Round table, sharp corners


LGBT rights in Armenia

Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) Armenia Branch organized a round table discussion on Armenia’s LGBT community (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders) problems and possible ways of their solution which took place at their office on 24 September, 2010.

Representatives of Armenia’s Ombudsman office, police, ministries of justice and labor and social affairs, government officials, as well as representatives of local and international human rights organizations, media and LGBT community were invited to take part in the round table discussion.

Three ministries promised to send representatives but their promises never came true. It is not the first time in our experience  that Ministry of Health refused to take part in the discussion with regard to this issue; both MOH and Ombudsman office reaction was: “What does this have to do with us?” Anyway we were informed that Edurd Pilatov from the Human Rights Defender office arrived, registered, then left for smoking and disappeared as a phantom.

The discussion has opened Sara Khojoyan, the author of the article “Armenian Gays Face Intolerance, Discrimination” published in July, 2010. Then Mamikon Hovsepyan, president of Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO (PINK Armenia) introduced the outcomes of organization’s sociological research and legal analysis implemented and presented in May this year.

In his speech M. Hovsepyan mentioned that homosexuality exists in the whole period of the history, and each society in the world accepts it in a unique way. Intolerance is based on the traditions, norms and social memory. He also presented the ways of discrimination in the country and those fields where LGBT rights are being violated.

The next speaker, Lusine Vayachyan, writer, human rights activist, presented the situation of transsexual people in Armenia and problems of sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

She recalled a friend of hers, Norayr, a citizen of Armenia who wants to change his sex from female to male, who went to see an endocrinologist who, after running chromosomal tests determind Norayr as having female chromosomes, advised him to go see a psychiatrist for “treatment.”  When Norayr mentioned that being transsexual is no longer considered a mental disorder and he does not need to be “treated,” the endocrinologist advised him to go to Russia. Norayr has “never met a doctor in Armenia who knows what it is to be transsexual.”

Vayachyan further added that doctors in Armenia either don’t know or don’t want to know the difference between transsexuals and hermaphrodites.

The representative of PINK Armenia mentioned that discrimination against LGBT people occurs in all facets of life: at school and at work, in military service, while seeking healthcare services, and so on.

Despite the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homsexuality from their list of mental disorders in 1990, according to Hovespyan, Armenia does not prescribe to the WHO criteria and still labels homosexuality as a mental disorder. Thus, gay men in Armenia can be exempt from military service if they state their sexual orientation.

Hovsepyan recalled an occasion when a group of officers had called out derogatory terms referring to gays to a man on the street who had then actually filed a complaint with the Ombdusman on July 1, 2009 (complaint no. 1–0508). However, the RA Police replied to the letter of Ombudsman in which they described the incident much more mildly saying the man was simply brought in for questioning for 5 minutes and had his identity checked by checking his passport. According to Hovsepyan, the Ombudsman believed the police’s word over the victim’s even though the man didn’t even have his passport on him that day.

“Why do they trust the letter by the police and not by the citizen?” Hovsepyan asked.

Furthermore, he said that when IWPR representative Sara Khojoyan asked the Ombudsman if there were any complaints by LGBT people registered with their office, the Human Rights Defender had said no. Drawing on the incident he mentioned, Hovsepyan said, “Let them not say there were no complaints.”

Mamikon Hovsepyan added that discrimination also occurs in the media — through news stories that ridicule, criticize and demean the lives and experiences of LGBT people in Armenia.  In many cases media gives wrong information to their auditorium about sexual orientation and gender identity, journalists promote hate in their speeches.

He mentioned the example of A1+ that it was one of the most tolerant  and highly appreciated media in Armenia though it became an ordinary one nowadays which is providing information that is discriminatory or making fun of LGBT people.

Sevak Kirakosyan, one of the participants, recalled the journalists to use proper terms which do not harm or violate LGBT rights and human dignity, and Lusine Vayachyan asked to invite representatives from the Language Inspector next time, because we still do not have translation of words and phrases regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and each of us are using different terms.

in this article is included information from Independent Journalists’ Network aritcles:
“Why Does Ombudsman Trust Police and Not Appeal by Citizen?” Asks Hovsepyan
Transsexual Men, Women in Armenia Advised to Go Abroad
I Would Rather be Labelled Crazy Than be Raped in the Army’: Gay Men in Armenia