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Azerbaijan: Information on the protection or redress available to women who are victims of domestic violence (2003-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 16 February 2006
Citation / Document Symbol AZE100826.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Azerbaijan: Information on the protection or redress available to women who are victims of domestic violence (2003-2006), 16 February 2006, AZE100826.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f146f016.html [accessed 19 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Various sources reported that domestic violence was "a problem" in Azerbaijan (Freedom House July 2005; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; IHF 27 June 2005). Domestic violence is a "taboo subject" in Azerbaijan (HRH 10 Dec. 2004; OMCT 8 – 26 Nov. 2004, 20) and deemed to be "normal" (IRC June 2004, 11) or the "traditional norm" (AGIC 7 Dec. 2005) by the populace. It is viewed as a family problem that should not be openly discussed (HRH 10 Dec. 2004; OMCT 8 – 26 Nov. 2004, 21) and therefore remains hidden from society (ibid., 22; IHF 27 June 2005).

Because of society's views on domestic violence, many women do not report violence, rape or abuse (AGIC 7 Dec. 2005; IHF 27 June 2005, 12; IRC June 2004, 11; HRH 10 Dec. 2004). Also, women tend not to seek medical assistance for domestic violence because "government doctors are required by law [...] to report to the police any suspicious injuries" and, as such, cannot obtain confidential assistance (IRC June 2004, 13). Therefore, there are no "reliable state statistics" regarding violence against women in general or domestic violence specifically (OMCT 8 – 26 Nov. 2004, 21; HRH 10 Dec. 2004). According to the State Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan, there were 49 cases of rape registered in 2003 and 25 in 2004 (Azerbaijan 2005). However, IHF reported that women's rights groups were sceptical that "only 24 cases of rape were registered among the total population of some 8 million" in 2004 (27 June 2005, 12). The non-governmental organization Clean World reported that 52 per cent of husbands and 24 per cent of women believe that a woman is beaten because she deserves it (AGIC 7 Dec. 2005). Monitoring the national media between March 2004 and March 2005, Clean World found reports of 520 cases of violence against women, of which 129 resulted in death (ibid.). The Women's Crisis Center in Baku reported 4,806 visits between 1 November 2001 and 1 August 2005 and that 5,778 women called its hotline during the same period (ibid.).

Legislative Initiative

There is no legislation in Azerbaijan that specifically addresses domestic violence or spousal abuse (Freedom House July 2005; AGIC 7 Dec. 2005; StopVAW 27 Sept. 2005; OMCT 8 – 26 Nov. 2004, 20-21; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). However, the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan does include the following offences: rape (Article 149), sexual abuse (Article 108), intentional infliction of physical harm (Articles 126 to 128), and infliction of physical or psychological suffering by systematic beatings or violent acts (Article 133) (StopVAW 27 Sept. 2005; OMCT 8 – 26 Nov. 2004, 21; Azerbaijan 1 Sept. 2000). Marital or spousal rape is not considered a crime (IHF 27 June 2005, 12; OMCT 8 – 26 Nov. 2004, 22; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

Governmental Resources

There are no government-operated shelters or crisis centres for women who are victims of domestic violence (AGIC 7 Dec. 2005; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; StopVAW 27 Sept. 2005). The State Committee on Women's Issues was created in 1998 (IRC June 2004, 12) and received 6,629 complaints of women's rights violations between 1998 and 2004 (IHF 27 June 2005, 12). A Decree on the Implementation of State Policy on Women's Issues in Azerbaijan was issued by the president in 2000 (IRC June 2004, 12). However, no information as to the application or efficiency of these two government initiatives could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Police and Judicial Intervention

Other than in cases of severe beatings requiring hospitalization, police tend not to intervene in situations of domestic violence as they consider it to be a family problem that should be dealt with by the family (AGIC 7 Dec. 2005). The World Organisation Against Torture stated that "women may possibly even face further violence when they seek assistance from the police" (8 – 26 Nov. 2004, 24). According to the Women's Crisis Center, if a woman "dared" to make a judicial application for legal protection, the maximum penalty imposed was either a fine, which negatively impacted the family, or three weeks of "corrective labor" (AGIC 7 Dec. 2005). The International Rescue Committee (IRC) indicated that cases of domestic violence "not resulting in major physical injury" are only brought before local courts, with no guarantee of confidentiality, and result in small fines as punishment (June 2004, 13).

