September 29, 2011

Schools must stop spreading homophobic and transphobic messages

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, has published a viewpoint on homophobic and transphobic bullying.

In schools across Europe young persons are being harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Homophobic and transphobic bullying is an every day reality in the lives of many. It is time to react – especially in view of several national studies and reports warning that there have been a number of suicides among young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons feeling rejected by their peers and families.

The scope of this problem appears to be large. A study in the United Kingdom showed that nine in ten secondary school teachers had witnessed children being subjected to homophobic bullying in their schools. Among primary school teachers two in five had made similar observations regarding children at this very early stage.

Such studies have also demonstrated that children in primary schools use homophobic remarks alarmingly often. They pick up and repeat negative jargon, most often without even understanding what the words refer to.

My recent report “Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe” contains numerous examples of how factually wrong information about LGBT persons is disseminated – sometimes also by schools themselves. This is a serious problem and may contribute to bullying and to cementing homophobic and transphobic attitudes.

School books used to spread prejudices

The World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases in 1990. Despite this, prejudices and misunderstandings have too often lived on in teaching programmes.
Only this past summer was a decision taken in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to revise a school textbook describing homosexuals as “neurotic and psychotic persons” with an “abnormal, unnatural and degenerated sexual life”. From Lithuania I have received information that children have been taught that homosexuality is a sickness and that same-sex relationships destroy families.

In 2009 the European Committee of Social Rights set an important standard in its review of a complaint against Croatia regarding the content of a school biology textbook which was held to contain prejudiced information. The Committee found that “Certain educational materials which are used in the regular teaching programme are biased, discriminatory and degrading.” Croatia withdrew the textbook as a result of the Committee’s findings, though NGOs in the country still report similar problems with other textbooks.

“Don’t stand for homophobic bullying”

Some member states have taken encouraging initiatives. A national action plan in Norway targets schools at both primary and secondary level and has added an LGBT dimension to subjects in the mainstream curriculum. In Estonia the national study curriculum provides a basis for discussions on LGB issues. UNESCO is initiating an international consultation on homophobic bullying in educational institutions. NGOs conduct indispensable anti-homophobic bullying campaigns such as the Irish ‘Don’t stand for homophobic bullying’ initiative.

There is a strong need to review curricula and teaching materials in all member states of the Council of Europe. This was also emphasised in a Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Recommendation which called on member states to provide “pupils and students with the necessary information, protection and support to enable them to live in accordance with their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Schools obliged to protect students

It is an obligation for all schools to protect their students from bullying and to teach respect and openness. School personnel need thorough training concerning non-discrimination issues. One important tool in this regard could be the Council of Europe training pack on violence reduction in schools.
Policy makers and school management need to give strong support to teachers in order for them to have the means and resources to create a healthy and inclusive environment in schools and classrooms.

Thomas Hammarberg

September 22, 2011

Ginosi Corporation's statement

Online travel agency Ginosi Corporation's disappointment on Radio Van's homophobic attitude:

Dear Radio Van Management,

We recently learned with shock and regret of discriminatory remarks that Shushanik Arevshatyan has made about gays and lesbians on the radio station's official website/blog. This puts Ginosi.com as a corporate sponsor of Radio Van in an awkward position not only with respect to our gay and lesbian customers, employees and business relations but also as a company that views corporate social responsibility and equal opportunity in its business practices as a top priority.

This letter is to inform you that having received this information, we are disappointed and feel put down by your organization. We feel necessitated to suspend all future sponsorship plans for Radio Van effective immediately. Furthermore, this experience has forced us to review our own due diligence process with respect to our corporate sponsorship programs. Namely, we will work to put procedures and processes in place to ensure that we will never again unknowingly finance bigotry.

With this letter we say good bye to Radio Van and finally, we believe that a public apology by Radio Van to the LGBT community is in order.

Yours truly,
Areg Ginosian
Chief Executive Officer
Ginosi Corporation

August 17, 2011

Interview with the president of PINK Armenia

Original post at the Neutral Zone

- Dear Mamikon, what is the overall situation with the LGBT community in Armenia today? What are the key challenges of the community?

