February 25, 2015

Armenian MPs interviewed on LGBT rights

Republican MP Karine Achemyan is NOT aware that several PACE MPs have issued a statement on the situation of LGBT rights in Armenia even though she followed PACE sessions, and claimed that delegates did not informed them about anything. To the question of LGBTnews.am in an interview whether she, as an MP, is interested in LGBT rights protection and what are the steps she has been taking so far, said Achemyan “I am not planning to do anything because I have not heard and I have no example that any right of Armenian citizen has been violated. This is the first time I hear from you. Please do not concentrate on this issue that much, as I think, I repeat, I don’t think anyone’s right are violated in this country. To the comment that there are many violations of LGBT rights in Armenia, Mrs. Achemyan commented that she was not sent to Parliament to protect the rights of LGBT people.

MP from Heritage faction Tevan Poghosyan was interviewed by LGBTnews.am to find out whether the MP is planning to take the LGBT issues to the Parliament to discuss the protection of their rights by the Parliament. However, the MP wondered how the LGBT issues mattered to him. Cited: “They have people who protect their rights, who support them, you can contact them and they will reply your questions. You mean they are under pressure? I don’t now see it as an issue, you even have a web site, while in many other countries you would all have been burnt or killed while you exist in Armenia, but that does not interest me. Armenia is fulfilling its international commitments”.

In addition, Tevan Poghosyan is the president of the International Center for Human Development (ICHD) since 1999, and ICHD has received grants for implementation of its projects from various institutions, including OSI, Budapest and European Union. It is said that equality and non-discrimination are among ICHD’s core values.

Another MP, Sukias Avetisyan from the leading Republic party noted in an interview that he doesn’t have to see a homosexual person beside him, that he does not accept them, and it is his right to do so. To the question whether he is not concerned to lose voters (LGBT people and/or the ones engaged in the rights protection of LGBT people) for having such a stand, MP replied that he doesn’t want LGBT people and their supporters to help his party.

In contrast to the aforementioned opinions, MP Khachatur Kokobelyan, the leader of “Free Democrats” party finds that there should be an atmosphere of tolerance towards homosexual people, and that there is no need to interfere in anyone’s personal life. However, Kokobelyan also said that we should not talk about the rights of LBGT persons and separate them, since not only their rights that are being violated.

February 24, 2015

PACE: Armenian authorities fail to condemn incitement to hatred against LGBT people

Petra DeSutter, Belgian delegate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has initiated an announcement, which has been signed by 22 delegates regarding the case of 16 citizens against Iravunk newspaper. The authorities have failed to condemn this incitement to hatred and discrimination. On the contrary, on 25 October Mr. Babukhanyan was awarded a medal of honor by the President of Armenia. A law suit against “Iravunk” for defamation was dismissed six days later.

They called upon:
  • Armenia’s delegates to this Assembly, particularly those from the Republican Party, to impress upon colleagues the need to refrain from incitement to hatred and discrimination; 
  • The Armenian authorities to condemn such incitement unreservedly and to put in place measures to implement the Committee of Ministers Recommendation on combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. 
On February 4, Hayk Babukhanyan made a statement on PACE resolution urging the Armenian authorities to put pressure on free press and a politician, that PACE’s call jeopardizes the key democracy principles, the freedom of speech and press, and added he expects them to apologize and leave Iravunk newspaper alone.

PINK Armenia has sent letters to various commissions of National Assembly, as well as to the MPs of the Republican Party to find the steps for the follow up of PACE recommendations, but so far no response has been received.

February 10, 2015

Research: The impact of LGBT emigration on economic indicators of Armenia

The impact of LGBT emigration on economic indicators of Armenia
“Public information and Need of Knowledge” and “Socioscope” Societal Research and Consultancy Center NGOs prepared a report about the LGBT emigration impact on economic indicators of Armenia. The purpose of the project was to study the impact of LGBT emigration on economic indicators of Armenia during 2011-2013 as a result of discrimination against the LGBT community and to reflect those changes in a long-term perspective.

The calculations made by this study demonstrate that, for a citizen of Armenia of average demographics who emigrated during the years 2011-2013, a minimum of the equivalent of $3,545 was spent on education. According to approximate estimates, 5,891 citizens of Armenia emigrated due to discrimination during the years 2011-2013, which implies that society has lost around $21 million in one go only in terms of educational investment toward LGBT emigrants.As for income not received, the calculations reveal that, in the year following emigration during 2011-2013, Armenia did not receive $88,365,000 across three years and for all LGBT emigrants. This is the loss following only one year after emigration, but that loss is prevalent in reality in all the years until the emigrant reaches retirement age.

Budget revenues for all three years taken together – 2011-2013 – could have been more by $20 million had the LGBT individuals who left due to discrimination remained. As a result of the emigration of 5,891 LGBT individuals, the state budget will lose around $2 billion in revenue, at purchasing power as of January 1, 2014, over the course of more than the following 36 years (until retirement).And as a result of LGBT emigration in the following twelve years, from 2014 to 2025, Gross domestic product (GDP) will have a loss of $3 billion at purchasing power as of January 1, 2014, adjusted for Purchasing power parity (PPP), while the budget will lose $370 million at purchasing power as of January 1, 2014.

The full report consists of sociological study and economic assessment. Read the full report with all its findings here.

January 27, 2015

The new draft law on NGOs has caused public sector concerns

According to the new draft law on NGOs submitted by the government, there will be a requirement on financial reports of the non-governmental organizations, and sanctions will be used in case NGOs do not provide the government with the requested reports.

This draft is still in the stage of discussions, but many human rights activists are concerned that this amendment will be put at risk the independence of NGOs.

While the Ministry of Justice argues that instead of trying to control, the law will make the work of the organizations more transparent, David Amiryan, Deputy Director for Programs of the Open Society Foundations - Armenia,commented that failing to report in details on the fundings and purposes can cause the executive to claim the NGOs to stop the activities in Court. This may become a powerful tool in the hands of government to control and threaten the activities of NGOs.

The draft law also require the NGOs to submit an audit report if their annual financial turnover exceeds 10 million. However, the positive sides of the bill include the investment of the volunteering institution, the right of the NGOs to appeal to court itself.

* Note: A few month ago the Ambassador of Russia announced that it would be good for Armenia to have a piece of legislation to control non-governmental organizations as there is one in Russia.

January 20, 2015

Criminals are more welcomed to Armenia than LGBT people

The head of the Police's Public Relations and Information Department Ashot Aharonyan addressed the information spread in Armenia media, that a huge number of criminals are coming to Armenia these days as thieves in law (criminals who are respected, have authority and a high ranking status within the criminal underworld in the old Soviet Union, Russia and the republics that formed the former Soviet Union) meeting is to take place. Aharonyan noted that thousands of people are visiting Armenia for Christmas and New Year holidays, where a person’s right to freedom of movement is protected by law.

Police have announced that the rumors are not true, and that the representatives of the criminal world are constantly in sight of the police, and that each of their move is monitored by law enforcement bodies. 2 weeks later the website Rosbalt.ru reported that the biggest meeting of “thieves in law” took place in Armenia.

Arsen Babayan, the head of Public Relations and Media Department of National Assembly, most likely by trying to support the statements given by the police, explained: “According to the same principle, among the visitors to Armenia these days there will probably be a lot of 'homo-addicts' as well. So what shall we do, shall we blame the Ministry of Health? It is better for the 'thieves in law' to come rather than 'homo-addicts', to whom, unfortunately, media seems to treat naturally".

* Note: homo-addiction is an offensive term to be used in Armenia referring to homosexuality.