LGBT rights in Armenia

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LGBT rights in Armenia Armenia
Location of  LGBT rights in Armenia  (green)

in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Male legal since 2003[1]
Gender identity/expression -
Military service Gays and lesbians are not allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections No law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption Same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Armenia are not legislated in both the legal and social spheres.

Homosexuality has been legal in Armenia since 2003.[1] However, even though it has been decriminalized, the situation of local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens has not changed substantially. Many LGBT Armenians fear being socially outcast by their friends and families, causing them to keep their sexual orientation or gender identity private. Recently, the LGBT community in Armenia has become better connected due to social media, although a sense of fear and a desire for anonymity remains due to the nation's conservative culture.

Homosexuality remains a taboo topic in many parts of Armenian society. In a 2012 study, 55% of correspondents in Armenian stated that they would cease their relationship with a friend or relative if they were to come out as gay. Furthermore, this study found that 70% of Armenians find LGBT people to be "strange." [2] There is, moreover, no legal protection for LGBT persons whose human rights are violated regularly.[3][4] Armenia has been ranked 47th out of 49 European countries for LGBT rights, with Russia and neighboring Azerbaijan taking the 48th and 49th positions, respectively. [5] The younger generation of Armenians still remain very unknowledgeable about many LGBT issues, likely attributed to the family culture where young people live at home until they reach the primary goal for many Armenians, heterosexual marriage.

Many LGBT claim to fear violence in their workplace or from their family, and therefore, are said to not file complaints of claimed human rights violations or of criminal offences.[6]

Former legislation against homosexuality[edit]

Between 1920-1991 Armenia was part of the USSR.

Until 2003 the legislation of Armenia followed the corresponding Section 121 from the former Soviet Union penal code, which only specifically criminalized anal intercourse between men. Lesbian and non-penetrative gay sex between consenting adults was not explicitly mentioned in the law as being a criminal offence.

The specific article of the penal code was 116, dating back to 1936, and the maximum penalty was 5 years.

The abolition of the anti-gay law along with the death penalty was among Armenia's pre-accession conditions to the Council of Europe back in 2001. In December 2002, Azgayin Zhoghov (National Assembly) has approved the new penal code in which the anti-gay article has been removed. On 1 August 2003 the President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan has ratified it bringing to an end the decades of repression against gay men in this South Caucasian Republic.

There were 7 prosecutions in 1996 and 4 in 1997 under this law (Amnesty International 1999 Report on Armenia); and 4 in 1999 (Opinion of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe on the accession of Armenia - Doc. 8756 - 6 June 2000).

In 2001, local human rights NGO "Helsinki Association"[7] published via its website the story of a 20-year-old Hovik Minassian.[8]

In 1999 the young man was sentenced to 3 months of imprisonment for having sex with another man. He was the last condemned under article 116. In his testimony, he denounced prison guard abuse and mistreatment but also the corrupted judge who shortened his sentence for a $US 1000 bribe. The mediatization of his case signed the first gay "coming out" in Armenia.

The birth of a movement[edit]

Following the abolition of the law, some sporadic signs of an emerging LGBT rights movement were observed in Armenia. In October 2003, a group of 15 LGBT people gathered in Yerevan to set up an organization which was initially baptised GLAG (Gay and Lesbian Armenian Group). But after several meetings the participants failed to achieve their goal.

In 1998, the Armenian Gay and Lesbian Association of New York was founded to support LGBT Diasporan Armenians.[9]

In the fall of 2004, prompted by the announcement of Armen Avetisyan, founder of AAU (Armenian Aryan Union), an extreme right group, that some Armenian top officials were gay, various parliament members initiated heated debates that were broadcast over the public TV channel. Members of Parliament stated that any member found to be gay should resign – an opinion shared by the Presidential Advisor for National Security, Garnik Isagulyan.[10]

In 2007, Pink Armenia,[11] another NGO, emerged to promote public awareness on HIV and other STI (sexually transmitted infections) prevention but also to fight the discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Pink conducts research on the status of LGBT people in Armenia, while working with other NGOs to combat homophobia.

