example of survival value that might hinder women’s economic empowerment and contribute to the spread of domestic violence is that 60% of men and 49% of women think that when women work, the children suffer. More than 47% of men and 31% of women agree with the statement that if a woman earns more money than her husband, it is almost certain to cause problems, and more than 50% of the population think that being a housewife is just as fulfilling as working for a salary[12].  Male domination is also manifested in people's desires to have been born as a man or as a woman. According to Gender Barometer survey[13] 1% of men would prefer to have been born a woman if they had had a choice, and 27% of women would prefer to have been born a man.

Two indicators appear to be very important in measuring women’s empowerment: self-expression and participation of women in civic actions.  Armenia has one of the lowest indicators of self-expression in the world (19.7%)[14]. This when Alexander and Welzel[15] argue that the rise of such values as self-expression, autonomy, and free choice increase women’s political and economic empowerment in society.

There is a tolerance towards violence in Armenian society and a prevalence of hegemonic masculinity, meaning that men are likely to be socialized to be dominant and controlling and are expected to prove their masculinity by being abusive and violent.[16]

Main factors that contribute to the violence against women in Armenian society are:

  • Traditional Armenian family and perception that men are superior.
  • Violent behaviour tolerated by society in general.
  • Perception of women as property, objectification of women.
  • Bad socioeconomic conditions, growing poverty and social polarization.
  • Lack of a Domestic Violence Law.
  • Absence of trust in law enforcement representatives.

Domestic violence remains one of the main manifestations of the violation of women’s rights in Armenia. However, the data available on domestic violence is limited, and very often controversial. Only a few comprehensive surveys have been conducted in the past 5 years.

According to the UNFPA, a nationwide survey on domestic/partner violence in Armenia (2010) indicates that this phenomenon is a common occurrence in the country. In addition, intimate partner violence ranges from physical and psychological violence to controlling behaviour and sexual violence.  Sixty-one per cent of women were exposed to controlling behaviour, 25% were subjected to psychological violence and 9% were subjected to physical violence by their husband/partners[17]. A small number reported that they had been sexually abused by their spouse/partner. One of the reasons is that sexual violence - especially marital sexual violence - is a strictly taboo topic in Armenian society. According to police data, 625 cases of domestic violence were registered in 2012; 578 cases in 2013; 682 cases of domestic violence in 2014; and 900 cases in 2015. The Coalition Against Violence Against Women reports 2,000 cases yearly. Calls to non-profit organizations' hotline services have been increasing every month. In 2014 eleven women and in 2015 ten women were killed as a result of domestic violence, Still, the relevant authorities fail to prevent, investigate, and punish the perpetrators of violence against women. 

 

Notes:

[1] From the interview with the representatives of the Coalition to Stop Violence against Women in Armenia.

[3] National Statistics, 2013

[4] Gender Assessment. World Bank, 2014

[5] Gender Assessment. World Bank, 2014

[6] Women in Labor Market in Armenia. World Bank and CRRC Armenia, 2013

[7] USD1=AMD415 at the moment of calculation.

[8] Gender Assessment. World Bank, 2014

[9] http://www.world; valuessurvey.org/wvs.jsp

[10] National Statistics, Global Gender Index, World Bank Gender Assessment

[11] World Values Survey Data, 2010-2014

[12] World Values Survey Data, 2010-2014

[13] Gender Barometer, YSU Center for Gender and Leadership Studies, 2015

[14] World Value Survey 2010-2014

[16] A. Pittman. Women’s Movement in Armenia. Open Society Foundation, 2013

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