Ending violence: a journey through a tunnel
We are all one in this fight to eliminate violence against children in Armenia and globally by the year 2030.
I want to take you on a small journey through stories. These stories are not made up. They have been lived by children - children, some of whom will never be able to tell their own stories. Children - some of whom are no longer with us. Children, whose names have changed in here but their stories never will. Such is the story of one-year old Aram. By the time Aram’s mother had managed to escape the claws of his husband and taken the little boy to the hospital, he had already been dead for two hours.
Violence does not have one face. It does not recognize age, gender, race, religion or culture. It is manifested in different shapes and forms - some blatantly obvious, some visible only to the expert eye, and some invisible. Violence is everywhere. It is all around us and there is no violence-free environment where we can raise our children.
Aram was killed after being beaten to death by his own father in a country where violence obviously exists. And while a part of society does not acknowledge this, the Government does, and has even committed itself to ending violence in the country. When there is any mention of violence, it is impossible not to highlight the most vulnerable group in society: children.
Another story is that of a former teacher at a boarding school who, for many years, sexually assaulted the girls in the school. In 2012, a brave girl voiced the horrific events of her life to an activist who regularly visited the institution. At first glance it seems like justice was served and all, but… We always forget about the flip side of the coin.
The story was a scandal. It created a media frenzy which led to a media circus. Various stories were written and many interviews were given. In these reports some people viciously supported the teacher, some questioned the culpability of the young girls and some were enraged by the two-year imprisonment sentence of the perpetrator. During this media circus the rights of these girls were repeatedly violated. I will give only one example: the media had exposed their identity in detail…
The media has and has not reported many cases of violence in the Armenia. Some cases found their way into the media, but many did not. And not only the media. Some cases did not even find their way to the law enforcement bodies.
Around 38% of parents practice physical punishment in Armenia. The majority of families do not consider this to be violence against their child but, on the contrary, a manifestation of love, care and attention, thus making it acceptable by society - a social norm.
Armenia is a country with a strong traditional society. Family is considered to be at the core of society and children are adored. On the other hand, this mentality walks in parallel with the belief that it is acceptable to slap/raise your hand on your child. Of course, many parents do not consider this a form of child rearing, but data shows that around 38% of parents practice physical punishment. And so, the fine line separating disciplining and violence is smudged. The majority of families do not consider this to be violence against their child but, on the contrary, a manifestation of love, care and attention, thus making it acceptable by society - a social norm.
To raise awareness on violence against children in all its shapes and forms, the UNICEF office in Armenia is collaborating and supporting the Government of Armenia.
It is well known that the more people are aware of what violence is, and are empowered to report cases, the number of registered cases rise. They rise until there are no more culprits. That is when the numbers really start to drop and eventually disappear. This is what the Government of Armenia is aiming at.
On this path, UNICEF has supported the Government to achieve the following:
- Forming a Council of Justice for Children with the participation of all relevant ministries, NGOs and other actors in the field in 2016 to jointly plan, implement and monitor interventions to end violence against Children in Armenia.
- Adoption and implementation of the Law on Domestic Violence in 2017.
- Political will and commitment to end violence against children in Armenia by the year 2030.
- Becoming a pathfinding country by joining the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children in 2018. By becoming a pathfinding country, the Government of Armenia has committed to accelerate the achievement of the End Violence goals in 2018 and beyond.
- Organizing the “End Violence Against Children: Make the Invisible Visible” two-day high-level national conference in 2018. Providing a platform to over 200 participants from the Government, the Ombudsman’s office, the Police, Embassies, local and international NGOs and child rights experts and other UN agency colleagues to learn and talk about the scientific evidence pertaining to violence as an adverse childhood experience and its irreversible effects on children. In light of the conference, equipped with the necessary tools and information, the Government of Armenia has committed to take the next major step in ending violence against children in Armenia by developing a roadmap.
In 2018, Armenia took inarguably major leaps to not only showcase its zero tolerance towards violence against children in Armenia, but its commitment to make it a reality. But do you remember Aram? The boy this story began with? Aram was killed by his own father in 2018…
So many stories are not told, the pain of so many children remains unheard, so many rights are violated, and the bearers of these horrors are the invisible children who live in the dark. I took you through this journey because if there is a beginning, there is also an end. We have not reached the end yet, but we are on the way. We are paving the path to reach the end of the tunnel. We are moving in the direction of the light.
And during our journey we must not forget that as long as there is any violence against children, there is violence against society. We are all one in this fight to eliminate violence against children in Armenia and globally by the year 2030. Enough is enough!