Violence Against Armenian Women is a Crime, Not a Tradition

Armenian woman protests

Will Armenia step up protections for women? (Photo KAREN MINASYAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The smallest yet probably oldest of the successive Soviet nations, Armenia prides itself for its ancient traditions. In his International Women’s Day statement, President Serge Sarkissian wishes women “happiness, luck, and healthy and strong families,” commending the preservation of women’s “traditional role.”

Does the latter include being a victim of violence? The Armenian government’s very poor record on combating widespread violence against women may suggest so.

Armenia is the only country among its Council of Europe neighbors without legislation criminalizing domestic violence. Armenia’s government has been arguing that it will pass comprehensive legislation once the Council of Europe finalizes its convention on the issue. It’s been nearly a year since the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence opened for signatures, yet Armenia hasn’t ratified it (see the interactive map of countries that have).


Turkish Women's Escalating Crisis

Turkey women protest

Turkish women protesting on International Women's Day in Ankara on March 8, 2011. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite the activism of women’s groups in Turkey, violence against women has dramatically increased since Turkey’s Justice and Development Party gained power almost a decade ago.

The murder of women has increased by 1,400 percent between 2002 and 2009. The latest official figures indicate that during the first six months of 2011 alone more than 26,000 women in Turkey reported family violence cases, including domestic violence, honor killings, sexual assaults and incest.


Turkish Women Desperately Need Access to Women's Shelters

Turkish women shout slogans to denounce honour crimes and violence against women in the country. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Congratulations to Turkey for becoming the first country to sign a tough new European Convention to combat violence against women.  Now, it is time for the Turkish government to get serious about protecting its own female citizens from honor killings and spousal abuse.

The murder of women continues to increase dramatically in Turkey–since last October, there have been more than 264 cases reported in the Turkish press–but the number of secure women’s shelters where women under threat can take refuge remains woefully inadequate.

The Turkish government recommended in 2005 that municipalities with more than 50,000 people have women’s shelters.  Given its population of 75 million, this means there should be 1,400 women’s shelters in Turkey.  There are 65, and not all are up to European standards.

When Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, signed the European Convention to Prevent and Combat Violence Against Women on May 11, he said “Turkey is ready to do all [necessary] work to stop violence against women.”  Let’s hope that pledge includes funding an adequate number of shelters where women can seek refuge from violence and death threats.