People in Armenia still live with taboos and stereotypes and in many cases they mix tradition, religion, customs, habits and reality. In the past LGBT people were hiding because of intolerance, hate and ignorance, and the society thinks that we didn’t have gays at all and that this is something modern and European. In general, today people call whatever they don’t like ‘a European value’, for example gender equality, women’s role in the government and so on, but let me bring an example. What was Europe doing when at the beginning of the 20th century Armenia had women in the parliament and women diplomats? So human rights protection is a universal value and it belongs to Armenia as well.

LGBT still live with a fear and most of them are in closets. The majority doesn’t know anything about sexual orientation and gender identity, even they think that “having a different sexual orientation is immoral,” Neo-Nazi groups even say that heterosexuality is also immoral. These things show that the lack of education and knowledge makes people aggressive and they start to oppose anything they do not understand.

- What are the attitudes: in the society, families, workplace, media toward LGBT? Any changes in this respect in the last 5-10 years?

Our research on LGBT rights and violations in 2010 says that discrimination mainly starts in families and goes wider to schools, workplace, healthcare services, actually everywhere. The media usually promotes hate toward the LGBT community and we don’t have any laws to stop hate speech. Nowadays it is possible to find a few tolerant electronic media or newspapers, but the majority is homophobe, especially TV.

For example “Iravunk” daily often promotes hate crime and they present it as freedom of speech but actually freedom of speech and human rights violation are two different things and in civil and developed counties hate promoters are punished by law. On TV they use the theme of homosexuality for jokes, teasing it as an abnormal and immoral behavior. During the last 5-10 years LGBT people became more or less visible and LGBT issues are on the top of the discussion list. Whether the reaction of the society is positive or negative, the visibility of LGBT issues brings small changes.

-What is the relationship between the law and the LGBT community? Is the law discriminatory or does it protect the LGBT rights?

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 2003 but we don’t have any laws to protect LGBT people, to prevent violence, discrimination or hate speech. There aren’t any anti-discrimination laws in Armenia.

-Are there cases of violence against the LGBT community?

There are many cases of violence against the LGBT community, but mainly they are not registered as violence against LGBT or those cases are not registered at all. Cases of violence can be found everywhere, but for the most part they take place in schools, healthcare sector, police stations and army.

-Are there any positive developments?

The latest positive development was the Ombudsman’s cooperation with PINK, when we signed the Memorandum of Understanding and he announced that he and his team are ready to protect the rights of all people in Armenia and cooperate with human rights organizations. Another positive development is the existence of tolerant journalists and a few newspapers that cover LGBT issues.

The existence of networks and coalitions that support human rights brings positive changes into the society. One drop in the lake is not a big deal but later those drops will make a river and it will run to the lake.

- Is there anything else that you would like to add?

The Armenian Church, as they say, should be tolerant, spread peace and respect, but they are one of the main institutions that spread hate and intolerance against LGBT people. The topics they touch or present always come back to homosexuality and start to blame. In a recent case we had in Armenia, when the representatives of religious minorities and the Armenian Church had a conflict, during the press conference the priest talked about that conflict and religious minorities for a couple of minutes and then the whole press conference was related to homosexuality. On the other hand, it was the journalists who provoked the priest asking irrelevant questions, but the priest replied to their questions with pleasure blaming gays.

In Armenia, people still don’t know all the terms regarding LGBT issues. Many Armenians even think that gays are those who wear dresses, have make-up and behave like girls. As I mentioned, the lack of knowledge and information doesn’t let them to recognize the difference between gay/lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

By Phil Gamaghelyan

July 20, 2011

Armenia lifts travel ban for people living with HIV

The first achievement was amendment of the Law on Preventing the Disease Caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus based on UNAIDS HQ comments and recommendations. The Amendments of the Law (adopted 19 March 2009, ratified 6 April 2009) repealed earlier provisions restricting stay and residence of people living with HIV. However, according to the Law on Foreigners (Article 8/d), the entry, stay and residence of people with an infectious disease that threatens public health was prohibited, and HIV was included on a list of seven “infectious diseases” (Government Decree N49, 25 January 2008).

To fully rescind travel restrictions related to HIV, UNAIDS Armenia continued working with the National Assembly, Ministry of Health, and Migration department on revision of AIDS related sub-legislation. As a result of joint efforts the Decree N49 was reviewed and HIV was excluded from the list of seven “infectious diseases” that threatens public health during the Government session on 30 June 2011 (ref: Gov decree N896 – Ն, dated 30 June, 2011).

