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Rape Culture Prevalent in Armenia

Rape Culture Prevalent in Armenia

Many in the United States and Europe hold a favorable view of Armenia, even though the country possesses a rape culture that delegitimizes victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  A 2016 report led by the United Nations for Population Fund Armenia (UNFPA) reported that 36 percent of the respondents in Armenia believe that women should tolerate violence for the sake of family unity. Within those 36 percent, 45 percent were men and 28 percent women.

Guidelines published by the British government warned their citizens that if they are raped in Armenia, “Reporting crimes to the police in Armenia can be a complex and time consuming process. Local officers may not have specific training in supporting victims of sexual assault. You may find the process of reporting the assault at times difficult, and quite different from what you would expect of UK police proceedings.”

They continued, “Rape and sexual assault are both criminal offences in Armenia, but conviction rates remain low, and judicial proceedings are likely to take a long time. It is very likely that victims will be asked to testify in front of third parties, and there is no legislation to punish those violating the confidentiality of a victim.”

Amnesty International proclaimed, “Armenia is the only country among its Council of Europe neighbors without legislation criminalizing domestic violence.”  According to a recent report put out by Human Rights Watch, Armenia has still not ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence due to “misinformation campaigns in previous years claiming that the convention threatens traditional and family values.”

Meanwhile, presently, “there are only two domestic violence shelters.  Both are in Yerevan and are run by a non-governmental organization.  The new criminal code identifies domestic violence as an aggravating circumstance in a number of crimes, but domestic violence is not a stand alone criminal offense.”

Human Rights Watch noted, “Domestic violence cases remain largely underreported. A 2021 survey in Armenia showed that almost 36 percent of women interviewed who were ever in a partnership experienced at least one form of physical, sexual, or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partners; only 5 percent of those who experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner sought help from police and only 4.8 percent sought help from a health provider.”  

Ani Jilosian of the Women’s Support Center in Yerevan claimed in a podcast titled “against shame culture” that many victims of domestic violence and other forms of sexual violence in Armenia are “forced to undergo” virginity tests.  She continued: “We know that virginity testing is not only unethical but it is also unscientific.  In Armenia as well as in other countries where it is not banned, it is used in cases of rape and child sexual abuse.   The practice is painful, humiliating.   It can also be traumatic for victims.  These are typically practiced in order to ascertain if violence took place.”

This practice takes place in Armenia, even though a 2012 study by the Forensic Science International Journal found that 90% of child rape victims do not suffer from physical damage after experiencing sexual abuse.  

Jilosian noted that there are other reasons why virginity tests are performed in Armenia, which are more sinister: “It might be required by the family of the husband upon marriage.  It happens less now, but it still happens from time to time.  This is to determine if a woman is a virgin upon marriage.”  She also claimed that in Armenia some girls undergo “hymen restoration surgery” in order to fool such tests.

The Armenian Parliament has passed its first reading on a bill that would ban virginity testing as a form of violence in Armenia, but Jilosian noted that it took a long time for the Armenian government to act on this “for it was not on the agenda to ban this practice for it was not a concern that has been raised, even though civil society members have been raising it for some time.   This bill underlines and better defines the types of violence that victims face.”  

Nevertheless, the ban on virginity tests has still not been engrained into law and the bill faced stiff opposition in the Armenian Parliament in its first reading due to the opposition of some to including members of the LGBT community in a law protecting them from domestic violence.   


By Rachel Avraham



Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel's Communication, Cyber and Satellite Minister. For close to a decade, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iran, and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.