LGBT rights in Armenia

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LGBT rights in Armenia Armenia
Europe-Armenia.svg
Location of  LGBT rights in Armenia  (green)

in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status Made legal since 2003[1]
Gender identity/expression -
Military service LGBT people are not allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections No law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
Same-sex marriages performed abroad recognised since 2017 [2]
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 secret. 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." [3] There is, moreover, no legal protection for LGBT persons whose human rights are violated regularly.[4][5] 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.[6] 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 people 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.[7]

Nevertheless, in 2017, Armenia became the second Asian country where same-sex marriages performed abroad are recognised. Additionally, in 2011, Armenia signed the "joint statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity" at the United Nations, condemning violence and discrimination against LGBT people.[8]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Between 1920-1991, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union.

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 in 2001. In December 2002, the Azgayin Zhoghov (National Assembly) approved the new penal code in which the anti-gay article was removed. On 1 August 2003, President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan ratified it, bringing to an end the decades of repression against gay men in Armenia.

There were 7 prosecutions in 1996 and 4 in 1997 under the law (according to Amnesty International) and 4 in 1999 (according to the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe).

In 2001, local human rights NGO "Helsinki Association" published via its website the story of a 20-year-old.[9][10] 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 age of consent is 16, regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

Recognition of same-sex marriage[edit]

Same-sex marriage and civil unions are not legal in Armenia and the Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples.[11][12]

On 3 July 2017, the Ministry of Justice stated that all marriages performed abroad are valid in Armenia, including marriages between people of the same sex.[13][14][15] This made Armenia the second country of the former Soviet Union, after Estonia, to recognise same-sex marriages performed abroad.[16][17]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

As of 2017, Armenia does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children and there is no known debate surrounding such legislation.

Discrimination protections[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 2017, there is no legislation protecting LGBT persons from discrimination. A 2011 survey showed that 50% of people in Armenia would "walk away indifferently" if they were witnessing violence against an LGBT person, highlighting the strongly-embedded cultural belief against homosexuality.[3]

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.[18]

Living conditions[edit]

Following the abolition of the anti-gay 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.[19]

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.[20]

In 2007, Pink Armenia,[21] another NGO, emerged to promote public awareness on HIV and other STI (sexually transmitted infections) prevention but also to fight 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" launched two arson attacks at a lesbian-owned pub in Armenia's capital, Yerevan. 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 first attack earlier on 8 May, where a petrol bomb was thrown through the Rock Pub's window.[22]

Freedom of speech and expression[edit]

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.[23] Ashot Aharonian, a police spokesperson, stated that the bill was proposed due to the public's fear of the spreading of homosexuality. Furthermore, NGOs including Pink Armenia claimed that this was an attempt to distract the public from various sociopolitical issues within the country. The bill ultimately failed to pass.

Iravunk newspaper incident[edit]

On 17 May 2014, the Iravunk newspaper published 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.[24] The newspaper was sued and taken before the Armenian Court of Appeals, where the judges 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.[25] 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.

Human rights reports[edit]

2017 United States Department of State report[edit]

In 2017, the United States Department of State reported the following, concerning the status of LGBT rights in Armenia:

