Annual Review 2011
Bias motivated speech
- The Armenian Apostolic Church made references to homosexuality throughout the year, including by organising a discussion which equated homosexuality to drug or alcohol addiction, and suggesting it was a sinful choice of the individual.
- A group called Mek Azg (One Nation) hung posters around the city of Yerevan that read “Say no to homosexuality, and to erotic websites.” Following this incident, Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK Armenia) sent an official letter to the Ministry of Justice informing them that Mek Azg was using hate speech and discriminating against LGBT people and other groups, in violation of the Constitution, National Security Strategy and Article 143 of the Criminal Code. The Ministry responded that Mek Azg were exercising free speech and cited the Constitution and a number of international declarations and documents that Armenia had ratified.
- Following reports of discriminatory statements against gays and lesbians made by Radio Van Director on the station’s website, an online travel agency for the Caucasus, withdrew its sponsorship from the station, informing the station’s management of its decision in an open letter published online.
Equality and non-discrimination
PINK Armenia and We for Civil Equality (WFCE), signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Armenian Human Rights Ombudsman, in which it was agreed that the organisations would collaborate to further the rights of LGBT people in Armenia. This was the fi rst time such an official document has contained language acceptable to the LGBT community.
The Armenian government lifted travel restrictions on people living with HIV, a decision which was welcomed by UNAIDS among others. HIV prevention among men who have sex with men is included in the National Programme on the Response to the Spread of HIV in the Republic of Armenia.
Police and law enforcement
- A variety of violations of the human rights of gay and transvestite people at the hands of the police were reported by NGOs. There were various reported cases of illegal detention of gay men and transvestites by the police, often accompanied by verbal and physical abuse, followed by release upon payment of a bribe. These violations tended to take place in a park known for ‘cruising’. There were reports of police patrolling near the park and approaching men who they would see meeting up with gay men or transvestites, they would then threaten to tell the man’s family and neighbourhood that he was found in the park with a gay man or transvestite unless he paid the police to keep quiet. Despite the police presence at the park various gay men and transvestites complained that when they were attacked the police refused to come to their assistance.
- A transvestite was approached by a policeman in civilian clothes driving a police car who hurled abuse at her and asked why she was in the park before getting out of the car and beating her then driving away. The victim went to the police station to report the incident but the police refused to record her complaint; despite being off ered legal services by an NGO she did not proceed with the case as she was afraid of further police action against her.
- In December, around ten transvestites were taken by police to the sexually transmitted diseases clinic and forcibly tested for diseases; some were then released and others were taken to the police station and kept overnight. They were told by the police that orders had been received to force gay men and transvestites to leave the park and the round up was the fi rst part of that action. An NGO complaint was made to the Human Rights Defender’s Office and Prosecutor General’s Office. Both institutions forwarded the case to the police and the complaints were still pending at the end of 2011. The case was reported by the media as an example of how the new city mayor of Yerevan, Taron Margaryan, had decided to “clean” the park and return it to “normal” citizens. There was no official confi rmation of this policy but, in an answer to a question from journalists, the Head of Armenia’s Police Force said he supported the actions of the officers.
Research into the public perception of the LGBT community, conducted by PINK Armenia and Socioscope, highlighted a majority view that was intolerant, homophobic and transphobic, and demonstrated high levels of ignorance. The most informed and most tolerant were those aged between 18 and 30 and residing in Yerevan, and women who had reached higher education. The research is being used to work with the government, the Ombudsman’s Office, as well as local and international NGOs, with a view to gaining legislative protection for the rights of LGBT people and to raise awareness in order to foster a more tolerant atmosphere.