Naira Sargsyan, MD, MPH
Social Mobilization and Partnership Adviser
UNAIDS Armenia


In this regard UNAIDS posted a Press statement

GENEVA, 15 July 2011—The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) commends the decision by the Government of Armenia to lift its travel restrictions for people living with HIV. The reforms—which took effect yesterday—align the country’s legislation with international public health standards.

Restrictions that limit an individual’s movement based solely on HIV-positive status are discriminatory and violate human rights. There is no evidence that such restrictions protect public health or prevent HIV transmission. Furthermore, HIV-related travel restrictions have no economic justification, as people living with HIV can lead long and productive working lives.

“I welcome Armenia’s decision to lift its HIV-related travel restrictions,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “I urge other countries to follow Armenia’s example and take the necessary steps to remove punitive laws and practices as a matter of priority,” he added.

With the removal of Armenia’s travel restrictions, UNAIDS counts 48 countries, territories, and areas that continue to impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on HIV status. Five countries deny visas even for short-term stays and 22 countries deport individuals once their HIV-positive status is discovered.

July 15, 2011

Homophobic and transphobic violence must be stopped

A few weeks ago, a peaceful Pride demonstration in Split, Croatia, was brutally attacked by thousands of hooligans, wounding over a dozen people. The counter-demonstrators by far outnumbered the police officers and Pride participants. The police did not fully succeed in protecting the demonstrators, who simply wanted to raise awareness about the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. These events unfolded after weeks of hate speech, threats, graffiti, flyers and social media inciting to hatred.

This is not the first time a manifestation against homophobia and transphobia has suffered assaults and threats from extremists.

In 2010 in Belgrade, Serbia, the police made heroic efforts to protect the first ever Belgrade Pride, but around 150 persons were injured during the confrontations, most of them police officers. Again, the counter-demonstrators outnumbered by far those marching in favour of LGBT rights.

In Vilnius, Lithuania, in 2010, the authorities had to mobilise a large police contingent to shield the Baltic Pride March from violent attackers.

There is a growing awareness among local authorities that peaceful Pride events must be allowed and protected; LGBT persons have the same rights as others to freedom of assembly and expression. This acknowledgement is of course positive.

The continued need for massive police protection however is very negative. It is high time for European politicians to seriously tackle the phenomena of homophobia and transphobia and their root causes. The first step is to recognise that the problem is serious and that systematic action is needed to promote awareness on all levels in society. Then there is an urgent need to counter all tendencies of discrimination against this group of people - also in official human rights and equality policies.

In the past five years I have monitored the implementation of human rights for LGBT persons in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe. The result was recently published in a report: Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in Europe.

The report lists a number of obstacles to the full enjoyment of their universal human rights. It shows, for example, that homophobic and transphobic harassment in the workplace and bullying of LGBT persons in schools is common in practically all member states. The official registration of LGBT organisations was obstructed or refused in five countries in Europe, and attempts to criminalise “propaganda or promotion of homosexuality” were identified in three member states.

There has been little response to national studies and reports which flag that a disproportionate number of young LGBT persons see no other way out than committing suicide due to the non acceptance of their sexual orientation or gender identity by their peers and families. Very few countries recognise homophobic or transphobic violence in their hate crime legislation.

Transgender persons face particularly severe human rights problems in almost all areas of life. If they want their preferred gender to be legally recognised, in 29 member states they face a legal requirement to undergo gender reassignment surgery, leading to infertility. Some 15 member states even require the transgender person to be unmarried in order to obtain recognition, which entails mandatory divorce if the person is already married.

Too often politicians and policy makers ignore the human rights of LGBT persons when designing policies or drafting legislation. There are disturbing examples of debates in national parliaments which are characterised by a high level of prejudice, bias and outdated information, including claims that homosexuality is an illness

Governments need to pursue legislative reforms and social change to enable LGBT persons to fully enjoy universally recognised human rights. National and international monitoring, including by Equality Bodies and Ombudsman Offices, is needed to measure progress.

Change is only possible if European countries show more genuine political will to address this problem with much more determination than has so far been demonstrated.

Thomas Hammarberg
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

June 23, 2011

Council of Europe launched its first and the comprehensive European study on the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people to date

Today, the Council of Europe launched its social-legal report on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. This is the first ever report covering all 47 member states of the Council of Europe on a range of human rights issues that are pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people.

