An event which occurred earlier this year where a female activist participating in a demonstration in Yerevan was involuntarily kissed by a serving officer was recently addressed at a meeting about the safety of human rights defenders in Armenia. A higher ranked police officer attending the meeting upset activists when he stated there was no way of telling whether the woman liked the kiss or not.
In the photage from the event you can see the activist being drawn away from the action and, while restrained from behind by the unknown police officer, she gets kissed in the neck. Something which Shushan Petrosyan, a member of parliament at the time commented by asking if there is anything bad in kissing?
This can also be seen in the light of a victim blaming statement about women’s safety in public recently announced by the Armenian Police. Among the recommendations of how to act and dress in order to avoid violence in public is the advice to not walk alone and only make dates in crowded illuminated places wearing clothes that wouldn’t limit you movements or “attract wild fanatic’s attention”. The police even go into details concerning hair styles and jewellery and tell women to distrust unknown men. Talk about using a rhetoric which both risk scaring women to stay at home and which tells society that how women dress and behave is the explanation behind violence and harassment towards them.
Elvira Melisetyan from Women’s Resource centre comments on the event both stating that it is in line with what women have faced when reporting sexual violations to the police before and that it gives activist a position where they can openly target the victim-blaiming culture within the Armenian police: “I will dare to say we were not surprised finding the statement of police, because we face the consequences of their main way of thinking in our daily work regarding Sexual violence prevention in our community. Several women have reported the main approach of police there in the police station. Police has just legitimized their approach towards these kind of situations. If previously we were fighting against this on a grass-root level, trying to raise awareness on the particular cases where police used victim-blaming while investigating, now we fight openly because of the statements police made officially. This is a good sign for us on the way to strategy planning for fighting against sexual violence, now we can face police openly with our statements and demands. No doubt that this statement enlarges the risk of having more cases of SV, as now the abuser has some more ”approved explanations” for their actions. This makes us be more attentive and more proactive according to elimination of sexual violence in our community because Police officially showed they are not for a victim and not with a victim in this ”fight”.
Directly after the statement was made official independent activist posted images of them self with texts like “Don’t tell me what to wear. Tell them not to rape.”
ArtAct group decided to dedicate an entire album of posters to addressing the stupidity of the police using a mixture of humour, facts and attack.
The messages exist in both an English and Armenian version if you visit the Art<3Activism Facebook page.