In May 2012, Suspected "Neo Nazis" have launced two arson attacks at a lesbian-owned pub in Armenia's capital, Yerevan, since the start of the pub. Armenian News reported that in the second attack on 15 May, a group of young men arrived at the gay DIY Rock Pub around 6pm, where they burned the bar’s ‘No to Fascism’ poster and drew the Nazi Swastika on the walls. This rapidly followed a second attack earlier on 8 May, where a petrol bomb was thrown through the Rock Pub’s window.[12]

In 2013 the Armenian Police proposed a bill outlawing "non-traditional sexual relationships" and the promotion of LGBT "propaganda" to youth in a law similar to the Russian anti-gay law.[13] Ashot Aharonian, a police spokesperson, stated that the bill was proposed due to the public's fear of the spreading of homosexuality and that the bill did not fail due to international pressure as many believe. Furthermore, NGOs including Pink Armenia claim that this was an attempt to distract the public from various sociopolitical issues within the country.

Iravunk Newspaper Incident[edit]

On May 17, 2014 the Iravunk newspaper publishes an article with a list of dozens of people's Facebook accounts from the Armenian LGBT community, calling them "zombies" and accused them of serving the interest of the international homosexual lobby. [14] The newspaper was taken to Armenian Court of Appeals, where the judge found that the newspaper did not offend anybody and ordered the plaintiffs to pay 50,000 AMD as compensation to the newspaper and its editor, Hovhannes Galajyan.[15] Many see this in line with Armenia's step away from the European Union as it voted to join the Eurasian Economic Union primarily dominated by the largely homophobic Russia. The event was seen as highly discouraging to the LGBT rights movement in Armenia, yet it put Armenia in the international spotlight due to media coverage via social media.

Recognition of same-sex marriage[edit]

In 2006, a couple of gay Armenians from France celebrated an informal wedding ceremony[16][17] in the Etchmiadzin Cathedral (Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church). The article published about this improvised marriage in "168 Zham" (168 Hours) newspaper has provoked a scandal and indignation of local conservative media outlets, politicians and religious officials.[18]

As of today, civil unions and same-sex marriages are not recognised in Armenia and there is no public debate surrounding such legislation at the given time. The government has close ties with the Armenian Apostolic Church, which will further slow any attempts at what they consider 'promoting any such political agenda'.


As of today, Armenia does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children and there is no known debate surrounding such legislation at the given time.

Anti-discrimination law[edit]

Even though Armenia was the first nation in the region to endorse the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity in December 2008, as of today there is no legislation protecting LGBT persons from discrimination. Surveys show that 50% of people in Armenia would "walk away indifferently" if they were witnessing violence against an LGBT person, highlighting the strongly-embedded cultural homophobia.[2]

Military service[edit]

According to the Helsinki Rights Committee in Armenia, in 2004 an internal defence ministry decree effectively bans gay men from serving in the armed forces. In practice, gays are marked as mentally ill and sent to a psychiatrist.[19]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

No information available at this moment.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 2003)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2003)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSM allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b State-sponsored Homophobia A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults Archived 19 July 2013 at WebCite
  2. ^ a b PINK Armenia. "ISSUU - Public opinion toward LGBT people in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor cities by PINK Armenia". Issuu. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  3. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refworld - Armenian Gays Face Long Walk to Freedom". Refworld. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  4. ^ "Hetq - News, Articles, Investigations". 20 August 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  5. ^ "Armenia is number 3 among unfavorable countries for LGBTI people in Europe". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  6. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refworld - The Leader in Refugee Decision Support". Refworld. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  7. ^ "Home". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  8. ^ Helsinki Association's Open Pages: Homosexuals - Money source for the police
  9. ^ "About". Armenian Gay & Lesbian Association of NY. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "Bigots on Baghramian?: Parliament Members Continue Gay Debate". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  11. ^ Official website of Pink Armenia
  12. ^ artmika. "Unzipped: Gay Armenia". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  13. ^ "Armenian Bill On Gay ‘Propaganda’ Ban Withdrawn". «Ազատ Եվրոպա/Ազատություն» ռադիոկայան. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Court of Appeal decision on the case against “Iravunk”: The newspaper did not offend anyone". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "“Love and Loyalty”: Marriage in secret, in an environment of fear - Features -". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  17. ^ "GAYRUSSIA - Равные права без компромиссов". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  18. ^ "GAYRUSSIA - Равные права без компромиссов". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "Armenia: Gays Live with Threats of Violence, Abuse". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 

External links[edit]