ILGA-Europe warmly welcomes this significant report which not only maps the legal situation but also highlights the social attitudes and opinions about LGBT people: while there is certain progress in some countries, others continue discrimination and violation of basic human rights of LGBT people.

When it comes to social attitudes, the report clearly demonstrates that LGBT people continue to be subjected to homophobia and transphobia in their everyday lives in all Council of Europe member states and those attitudes are being based on ‘outdated and incorrect information’ about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender .

The report contains a number of specific recommendations to the Council of Europe member states on how to end discrimination and ensure full equality for LGBT people. It also provides a number of recommendations on non-legislative measures such as state education programmes aiming to increase awareness and understanding of various sexual orientations and gender identities and therefore promote improvement of the social attitudes based on facts and objective information.

Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:
“This is a very important document which looks at the issues of equality and human rights of LGBT people from different angles and provides clear recommendations and suggestions to the Council of Europe member states. There is clear and urgent need to improve legislation to achieve full equality and respect for human rights. The legislation also needs to be supported by proper implementation plans and mechanisms to give its full and practical meaning. The report also looks at the issues of political will, social attitudes and current European consensus and again, provides a range of specific suggestions how the situation can be improved.

We hope that this report along with the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers Recommendations adopted in March and a number of the judgements by the European Court of Human Rights, will provide European countries with a solid road map towards full equality and respect of LGBT people’s human rights. We believe there is sufficient European consensus and legal foundation for such improvement, all is required to fill the existing gaps is a political will of the national governments to bring their countries in line with the expected European standard.”

June 21, 2011

They leave behind their lives to crawl toward the future

Where have I come from? Where shall I go? Where is the place you await me to come to? Or isn't there anybody waiting for me?

People around the world leave their motherland, leave the places where they grew up and used to live. They leave it for professional or personal reasons in some cases but the main factors can be war, hate, discrimination, nazism, intolerance, frustration, stress, ignorance, aggression. The main thought which remains in your mind is to run away, to disappear and to save your soul... or to stay and to struggle and even to die.
World, you cut and paste, you drag and drop refugees all around you!
Anahit Hayrapetyan
One may become a refugee, because he can’t live on the land which was occupied after a war or a genocide.
The other one flees, because political views and activism can cause a danger.
And you are a refugee now, because your characteristic features are not acceptable for the compatriots.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees crossed the border and never came back, they went to find their freedom under the shadows of western democracy that Armenia could never insure. Among them were those whose feelings and emotions were not accepted by the majority, their sexual orientation and gender identity were not considered as traditional, their life became endangered in their own homeland, and peace was somewhere far away. Those people are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer; those people are considered as strangers on their own land.
The refugees that flee, they leave behind their lives to crawl toward the future.
Anahit Hayrapetyan
photo by Karen Mirzoyan, 2008
(photo is cropped)
When you left me alone to find your freedom, you took my heart with you, you put it in your baggage next to your scarfs and shirts, you left and never came back to see me, you cried but never showed your tears, you just gave me the last kiss to live with and I feel it on my lips even today. Then we realized that happiness was not here and not there, it was with us when we were together. You are a refugee in a foreign society but I feel as a refugee even in my own land, because they always say: “This is not your country”. Neither here nor there, where do I belong and where do you belong?

Iranians escape to Armenia, Armenians escape to Russia, Russians escape to Europe and it goes on and on.

But we are here we are queer and this is our world, too!

video

Director: George Barbakadze
Writers: George Barbakadze, Fleurtasha Cooper

June 16, 2011

Human Rights. Defender’s platform. Civil Society

On 3-4 June 2011 Office of the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia (HRDO) convened already third forum in series of forums entitled “Human Rights. Defender’s Platform”. This time forum entitled “Civil Society” was dedicated to the partnership with civil society organizations and brought together 130 participants from more than 85 human rights NGOs, international organizations, attorneys and media. Forum was supported by the European Union, World Vision Armenia and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The aim of the “Civil Society” Forum was to strengthen cooperation and promote active dialogue between the Office of the Human Rights Defender and leading human rights NGOs specialized in the issues of minorities, refugees, children, disabled people, women, military servicemen, rights of persons in detentions and penitentiaries, environmental rights, rights of the persons suffered from violence and torture as well as NGOs promoting the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of expression.

