Question: In recent days, reports of domestic violence, murders of women, and rape of underage girls have again become more frequent. What do you think is the reason?

Nərgiz MuxtarovaAnswer: It is not entirely correct to speak of any one reason. This is a set of issues that require an appropriate approach. Violence researchers now refer more to the "environmental approach". This includes the interaction of various factors. Therefore, the influence of the relationship of political, social, economic, cultural factors can be indicated as reasons. Political reasons may be related to the lack of necessary services for women when they face with violence, the specific approach of law enforcement agencies to issues of violence against women, and the  absence of political will to address the problems of gender-based violence. On the other hand, we are witnessing how the socio-economic situation leads to an increase in aggression in society. And this can be a trigger. In addition, violence tends to be more prevalent in lower-status societies where women are more resistant to empowerment. This can be listed as one of the cultural and social reasons.

However, in the context of Azerbaijan, this question is particularly difficult to answer. Because Azerbaijan does not conduct research in this direction, and therefore, despite the recognition of indicators of violence, due to the absence of fundamental research, it is not possible to establish a causal relationship. Official statistics show that in 2021, 72% of victims of domestic violence were women. An increase is visible compared to the indicators of 2020. But, since sociological research is not carried out here, it is impossible to say exactly in the context of Azerbaijan - what are the reasons that provoked these killings?

Question: What does your statistics say? We are aware of the news that appears in the media. How are things in reality? Is the situation much worse?

Answer: Unfortunately, the statistics that we have now are based precisely on the news about the murders covered in the media. Because the State Committee for Family, Women and Children, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor General's Office say they have the information in the form we want, and as a result, we have to be content with only the news that is published in the media. And this, of course, cannot fully reflect reality. According to the results of our monitoring last year, 63 women were killed precisely as a result of incidents that in the narrow sense can be considered femicides (in the broad sense this includes the death of all women). In 2021, 46 women were killed as a result of domestic violence, according to official statistics. I have no information on how these calculations are made.

Question: From time to time this issue is put on the agenda, becomes the subject of discussion, government agencies are criticized, but that's where it ends. Nobody learns from all this. After some time, we again encounter similar messages. In your opinion, what state structures should take serious steps to rectify the situation?

Answer: In 2020, an action plan was signed to prevent domestic violence. This plan covers the period up to 2023. It outlines the obligations that fall on various structures. At the same time, this plan provides for the integration of domestic legislation into international practice. But, unfortunately, despite the fact that 2023 is only a year away, we have not seen any significant steps taken by these structures in the field of preventing domestic violence. In 2015, bodies for monitoring cases of domestic violence were created in the local executive authorities, but the possibility of functioning of these structures in practice is questionable.

To remedy the situation, of course, first of all, problems in domestic legislation should be eliminated, international practice should be really integrated. They can start by signing and ratifying the Istanbul Convention. On the other hand, the first steps to ensure the effective operation of the above-mentioned structures, which currently have names, but do not actually function, may be the publication of the results of monitoring these structures on the ground, the implementation of preventive measures based on these results. In addition, special instruction to law enforcement agencies regarding domestic violence, ensuring that these structures have a special approach to such events, can be considered an important step. And the most important is to increase the number of shelters for victims of violence. Currently, as far as I know, there are 3 shelters in the country with a capacity of about 100 people. This is extremely small for a country with a population of 10 million, half of which are women.


Question: The Ministry of Science and Education, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the courts, the State Committee for Family, Women and Children's Problems are most condemned. Why these particular structures? Is there a problem with these structures?

Answer: The problem is not only in these structures, although, of course, there are good reasons for condemning them more than anyone else. Today, 1.5% of children born in Azerbaijan (2% in the regions) are born by minors. This means that these children are not receiving education and are forced to enter into child marriages, and in such cases the Ministry of Education is naturally responsible. Entities that are aware of cases of educational avoidance are rightly condemned for their inaction in preventing these child marriages because they do not take any action in this regard.

As for the condemnation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the courts, this is quite natural, since these are the structures to which the victims of violence should apply first in order to restore their rights. Because 75.9% (according to the latest official figures) of victims of domestic violence crimes are women. However, despite such statistics, the vast majority do not dare to go to the police. The reason for this is that the police still continue to discriminate against victims of domestic violence without effectively investigating gender-based violence in general. If, despite the above figures, the number of those who received protection orders in Azerbaijan today approaches 10, this means that these structures are not working effectively. People don't trust the police.

Since the mandate of the State Committee on Family, Women and Children's Problems concerns these issues, it is naturally the first structure that comes to mind. However, as is the case with other state structures, the effectiveness of its activities in accordance with the mandate is not noticeable.

Question: What do you offer? What steps need to be taken to prevent domestic violence, murder of women, rape?

Answer: Amending the law on domestic violence, in particular removing the provision for reconciliation, amending the protection order to make it an effective tool, criminalizing domestic violence or including it in the Criminal Code as an aggravating circumstance, establishing mechanisms related to free legal assistance, the existence of instructions for adequate treatment of victims of domestic violence by law enforcement agencies, the responsibility that they should bear in the absence of such, an increase in the number of shelters, the creation of conditions for conducting research on the causes of domestic violence and ways to prevent it - for example, the publication of non-confidential information related to domestic violence. I think  that all of the above steps should be taken.

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