While there is minimal training for police officers on violence against women, there are no specialized sex crimes units within the force (OMCT 8 – 26 Nov. 2004, 24; IRC June 2004, 13). According to the IRC,

[p]olice are largely unable to provide support and security to survivors who come forward. Additionally, there remain gaps between the legal codes for the protection of women and the prosecution of crimes of violence against women, particularly with respect to domestic violence. [...] [I]t is generally believed that women do not perceive the government as able to provide the security or judicial retribution needed through the police or legal system (ibid.).

Non-governmental Resources

Country Reports 2004 noted the existence of 50 registered NGOs that focus on women's issues (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). The Women's Crisis Center (WCC) was opened in 2001 by the Institute for Peace and Democracy (AGIC 7 Dec. 2005). The WCC provides assistance to women, including the services of one jurist, one gynaecologist and one psychologist, and also operates a telephone helpline (ibid.). As part of its educational endeavours, the WCC co-created, with Internews, a series of television programmes and seven documentary films on different aspects of women's rights (ibid.). Even though the WCC provides various services and activities, the Azerbaijan Gender Information Center indicated that "in the majority of the cases the Center cannot provide women with full protection for two main reasons: gaps in the legislation and corruption in courts" (ibid.). The Azerbaijan Young Lawyers Union (AYLU) operates a hotline for victims of domestic violence; however, it is not always functional because of a lack of funding (StopVAW 27 Sept. 2005). Both the WCC and the AYLU also provide confidential legal assistance to victims of domestic violence (IRC June 2004, 15).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Azerbaijan. 2005. The State Statistical Committee of the Azerbaijan Republic. "Azerbaijan in Figures 2005." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2006]
_____. 1 September 2000. Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan Republic. (Legislationline). [Accessed 2 Feb. 2006]

Azerbaijan Gender Information Center (AGIC). 7 December 2005. Yuliya Gureyeva. "Report on Violence Against Women in Azerbaijan for the UN Division for the Advancement of Women." [Accessed 1 Feb. 2006]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. United States Department of State. [Accessed 27 Jan. 2006]

Freedom House. July 2005. "Azerbaijan." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 27 Jan. 2006]

Human Rights House Network (HRH). 10 December 2004. "Azerbaijan: OMCT, AFHRO Issue Joint Alternative Report to UN." [Accessed 18 Jan. 2006]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 27 June 2005. "Azerbaijan." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America Report 2005. < http://www.ihf-hr.org/documents/doc_summary.php?sec_id=3&d_id=4057> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2006]

International Rescue Committee (IRC). June 2004. "Assessment on Violence and Women in Azerbaijan: An Overview of Violence in the Lives of Women in IRC's Beneficiary Population." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2006]

Stop Violence Against Women (StopVAW). 27 September 2005. Yuliya Gureyeva. "Azerbaijan." [Accessed 20 Jan. 2006]

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). 8 – 26 November 2004. "Violence Against Women in Azerbaijan: Alternative Country Report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights." [Accessed 2 Feb. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources:

Attempts to contact six oral sources were unsuccessful.

The Azerbaijan Gender Information Center (AGIC).

Internet sources, including: Amnesty International, Association for Women's Rights in Development, Hayat.az, Human Rights Watch, International Center for Research on Women, International League on Human Rights, Open Society Institute, Peace Women, United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Domestic Violence Against Women, United Nations Development Fund for Women, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Womenaid International, Women's International Network (WIN) News.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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