Followers of @pinkarmenia twitter had possibility to read live tweets of our representative, Mamikon Hovsepyan, who used #CSforum and #HRArmenia as hashtag for those tweets. Below you can read the most important ones.

Day one, July 3

starting the "Civil Society" forum in Tsaghkadzor, organized by Armenian Ombudsman

the Ombudsman takes the floor, presenting his welcome speech

Karen Andreasyan, Ombudsman, mentioned that they specifies 11 spheres to work with

Karen Andreasyan finalized his speech, asking for civil society's support for Ombudsman further work

Raul de Luccenberger, EU representative told that we should be proud to have such an important institution as Ombudsman office in Armenia

once students asked to EU representative, What is the way for Armenia to become an EU member, he answered "To believe"

OSCE will support Ombudsman office for its strengthening and cooperation with human rights defender organizations

representative of National Security Council presenting their strategic plan to protect human rights in Armenia

during the private conversation with Mamikon Hovsepyan, the National Security Council representative denied that Baghdasaryan is homophobe

now Civil Society representatives are presenting human rights violations in 11 spheres mentioned by Ombudsman

FYI: LGBT situation won't be presented, PINK was informed few days ago when the agenda was ready and no changes where available

changes: Ombudsman will sign a separate memorandum with PINK, before it was decided to have with national minorities

organizational side of the forum is a bit weak, but to compare with previous, this ombudsman is better

court, judges, police, juridical institutes... we need changes in this sphere, we need to monitor their work and demand JUSTICE

gender roles: women's participation in decision making, in parliament, in government and high levels is weak

Susanna Vardanyan from Women's Rights Center presenting 3 main types of violence against women: physical, psychological, sexual

S. Vardanyan also talks about the case of Zaruhi Petrosyan, CSVW coalition's work and CS initiatives about the changes of law

mass media representative where beaten, are being beaten and will be beaten until we dont have strong law for freedom of speech

A. Musheghyan: After car accident I couldn't walk anymore, i sent back home from hospital and couldn't reach the 5th floor

Musheghyan: If I become a parliamentarian how can I go to work, they have no conditions for handicapped people

there are 183000 handicapped people in Armenia and 100.000 of them are able to work but they don't work

Ombudsman left the room after the official part of the meeting, some participants call it lack of respect toward civil society

PINK: everybody at this forum talks about respect, tolerance and cooperation but do they all respect others and their rights? Not sure

Most of the speakers didn't understand that it is not an NGO presentation but situation presentation of their sphere

Artak Kirakosyan, CSI, asked the vise-president of Collaboration for Democracy, Mikayel Baghdasaryan to leave the forum as he violated women

As A.Kirakosyan mentioned, Mikayel Baghdasaryan, has beaten his female colleague & more

the last speaker, the main hate speech promoter Karine Danielyan

homophobe Karine Danielyan about human rights. Funny

Karine Danielyan is talking about her sphere, ecology. In other meetings she forgets about her responsibilities, promoting hate

 Day two, July 4

starting discussions with the working groups, felt ignorance & dislike from the side of national minorities toward LGBT issues

human rights defenders of national minorities do not want to see Muslim women with covered head in Armenia

they said national minorities should leave accepting Armenian rules but the still speak about xenophobia

national minorities put their problems next to general problems in Armenia and do not talk about nazism and racism

representative of Jewish minorities said that National Security Council should take care of LGBT issues in Armenia

national minorities want to raise the law of hate speech which was suggested Mamikon Hovsepyan

hardly but finally representatives of national minorities see their problems & in some cases put LGBT rights next to it

Yezidi representative demands places at national assembly, other national minority representative don't care about it

Mamikon asked the representatives of national minorities to accept diversity and respect all kind of human rights

working groups finalized discussions, presentation will be prepared and introduced to the Ombudsman and participants

K. Andreasyan: "There are many other human rights organizations in Armenia but we trust those who are here now"

1. human rights protection in armed forces

2. judicial rights: including issues of fair trials and justice

3. women's rights: women's involvement in politics, women's role in social advertisements, violence against women

4. freedom of speech: including involvement of NGOs in the work regarding freedom of speech

5. rights of handicapped people (people with fewer opportunities)

