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Nils Muižnieks: Gender inequality and violence against women are serious human rights concerns in Armenia

Human rights commissioner Nils Muižnieks has warned the Armenian authorities that gender inequality and violence against women are serious human rights concerns in the country.

“More vigorous efforts are needed to address them” Muižnieks said, publishing the report of his visit last October to Armenia.

Commissioner Muižnieks also wants “measures commensurate” with the extent of the problem of violence against women, including domestic violence, in Armenia.

“Thousands of women are victims of violence every year in Armenia,” he states. “The phenomenon remains largely unreported because of a poor response from state institutions and a cultural, societal and family environment which tends to justify and accept violence against women.

“It is crucial that the messages by political and community leaders are unequivocal in this regard: violence against women can never be acceptable.

“At the same time, judicial authorities and law enforcement officers should be trained to better identify, investigate and prosecute cases of violence against women, with adequate punishment for the perpetrators. The ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence would also be an important step.”

According to the Commissioner for Human Rights, the adoption of gender-related action plans and the 2013 Law on Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Women and Men are steps in the right direction.

But Muižnieks worries that extensive gender bias still hampers the effective empowerment and equal treatment of women. He says all vestiges of gender bias in school curricula should be eliminated and encourages the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, an increase in women’s representation in public and political life, as well as more resolute measures to promote gender equality, including in the labour market.

The persistent reports of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials as well as the lack of effective investigation into serious human rights abuses are also of deep concern to the commissioner.

“It is high time that the Armenian authorities address these issues in line with their human rights obligations,” he adds. “Strengthening safeguards against torture and ill-treatment, excluding all evidence obtained under duress and pursuing more vigorously policies and practices to ensure accountability for serious human rights abuses, including those committed during the March 2008 events, are among the most urgent measures to be taken.”

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