  • "The most significant human rights issues included: torture; harsh and life threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of judicial independence; failure to provide fair trials; violence against journalists; interference in freedom of the media, using government legal authority to penalize critical content; physical interference by security forces with freedom of assembly; restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; failure to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons from violence; and worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate."[26]
  • Prison and Detention Center Conditions
    "The PMG noted that homosexual males, those associating with them, and inmates convicted of crimes such as rape, were segregated from other inmates and forced to perform humiliating jobs and provide sexual services."[26]
  • Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
    "In July organizers of the Golden Apricot International Film Festival canceled the screening of two LGBTI-themed films after negative public reaction (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity)."[26]
  • Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
    "Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no hate crime laws or other criminal judicial mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of crimes against members of the LGBTI community. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity negatively affected all aspects of life, including employment, housing, family relations, and access to education and health care. Transgender persons were especially vulnerable to physical and psychological abuse and harassment.
    During the year the NGO Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK Armenia) documented 27 cases of alleged human rights violations against LGBTI persons, but only four victims sought help from the ombudsperson’s office and none from law enforcement bodies.
    On August 23, according to media reports, 30 to 35 civilian men, allegedly led by a municipality employee, attacked a group of transgender sex workers in a park near the municipality office. Police stopped the attack and opened a criminal investigation into the incident. Lawyers from the NGO New Generation, who represented the transgender persons and the sex workers, claimed that such group attacks happened at least once a month and individual attacks happened almost daily. In most cases, police were ineffective in either preventing such cases or apprehending perpetrators.
    On May 25, PINK Armenia placed three LGBTI-themed social advertising banners in downtown Yerevan. On May 27, the advertising company tore them down following a highly negative public reaction. Shortly after the posters were removed, an official from the Yerevan municipality announced on his Facebook page that the three banners promoting tolerance were posted illegally and without the permission of the municipality. According to PINK Armenia, the banners did not contain any material prohibited by the law, the installation was made in accordance with existing practices, and the Yerevan municipality violated the NGO’s freedom of expression. After the removal of the posters, anti-LGBTI groups launched cyberattacks on PINK Armenia’s website. The physical address of PINK Armenia was posted on Facebook with a message encouraging attacks on the organization. On July 9, the Golden Apricot International Film festival opened amid controversy over the organizers’ canceling the screening of several noncompetitive films, including two with LGBTI themes. One of the festival’s partners, the Union of Cinematographers, demanded that the two films be removed from the program. The festival organizers responded by canceling the screening of all noncompetitive-category films immediately before the festival’s opening. According to an assessment conducted by the NGO New Generation in 2016, transgender individuals desiring to undergo sex-change procedures faced medical and other problems related to the administration of hormones without medical supervision, underground surgeries, and problems obtaining documents reflecting a change in gender identity.
    On July 4, the NGO Right Side, which focuses on the transgender population, reported that a local municipal employee came to their location to harass and assault its president. In September the president reported that the organization’s landlord decided not to renew their lease.
    Openly gay men are exempt from military service. An exemption, however, requires a medical finding based on a psychological examination indicating an individual has a mental disorder; this information appears in the individual’s personal identification documents and is an obstacle to employment and obtaining a driver’s license. Gay men who served in the army reportedly faced physical and psychological abuse as well as blackmail."[26]
  • HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
    "According to human rights groups, persons regarded as vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, such as sex workers (including transgender sex workers) and drug users, faced discrimination and violence from society as well as mistreatment by police."[26]
  • Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
    "There were no effective legal mechanisms to implement these regulations, and discrimination in employment and occupation occurred based on gender, age, presence of a disability, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status, and religion, even though there were no official or other statistics to account to the scale of such discrimination."[26]

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 marriage legal No/Yes (Since 2017; same-sex marriages performed abroad recognised)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No (Since 2004)
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]

Notes[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. ^ "Same-sex marriages registered abroad are valid in Armenia". 
  3. ^ a b PINK Armenia. "ISSUU - Public opinion toward LGBT people in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor cities by PINK Armenia". Issuu. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Hetq - News, Articles, Investigations". 20 August 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  6. ^ "Armenia is number 3 among unfavorable countries for LGBTI people in Europe". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  7. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refworld - The Leader in Refugee Decision Support". Refworld. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Over 80 Nations Support Statement at Human Rights Council on LGBT Rights » US Mission Geneva". Geneva.usmission.gov. 
  9. ^ "Home". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  10. ^ Helsinki Association's Open Pages: Homosexuals - Money source for the police Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Armenian Constitution To Ban Same-Sex Marriage". azatutyun.com. 5 September 2015. 
  12. ^ Human Rights Situation in Armenia 2015 was a regressive year for LGBT people’s rights in Armenia, since the newly accepted Constitution restricted marriage as a union only between a man and a woman
  13. ^ "Same-sex marriages registered abroad are valid in Armenia". 
  14. ^ Dawn Ennis (December 5, 2017). "Orthodox Christian Cleric Supports Same-Sex Marriage in Armenia". Los Angeles Blade. 
  15. ^ "Father Vazken Movsesian Joins Equality Armenia Board". Asbarez. November 28, 2017. 
  16. ^ Court orders entry of same-sex marriage into Estonian register
  17. ^ Aili Kala. "11 - CHAPTER The situation of LGBT persons". Human Rights Centre. 
  18. ^ "Armenia: Gays Live with Threats of Violence, Abuse". EurasiaNet.org. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  19. ^ "About". Armenian Gay & Lesbian Association of NY. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "Bigots on Baghramian?: Parliament Members Continue Gay Debate". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  21. ^ Official website of Pink Armenia
  22. ^ artmika. "Unzipped: Gay Armenia". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Armenian Bill On Gay 'Propaganda' Ban Withdrawn". «Ազատ Եվրոպա/Ազատություն» ռադիոկայան. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  24. ^ Հովհաննես Գալաջյան. "ՆՐԱՆՔ ՍՊԱՍԱՐԿՈՒՄ ԵՆ ՄԻՋԱԶԳԱՅԻՆ ՀԱՄԱՍԵՌԱՄՈԼ ԼՈԲԲԻՆԳԻ ՇԱՀԵՐԸ. ԱԶԳԻ ԵՎ ՊԵՏՈՒԹՅԱՆ ԹՇՆԱՄԻՆԵՐԻ ՍԵՎ ՑՈՒՑԱԿԸ". www.iravunk.com. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  25. ^ "The Court of Appeal decision on the case against "Iravunk": The newspaper did not offend anyone". Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f ARMENIA 2017 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

External links[edit]