6. rights of people faced violence and torture: specified mainly in police stations, it was suggested to mention that National Security office is also violating people as in police stations

7. rights of people in prisons

8. children's rights: among other problems was mentioned violence, especially sexual abuse against children

9. Minorities: national, religious, sexual, though there was no representative from religious minorities

10. refugees

11. Environment

first time ever in official document Armenia will use Armenian word to refer LGBT issues

Environment group boycotts and will not sign memorandum, Hope it is not K. Danielyan's idea against LGBT rights protection

June 4, the first ever Armenian document with Armenian terms to protect the rights of LGBT people in Armenia

June 13, 2011

Historic memorandum between Armenia human rights Ombudsman and PINK Armenia on protection of LGBT rights

via Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Remember this date: 4 June 2011. On that very date, during Civil Society Forum in Tsaghkadzor, for the first time ever, Armenia human rights Ombudsman and PINK Armenia signed historic memorandum on collaboration in protection of LGBT rights. Another important milestone has been passed which could lead to the development of practical mechanisms and legal basis for human rights protection of LGBT people in Armenia. What is also extremely important, perhaps for the first time, acceptable Armenian terms to refer to gay/lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were used in the official document [նույնասեռական, երկսեռական, գենդերափոխ].
PINK Armenia (@pinkarmenia)
SIGNED!!! memorandum between PINK and Ombudsman to protect the rights of #LGBT people, historical moments of Armenia! #CSforum #HRArmenia

PINK Armenia (@pinkarmenia)
June 4, the first ever Armenian document with Armenian terms to protect the rights of #LGBT people in Armenia #CSforum #HRArmenia
Memorandum is signed for 6 years: 4 June 2011 till 1 February 2017.

read the full post here

May 1, 2011

Armenian music band VO.X: mutual understanding

VO.X frontrunner Aram Rian has re-edited and replaced the controversial portion of the band’s "I Love Armenia" music video, by removing the reference to homosexuality as “perversion”. We have reached a mutual understanding with the group and consider this matter resolved as dialogue has taken place. We no longer have reason to believe either Aram Rian or VO.X is homophobic, and we wish them success in their future endeavors.

Group of LGBT and human rights activists

April 14, 2011

We keep silence

The Day of Silence is an event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take some form of a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior. The event is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of this bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.

As a way of supporting the idea and those that are harassed in Armenia, we will undertake certain actions:

We apologize, but we won’t be available for the world on April 15: we will not respond to emails, phone calls, we will not have any activities and will not provide any direct service. on April 15, we will keep silence for…

Next day silence will be broken by launching our new e-mag “As you”!

***

History: In 1996, students at the University of Virginia, USA organized the first Day of Silence in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests. Over 150 students participated in this inaugural Day of Silence. In 2001, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network (GLSEN) became the official organizational sponsor for the event. GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

April 9, 2011

Report: discrimination and societal abuses

Section 6 of Human Rights Report by the U.S. Department of States. Armenia, 2010
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status; however, the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions in practice.

Women

Rape is a criminal offense and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years' imprisonment. There are no explicit laws criminalizing marital rape. According to police information cited by the Prosecutor General's Office, nine cases of rape and attempted rape were registered in the country during the year. In connection with these cases, nine individuals were prosecuted, seven were convicted, and two cases were still under investigation. According to official information, none of these reported cases constituted marital rape. Crimes such as rape continued to be underreported due to the social stigma attached to them.
There is no law against domestic violence. Few cases of spousal abuse or other violence against women were reported during the year, although such violence was believed to be widespread.
According to domestic observers, most cases of domestic violence continued to go unreported because victims were afraid of physical harm, were apprehensive that police would return them to their husbands, or were ashamed to disclose their family problems.
On October 1, police launched an investigation into the death of 20-year-old Zaruhi Petrosian, a resident of the town of Masis, who was hospitalized late on September 30 with a brain hematoma, a broken finger, and bruises on her body. The police subsequently arrested Yanis Sargisov, Petrosian's common law husband, on charges of willful heavy damage to health leading to death by negligence. The criminal investigation was later transferred to the investigation department of the Ministry of Defense in light of Sargisov's service in the armed forces. According to Hasmik Petrosian, Zaruhi Petrosian's sister, Zaruhi had long been physically abused by her husband and mother-in-law. Officials stated the investigation could not corroborate abuse by the mother-in-law. At year's end, the investigation of Sargisov continued while he remained in custody. Petrosian's child remained in an orphanage while the mother-in-law and Petrosian's sister both claimed custody of the child.
In March the domestic Women's Resource Center Armenia (WRCA) NGO launched a public awareness campaign to advertise its Sexual Assault Crisis Center and help hotline. The Yerevan municipality eventually rejected the organization's application to advertise the center on large commercial billboards, on the grounds that the billboard graphics would place unnecessary psychological stress on teenagers and women. The municipality then took steps to remove all WRCA's advertising. The WRCA asserted that, by limiting the billboards to providing only the help hotline number, the municipality reduced the effect of its advocacy against sexual assault of women.There were reports that women, especially those in rural or remote areas, faced insufficient access to adequate general and reproductive health-care services. Observers noted various efforts made to improve reproductive health care had not been effective.

