Saturday, 25 June 2011

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine: problems in freedom of association for LGBT groups - Council of Europe report

LGBT NGOs have been formed in nearly all member states. LGBT NGOs in some member states of the Council of Europe face challenges on the most basic level: to register their organisation and statutes. Restrictions on the freedom of association have been observed in five member states during the period 2004-2010: Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine. Such restrictions by the authorities are usually motivated on the ground that the founding documents and scope of the association are contrary to national law. Authorities have also used the argument that the scope of the association is in contrast to or undermines national moral values. Furthermore, administrative issues may arise in relation to registration formalities. Problems with the registration of the statutes of LGBT associations have also been registered in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

In Ukraine in 2008, despite the absence of formal limitations, the “People of Bukovina” NGO was requested to delete from its statute the wording “sexual orientation” and compelled to use “gender orientation”. Another Ukrainian organisation, the Lviv LGBT Organisation Total, reported similar problems.

In Armenia, NGOs report being unable to include in their statutes references to LGBT issues, sexual orientation or gender identity, although the authorities have denied that this is the case.

In Azerbaijan the NGO Gender and Development managed to get the registration but reported that they were contacted several times during the registration process by the State Security Committee regarding the target groups, scope of the organisation and the organisation’s relations with other countries.

Restrictions to freedom of association are not exclusively limited to unlawful interference by the authorities in registration processes. They can also take the form of impediments for LGBT associations to carry out social and cultural activities in their premises or in locations rented out by private parties. Evidence for such occurrences were identified in, but not confined to, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Italy, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovenia and the Russian Federation. Refusals to rent or to provide access to these locations are connected to the LGBT-related character of these events.

No Pride events
In eight member states (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Monaco, Montenegro and San Marino), no large public cultural or Pride events have ever been organised, while in 27 member states no significant problems have been encountered even though in some of them, bans of Pride events have been called for.

*Read also: Groundbreaking Council of Europe report issues ‘red cards’ to many member states, incl. Armenia, for failing gay rights

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