The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status; however, the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions in practice.
Rape is a criminal offense and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years' imprisonment. There are no explicit laws criminalizing marital rape. According to police information cited by the Prosecutor General's Office, nine cases of rape and attempted rape were registered in the country during the year. In connection with these cases, nine individuals were prosecuted, seven were convicted, and two cases were still under investigation. According to official information, none of these reported cases constituted marital rape. Crimes such as rape continued to be underreported due to the social stigma attached to them.
There is no law against domestic violence. Few cases of spousal abuse or other violence against women were reported during the year, although such violence was believed to be widespread.
According to domestic observers, most cases of domestic violence continued to go unreported because victims were afraid of physical harm, were apprehensive that police would return them to their husbands, or were ashamed to disclose their family problems.
On October 1, police launched an investigation into the death of 20-year-old Zaruhi Petrosian, a resident of the town of Masis, who was hospitalized late on September 30 with a brain hematoma, a broken finger, and bruises on her body. The police subsequently arrested Yanis Sargisov, Petrosian's common law husband, on charges of willful heavy damage to health leading to death by negligence. The criminal investigation was later transferred to the investigation department of the Ministry of Defense in light of Sargisov's service in the armed forces. According to Hasmik Petrosian, Zaruhi Petrosian's sister, Zaruhi had long been physically abused by her husband and mother-in-law. Officials stated the investigation could not corroborate abuse by the mother-in-law. At year's end, the investigation of Sargisov continued while he remained in custody. Petrosian's child remained in an orphanage while the mother-in-law and Petrosian's sister both claimed custody of the child.
In March the domestic Women's Resource Center Armenia (WRCA) NGO launched a public awareness campaign to advertise its Sexual Assault Crisis Center and help hotline. The Yerevan municipality eventually rejected the organization's application to advertise the center on large commercial billboards, on the grounds that the billboard graphics would place unnecessary psychological stress on teenagers and women. The municipality then took steps to remove all WRCA's advertising. The WRCA asserted that, by limiting the billboards to providing only the help hotline number, the municipality reduced the effect of its advocacy against sexual assault of women.There were reports that women, especially those in rural or remote areas, faced insufficient access to adequate general and reproductive health-care services. Observers noted various efforts made to improve reproductive health care had not been effective.
On January 11, the Prosecutor General's Office began a criminal investigation of allegations of sexual and physical abuse of female students by a teacher at Special School No. 11 for children with special needs. This action reversed the office's August 2009 determination the allegations were unsubstantiated. A group of youth activists who served as volunteers at the school raised the initial alarm of abuse in 2008. On May 24, the trial court convicted former teacher Levon Avakian, who admitted his guilt, to two years in prison. On May 31, the Ministry of Education and Science dismissed the principal, Meruzhan Yengibarian, citing lack of trust in his capacity to head the school. The youth activists considered the teacher's punishment to be too lenient and called for further investigation into the role played by the principal and other teachers, who were reportedly aware of but did not prevent the abuse. On August 4, following an appeal by the victims, the court of appeals increased Avakian's sentence to three years.
A 2009 study by the domestic NGO Armenian Helsinki Committee monitored 12 special education schools and four boarding institutions. Many children indicated that, among other forms of punishment, they had been slapped or beaten, shut in a classroom, or prevented from going home. Some teachers admitted resorting to violence for discipline. The study also noted that most institutions lacked proper central heating, and that sanitary and hygiene conditions were substandard. In a study of 12 general education schools in the Syunik Region during the same period, the NGO found that physical or psychological violence, including beating, slapping, pulling ears, and other degrading treatment were used regularly as punishment. Treatment of students at schools was unequal and depended on teachers' relations with students, whether students pursued private classes with a teacher, and whether students had influential parents. The results of studies in 2007 and 2008 by the same organization were substantively the same.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other state services; however, discrimination remained a problem. The law and a special government decree provide for accessibility to buildings, including schools, for persons with disabilities, but in practice very few buildings and other facilities were accessible to these persons. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities but failed to do so effectively.
In spite of the large number of officially registered persons with disabilities in the country, disabled persons are seldom seen outside the home due to the social stigma associated with disabilities. In extreme cases the social stigma sometimes prompts families to hide their disabled children completely from public view, depriving them in the process from access to education and integration into society.
Persons with all types of disabilities experienced problems in virtually all spheres of life, including health care, social and psychological rehabilitation, education, transportation, communication, access to employment, and social protection. Access to information and communications was a particularly significant problem for persons with sensory disabilities. Hospitals, residential care, and other facilities for persons with serious disabilities remained substandard. According to official data, more than 90 percent of persons with disabilities who were able to work were unemployed.
Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Societal attitudes towards homosexuality remained highly unfavorable, with society generally viewing homosexuality as an affliction.
Persons who were openly gay were exempted from military service, purportedly because of concern they would be abused by fellow servicemen. However, the actual exemption required a medical finding via psychological examination that gays possessed a mental disorder, which was stamped in their documents and could affect their future.
According to human rights activists, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons experienced some of the most humiliating discrimination in prisons, where they were forced to do some of the most degrading jobs and separated from the rest of the prison population.
Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation continued to be a problem with respect to employment, family relations, and access to education and health care for sexual minorities.
In an interview with the Iravunk biweekly that appeared in the newspaper's December 24 to 27 edition, Artur Baghdasarian, secretary of the National Security Council that advises the president on national security matters, answered a question on homosexuality stating that, "Such conduct does not fit in with our society. Family and Armenian traditions prevail for people who were the first to adopt Christianity. Those unnatural things are unacceptable to us. I am against limitations of human rights in general. However, I consider homosexuality is extremely dangerous for Armenia."
In an interview in the Hraparak daily on December 6, National Police Chief Alik Sargsyan answered a question on the gathering of homosexuals in one of Yerevan's central parks, stating that, "We try to take them to such a place where they won't be seen, but they like to appear in public. We do not practice any violent measures, do not violate human rights, it is their business, but in our city, it is not appropriate for people…I cannot bear them physically."
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were no reports during the year of acts of societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.
Many employers reportedly discriminated against potential employees by age, most commonly requiring job applicants to be between the ages of 18 and 30. While this discrimination appeared to be widespread, authorities did not take any action to mitigate it. After the age of 40, workers, particularly women, continued to have little chance of finding jobs appropriate to their education or skills.
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