Children

On January 11, the Prosecutor General's Office began a criminal investigation of allegations of sexual and physical abuse of female students by a teacher at Special School No. 11 for children with special needs. This action reversed the office's August 2009 determination the allegations were unsubstantiated. A group of youth activists who served as volunteers at the school raised the initial alarm of abuse in 2008. On May 24, the trial court convicted former teacher Levon Avakian, who admitted his guilt, to two years in prison. On May 31, the Ministry of Education and Science dismissed the principal, Meruzhan Yengibarian, citing lack of trust in his capacity to head the school. The youth activists considered the teacher's punishment to be too lenient and called for further investigation into the role played by the principal and other teachers, who were reportedly aware of but did not prevent the abuse. On August 4, following an appeal by the victims, the court of appeals increased Avakian's sentence to three years.
A 2009 study by the domestic NGO Armenian Helsinki Committee monitored 12 special education schools and four boarding institutions. Many children indicated that, among other forms of punishment, they had been slapped or beaten, shut in a classroom, or prevented from going home. Some teachers admitted resorting to violence for discipline. The study also noted that most institutions lacked proper central heating, and that sanitary and hygiene conditions were substandard. In a study of 12 general education schools in the Syunik Region during the same period, the NGO found that physical or psychological violence, including beating, slapping, pulling ears, and other degrading treatment were used regularly as punishment. Treatment of students at schools was unequal and depended on teachers' relations with students, whether students pursued private classes with a teacher, and whether students had influential parents. The results of studies in 2007 and 2008 by the same organization were substantively the same.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other state services; however, discrimination remained a problem. The law and a special government decree provide for accessibility to buildings, including schools, for persons with disabilities, but in practice very few buildings and other facilities were accessible to these persons. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities but failed to do so effectively.
In spite of the large number of officially registered persons with disabilities in the country, disabled persons are seldom seen outside the home due to the social stigma associated with disabilities. In extreme cases the social stigma sometimes prompts families to hide their disabled children completely from public view, depriving them in the process from access to education and integration into society.
Persons with all types of disabilities experienced problems in virtually all spheres of life, including health care, social and psychological rehabilitation, education, transportation, communication, access to employment, and social protection. Access to information and communications was a particularly significant problem for persons with sensory disabilities. Hospitals, residential care, and other facilities for persons with serious disabilities remained substandard. According to official data, more than 90 percent of persons with disabilities who were able to work were unemployed.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Societal attitudes towards homosexuality remained highly unfavorable, with society generally viewing homosexuality as an affliction.
Persons who were openly gay were exempted from military service, purportedly because of concern they would be abused by fellow servicemen. However, the actual exemption required a medical finding via psychological examination that gays possessed a mental disorder, which was stamped in their documents and could affect their future.
According to human rights activists, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons experienced some of the most humiliating discrimination in prisons, where they were forced to do some of the most degrading jobs and separated from the rest of the prison population.
Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation continued to be a problem with respect to employment, family relations, and access to education and health care for sexual minorities.
In an interview with the Iravunk biweekly that appeared in the newspaper's December 24 to 27 edition, Artur Baghdasarian, secretary of the National Security Council that advises the president on national security matters, answered a question on homosexuality stating that, "Such conduct does not fit in with our society. Family and Armenian traditions prevail for people who were the first to adopt Christianity. Those unnatural things are unacceptable to us. I am against limitations of human rights in general. However, I consider homosexuality is extremely dangerous for Armenia."
In an interview in the Hraparak daily on December 6, National Police Chief Alik Sargsyan answered a question on the gathering of homosexuals in one of Yerevan's central parks, stating that, "We try to take them to such a place where they won't be seen, but they like to appear in public. We do not practice any violent measures, do not violate human rights, it is their business, but in our city, it is not appropriate for people…I cannot bear them physically."

