As I wrote back in October 2007, for the first time, gay rights were on the agenda of European Human Rights chief's visit to Armenia. On 7 October, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, met with representatives of We For Civil Equality (WFCE) NGO, the first LGBT-related NGO in Armenia which was formally registered in July 2006. Mr Hammarberg held meetings with a range of Armenian human rights and non-governmental organisations, along with Armenian authorities, including president, prime minister and head of parliament. As I mentioned back than, it was an important opportunity for Armenian LGBT representatives to present the situation with gay rights in Armenia in its broader context and lobby equality and anti-discrimination legislation.
During my meeting in Yerevan with head of WFCE, I was told that Hammerberg was very attentive to the situation with gay rights, homophobia and Armenian LGBT community, in general. He promised to include these points in his upcoming Human Rights report on Armenia
I am glad that Thomas Hammarberg kept his promise and in a report released today there are special reflections on LGBT rights in Armenia under the “Discrimination” and “Recommendations” chapters:
155. Since the adoption of the new Criminal Code (2003), same-sex acts are no longer a criminal offence in Armenia (under the old Criminal Code, same sex acts were punishable by imprisonment for up to five years). However, the legal framework in Armenia does not expressly protect LGBT people from discrimination, harassment and violence. The Commissioner therefore calls for the elaboration and adoption of specific legislative provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
156. During his visit, the Commissioner was informed by representatives of the LGBT community about cases of violence and discrimination encountered by LGBT people, including cases of students kicked out from universities, deprivation of housing and discriminatory treatment in healthcare institutions.
157. Homophobia is reportedly widespread in society and politics, and the media are silent on cases of violence against LGBT persons. As a 2005 UNESCO report noted, “public opinions on homosexuality are rather tough: traditional Armenian society rejects displays of non-heterosexual relations.” It thus comes as no surprise that LGBT people are invisible in society and that the LGBT community is fragmented and vulnerable. Nevertheless, the NGO “We for the civil equality” is working on improvement of the position of LGBT people. The Commissioner encourages the work of other NGOs that promote equality for LGBT people, in particular by raising awareness as well as providing support to those whose rights are violated, in particular victims of violence.
158. The Commissioner welcomes the reported positive change of attitude of law enforcement authorities towards the LGBT community and encourages dialogue between the LGBT community and the authorities.
29. Prevent violence and discrimination against LGBT community; elaborate and adopt specific legal provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; conduct dialogue with organisations representing the LGBT community.
Full report is available here