July 23, 2015

Armenia’s stance towards recommendations of Universal Periodic Review

During the 29th Regular Session of Human Rights Council, June 25, the state of Armenia presented its official stance towards the recommendations made during the review of the human rights record of Armenia earlier this year.

Large number of recommendations included, among others, adopting and effectively implementing legislation to ensure prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, combating hate propaganda and ensuring that appropriate training is provided to officials, and that law enforcement authorities carry out thorough and prompt investigations regarding attacks on LGBTI persons.

Gladly, most of these recommendations have been supported by the Republic of Armenia, including those related to prohibition of discrimination and discriminatory based activities against LGBT people which were carefully formulated. However, the Republic of Armenia noted one recommendation in which juridical adjustments were requested.

Even so, this small achievement is very important to our work, as it means the acknowledgement by the state of existence of various human rights issues of LGBT people that need to be addressed. The results of this report should be a starting point by the state to undertake necessary measures to improve the lives of LGBT people in Armenia.

To remind, that PINK Armenia, together with partner organizations, had submitted an alternative report for the 21st session of the Universal Periodic Review, where recommendations on prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity had been highly emphasized.

July 22, 2015

Armenia to have a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

On July 15, a state commission formed by President Serzh Sargsyan on publicized its draft constitutional amendments envisaging Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial head of state not elected by popular vote.

Under the new Constitution, the president of the republic will be elected by an electoral college consisting of National Assembly members and representatives of local government bodies. It is widely believed that President Sargsyan has initiated the reform to be able to stay in power in some other capacity after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.

 Lawmakers discussing plans to amend Armenia's constitution back in 2005 expressed broad support for a ban on same-sex marriages. 10 years later we still witness the same intention. The Constitutional amendments refer to changes for the freedom of marriage. Article 35 of the (current) Constitution of The Republic of Armenia states: Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and found a family according to their free will. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and divorce. Article 34, in contrast, according to the amendments, states: Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry with each other and found a family according to their free will. Thus, the new Constitution is limiting the freedom of marriage to opposite sex, Armenia is to join the countries who have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The draft Constitution is expected to be completed by early August. Subsequently, the draft shall be submitted to the President. If approved, it will be introduced to the National Assembly, and then a Referendum Day will be set.

May 25, 2015

IDAHOT in Armenia

Several advocacy and public events took place in Yerevan on the occasion of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The awareness about the Day has been successfully increased covering different layers of the society.

On the eve of IDAHOT, activists made the uncompromising statement of Stonewall “Some people are gay, get over it” available on the streets of Yerevan for passers-by.

PINK Armenia initiated personal letters to all of the MPs, some of the relevant ministries, prime minister of the country and the president Serzh Sargsyan. PINK called upon the state officials to monitor direct and indirect cases of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, to ensure the legislative amendments to combat discrimination based on SOGI, thus ensuring equal rights and respect towards LGBT people. The letter addressed to the president urged him not to reward persons and organizations openly demonstrating hate calls with national awards. The letter addressed to the MPs pointed out not to use the chair of the National Assembly as a platform for hate speech. The letters stated that the Government is also expected to adopt and implement the recommendations of UPR on regards to prohibiting and preventing discrimination based on SOGI.

PINK also gifted state officials informational booklets about homophobia and postcards with personal stories of LGBT persons who were subjected to violence and discrimination.

On May 17 PINK activists raised the LGBT flag in the very heart of Yerevan, which caused hysteria among the homophobic society and hate calls and threats towards the activists.

To conclude the day, IDAHOT was celebrated in a closed venue attended by more than 120 LGBT people and allies. Rarely in Armenia does the LGBT community have a safe and secure platform to express themselves openly, yet IDAHOT was celebrated in an easy and free environment.

April 22, 2015

Armenian PACE delegate against LGBT rights

As LGBTnews.am (link in Armenian) reports, Prosperous Armenia MP Naira Zohrabyan, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe delegation representative from Armenia, has a negative attitude towards LGBT people and tries to stay away from their issues. Zohrabyan recognizes that we shall avoid such depravity to preserve our nation’s moral and ethnic description. MP noted that in Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly she had constantly voted against all the initiatives aimed at the protection of LGBT people.
“…[M]y attitude towards them is negative and it cannot be changed, because I know there is a law of nature, a law of God, commandments, and the class that will go against the commandments of God, will be awarded the punishment of God. Yes, there probably is a class among them that is sick by genetics, another class that has mental disorders, but we shall not pay tribute… I’ll do my best to ensure they fail spreading their metastasis, I say it openly and publicly”, she said.
PACE delegation substitute from Armenia, "Armenian Revolutionary Federation" faction MP Armen Rustamyan finds that LGBT rights are more than protected in Armenia. He also finds that there’s a huge difference between “vulnerable groups” and LGBT people. “Homosexual marriages do not fit into Armenian mentality … and if the family does not reproduce, then it is not a family”, he concluded.

April 21, 2015

The ombudsman's annual report also refers to LGBT issues

Ombudsman’s Annual Report of 2014 on the human rights protection in Armenia has recently been released. The annual report also refers to LGBT rights violations of 2014, submitted by PINK Armenia. Although the submitted information has not been thoroughly included and presented in the annual report, it includes some of the main issues LGBT people face. The report states that the index of society’s intolerance towards LGBT people remains high. The survey on constitutional reform of 2014 showed that 88% of respondents believe that the rights of sexual minority must be limited. Meanwhile, the 2015 UN Universal Periodic Review working group instructed Armenia to take effective legislative and practical measures to ensure the protection of sexual minorities from discrimination. Human rights defenders recorded 1233 cases of discrimination, physical violence, and inadequate response to LGBT people complaints from the side of law enforcement bodies. Acts of discrimination against LGBT people is often expressed in media, spheres of healthcare, education, labor.
“Gay people are in a more vulnerable situation in penitentiary institutions, where they often perform the most humiliating jobs (eg, sewage cleaning), live isolated from other prisoners, no one communicates with them, their utensils and belongings are separated” is said in the Ombudsman's annual report.