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were no reports during the year of acts of societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.
Many employers reportedly discriminated against potential employees by age, most commonly requiring job applicants to be between the ages of 18 and 30. While this discrimination appeared to be widespread, authorities did not take any action to mitigate it. After the age of 40, workers, particularly women, continued to have little chance of finding jobs appropriate to their education or skills.

for the full version of the report, please click here

March 3, 2011

Official disclaimer statement by VO.X music group (updated)

Last summer respected music group VO.X bradcasted their new video "I love Armenia" where they presented different types of disasters and addictions, among which same-sex relations where mentioned as perversion. Unfortunately they have opposed to their own statement that was shared in the beginning of the video, which says: "PRETENDING BLIND OR UNAWARE OF CERTAIN ISSUES WOULD NOT MAKE THESE ISSUES CEASE TO EXIST..."

PINK Armenia is thankful that Aram Rian agreed to meet and discuss this issue. He mentioned, as a musician and tolerant person, never wanted to hurt anybody, and couldn't imagine how that video could harm any individual or the whole community.

We post Aram's statement below and you are welcome to make comments and write your own opinions. The statement is attached also to the video in their youtube channel, posted in their facebook page and shared in Unzipped: GayArmenia blog


Official disclaimer statement. Re: music video "I love Armenia"

March 2nd, 2011
Yerevan, Armenia

To Whom It May Concern

I hereby state that, based on Biblical principles, I personally hold the belief that Christianity and homosexuality cannot be viewed as reconcilable phenomena (This approach was reflected within the context of my music video "I Love Armenia", which spoke of cherishing Christian values in traditional Christian Armenia).

Nonetheless, by no means does that imply that I have ever intended to promote homophobia or hate towards sexual minorities through my musical career.

According to a commonly known definition (also stated by Wikipedia), "the term 'homophobia' is often used inaccurately to describe any person who objects to homosexual behaviour on either moral, psychological or medical grounds. Technically, however, the term actually denotes a person who has a phobia – or irrational fear – of homosexuality. Principled disagreement, therefore, cannot be labeled 'homophobia'." My case is that of objection on moral grounds. Hence, I cannot be viewed as a homophobe, because, in fact, I am not.

Being a human rights defender by nature and generally a peaceful tolerant person with a pacifist world view, I would never deliberately offend or discriminate any person or a group of people. Nor would I ever cross the boundaries, set by the amount of freedom of speech and expression assigned to me as an individual.

Therefore, if it ever appeared that I was willingly offending a specific category of people through my musical activities, I can sincerely assure the persons concerned that I had never been driven by such a motive.

I sincerely regret that it all led to certain forms of misconception, I regret that people were offended by the above-mentioned video and I truly wish to settle the matter once and for all.

Aram Rian
songwriter, musician
(VO.X)

UPDATE May 1, 2011: VO.X frontrunner Aram Rian has re-edited and replaced the controversial portion of the band’s "I Love Armenia" music video, by removing the reference to homosexuality as “perversion”. We have reached a mutual understanding with the group and consider this matter resolved as dialogue has taken place. We no longer have reason to believe either Aram Rian or VO.X is homophobic, and we wish them success in their future endeavors.

February 24, 2011

Civic actions will be moderated by hate promoter in Armenia

Why the Civilitas Foundation chose a homophobe moderator for their One Hundred Questions and Answers, how Aram Abrahamyan can be neutral and moderate any discussion while he cannot moderate his newspaper and himself as a journalist, where is going to take us the partnership of Civilitas and Mr. Abrahamyan?
  • Civilization or hatred?
  • Civic Activism or ignorance?
  • Tolerance or homophobia?
Those are the first questions of PINK out of hundred.

Here is another reflection of Unzipped blog When hypocrisy meets homophobia: founder of Civilitas Foundation and editor of Aravot daily