Friday, 24 September 2010

IWPR roundtable - 'I would rather be labeled crazy than be raped in the army’: gay men in Armenia (survey)


The roundtable on LGBT issues in Armenia organized by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) Armenia took place today. IWPR representative Sara Khojoyan opened the session by introducing the organization’s activities and mentioning that this roundtable was organized as a sort of follow-up to an article she had written earlier which described some of the issues LGBT people face in Armenia.

Then, Mamikon Hovsepyan from PINK Armenia (Public Information and Need of Knowledge) NGO introduced the research his organization had conducted and presented in May this year.

The project, called “We and Our Rights,” aimed to collect data concerning cases of discrimination and rights violation toward LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in Armenia and to find out to what extent legislation of Republic of Armenia regulates LGBT rights protection and their responsibilities.

Hovsepyan 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. He also mentioned that discrimination also occurs in the media — through news stories that ridicule, criticize and demean the lives and experiences of LGBT people in Armenia.

The PINK Armenia representative also referred to incidents of rape and violence in Armenia’s armed forces. 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.

According to the men surveyed in the report (as women in Armenia don’t serve in the military), they would rather be labelled “crazy” than be subject to rape or violence at the hands of their fellow soldiers or officers.

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