The National Assembly is reviewing and is going to adopt draft amendments to the Criminal Code, which stipulate stricter penalties for sex offenses.
According to the official statistics, 59 incidents of sex offenses were registered in the first half of 2013, there were 105 such cases in 2012 and 71 cases were registered in 2011.
In experts’ opinion, the official statistics does not reflect the real situation, for many cases of sexual offence stay concealed. In addition, the Criminal Code stipulates mild punishment for this type of crimes, particularly, when they are committed against minors.
In 2010, a draft law on introducing amendments and changes to Chapter 18 “Crimes against sexual integrity and sexual freedom” of the Criminal Code were drafted by “Women’s Resource Center” NGO. For the last years the organization has advocated for considering sex offense as heavy or especially heavy crime, particularly, when they are committed against children, and for considering fine as punishment for a sex offense as unacceptable.
On 10 September 2013, the National Assembly adopted in its first reading the draft amendments to Chapter 18 of the Armenian Criminal Code, submitted by David Harutyunyan and Naira Zohrabyan. It is aimed at making penalties for crimes against sexual integrity and freedom stricter and excluding corruption risks.
A new round of hearings is expected, and the draft’s authors believe that the amendments be adopted and enter into force by the end of this year.
Proposed amendments to Chapter 18 of the Criminal Code
In the draft amendments it is proposed that the statute of limitation period for sex offences against children, be calculated starting with the date when victims turn 18 year-old. It means that a victim of sex offense may report on the crime against him/her years later, when becoming of age.
This is the demand of the Council of Europe “Convention on protection of children against sexual abuse and violence”, which is based on the fact that majority of minors do not realize what is happening to them, or are ashamed of or fear to speak about it, being in a vulnerable situation.
The amendments refer to all five articles of Chapter 18. The penalties have become stricter, and the list of aggravating circumstances has been extended.
The second parts in Articles 138 (rape) and 139 (violent sexual actions) were supplemented with the following aggravating circumstances for the same actions when the crime was committed:
-against an obviously pregnant woman;
- with the use of weapon or other objects that could be used as weapon or with a threat to use weapon;
- committed against a person held at the penitentiary institutions, at detention places for arrestees and detainees, at the guardhouses against the detained military persons, against a military at the disciplinary battalion, a person receiving treatment or undergoing medical examination at medical institutions by the personnel of these institutions.
-coupled with abduction or illegal deprivation of liberty of a person.
The penalty defined for crimes envisioned in the second parts of Articles 138 and 139 remained the same – imprisonment from 4 to 10 years.
The third parts of the same Articles have also been subject to amendments. Para. 1 has been added, and the penalty in addition to deprivation of liberty included also imposing temporary restriction to hold certain offices.
3. Сonduct, stipulated in the first or second parts of this article, which was committed:
1) against a person under 18 years old, committed by a parent or teacher or any other personnel of the educational or medical or pedagogical institution, or other persons, responsible for care or education of the minor;
2) against a person under 14 years old
is punished with deprivation of liberty from eight to fifteen years, with or without restriction to hold certain office or engage in certain activities up to three years.
The amendment proposes stricter penalty for Article 140 (violent sexual interaction or actions of sexual nature). The minimal penalty now is not a fine but deprivation of liberty for 1-3 years. A provision “the same action, committed against a person clearly under 16 years old” was added, which envisions deprivation of liberty for 5-12 years.
In experts’ opinion, this provision creates risks for corruption on the side of investigation bodies, because Article 140 of the current Code envisions a milder penalty than those envisioned for Articles on rape or violent sexual actions, and if the action is re-classified during the investigation, the perpetrator can receive a milder penalty.
“Especially for cases involving minors, we tried to establish such a mechanism of penalty that enables reduction of corruption risks and ensures adequate punishment for perpetrators. For this reason, we proposed the second part in Article 140, which covers cases when violent sexual actions are carried out in relation to persons under 16, and defined the penalty for it equal to those for rape or violent sexual actions”, commented David Haroutyunyan, Chairman of Standing Commission on State and Legal Issues, on making stricter the penalty terms for Article 140 of the Criminal Code.
Actions stipulated in Article 141 (committing sexual actions against persons under 16) under the current law are punished by a fine of 100 000-250 000 AMD or deprivation of liberty up to 2 years. According to the draft adopted in the first reading, this article was supplemented with aggravating circumstances, which envision deprivation of liberty for 4-10 years or deprivation of liberty for 5-12 years with or without restriction to hold certain office or engage in certain activities.
The penalty in Article 142 (immoral actions) is also made stricter and amounts up to 7 years of deprivation of liberty in cases with aggravated circumstances, with or without restriction to hold certain office or engage in certain activities. This article also provides for a stricter penalty for immoral actions committed with application of electronic communication networks (Internet).