Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Gay Scots MEP Blasts Armenia On LGBTI Rights Record



13 July 2012
Alyn Smith, SNP Member of the European Parliament has blasted potential accession state Armenia for its failure to adequately protect and support its LGBTI community.
Alyn said:
"Armenia is keen to become an EU member, but at present, their human rights record just doesn't cut it.  The EU is about improving human rights and safeguarding personal freedoms as much as it is about anything else and Armenia has no protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual oerientation or gender identity.
"I'm delighted that the European Commission has now made it crystal clear that there is no leeway for countries that want to join the EU - protection of minorities is non-negotiable and respect for rights, including gay rights is an absolute condition of EU membership.
"If Armenia wants to join that organisation of nations and take advantage of all the benefits that brings then it will have to start coming up with some advances in rights protections.  Prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity would be a start and then recognising that gender reorientation isn't something alien but giving people the ability to live in a degree of comfort might be a decent next step.  I realise that recognising same-sex partnerships is a big step for any nation - look at the long and winding road we've walked and are walking in Scotland - but there are steps that really are basics for simple decency in the modern Europe.
"I agree with my Austrian colleague Ulrike Lunacek that we have to have co-operation instead of confrontation, openness instead of fear.  Armenia can walk towards a more inclusive society as it walks towards the friendship of nations that is the EU but it must walk that way.
"While we're lecturing them, though, we should look to our own nation and make sure that we're making progress, the hypocrisy of telling others they should do better while standing still ourselves would be shameful.  Armenia may be some way behind us at the moment but that doesn't mean we're perfect.  I think we've made some progress and I'm looking forward to making a whole lot more."
Read also: 

Gay rights is EU entry criterion, Brussels says to Armenia

'Never Hide' / Ray-Ban


I remember having a pair of Ray-Ban glasses during my teenage years :))

Nice ad campaign by Ray-Ban: "Never Hide". Thumbs up.

Gay rights is EU entry criterion, Brussels says to Armenia

A very clear message to Armenia (and not only).

*via EU Observer

BRUSSELS - The European Commission has said in a written note that respect for gay rights is a legal criterion for EU accession.

It cited the 1993 so-called Copenhagen criteria for EU eligibility and article 2 of the EU Treaty, which prohibit discrimination against "minorities."
It also cited articles 10 and 19 of the EU Treaty and article 21 of the European Charter on Fundamental Rights, which explicitly forbid discrimination on grounds of "sexual orientation."
"Rights of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people thus form an integral part of both the Copenhagen political criteria for accession and the EU legal framework on combatting discrimination. They are closely monitored by the EU commission, which reports annually on the progress made by enlargement countries with regard to the situation of the LGBT community," it said.
The commission note was sent to EUobserver in response to a question born of an interview with an Armenian cleric.
Armenia, a deeply Christian country where church teaching has more authority than in many EU states with Christian roots, is keen to become an EU member.
Homosexuality is not against the law. But according to a recent study by the Brussels-based rights group Ilga-Europe, it scores better only than Moldova and Russia in terms of legal protection of LGBT people in Europe.
Armenian law does not prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. It does not recognise any form of same-sex partnership and has no provision for legally changing one's gender, the study says.
Its legal edifice is reflected in popular feeling.
A small pro-toleration rally in the Armenian capital on 21 May saw police struggle to keep counter-protesters at bay, who yelled slogans referring to gay people as a disease and as a threat to children.
Three priests came to speak to media, one of whom recalled the Biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to justify anti-gay views.
Counter-protesters the same night vandalised one of Yerevan's few gay-friendly bars.
For his part, Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, an ecumenical officer at the Armenian catholic church, made no bones about the situation.
"It's not in our culture to accept homosexuals. I mean, we don't reject the person, but we reject the sin and this is our freedom as Armenians. Our culture does not accept this," he told EUobserver in a recent interview in Etchmiadzin, the official seat of the Armenian church.
He said Armenia upholds basic human rights, but gay rights are a "secondary" issue where difference of opinion should be permitted.
"We have our cultural differences which should be respected ... These are questions on which you don't have consensus also in Europe. Europe is not just western Europe. For instance, Poland is a strong Christian country, or Romania or Bulgaria, or Serbia - Armenia is closer to these countries in its understanding," he explained.
EU entrants in some cases negotiate opt-outs from EU laws or transition periods for implementing sensitive parts of the rulebook.
But for Ulrike Lunacek, an openly lesbian Austrian Green MEP who co-chairs a European Parliament gay rights group, this does not mean countries can choose which values they adopt.
"Accession of a country will not be possible if certain LGBTI [the I stands for 'intersex'] rights are not put into law and into practice. Non-discrimination in the field of employment, for instance, has become part of the acquis," she said, citing an EU directive on non-discrimination from 2000.
"Protection of Pride marches has become a recurrent monitoring theme in the commission's progress reports on enlargement countries," she added.
She noted that EU institutions should work with conservative countries on the Union's fringe rather than putting up barriers, however.
"That is what the EU also stands for: co-operation instead of confrontation, openness instead of fear ... And that is another good thing," she said.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Armenia LGBT rights record to be scrutinised before UN Human Rights Committee

Review of Armenia at UN Human Rights Committee to begin on Monday 16 July 2012.

PINK Armenia in cooperation with the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, ILGA-Europe and the George Washington University Law School International Human Rights Clinic has prepared and submitted a shadow report focusing on "Human Rights Violations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People in Armenia" for consideration at the 105th Session of the Human Rights Committee. (ILGA-Europe)

This is the first time such a comprehensive LGBT report has been submitted as part of the review of Armenia human rights commitments before the UN.

Human Rights House Network reports that the hearings of this and other Armenia related issues will take place on 16-17 July. You may follow live broadcast here: http://www.treatybodywebcast.org

To access LGBT Report in full - follow this link. Below are selected key summary extracts.

***

The purpose of this report is to highlight the widespread and systematic human rights violations experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Armenia. These violations have become all the more concerning in light of the recent upsurge in violent attacks against the LGBT community, and speech inciting such attacks in the month of May 2012. In particular, the report draws the attention of the Committee to the following breaches of the Covenant:

Background summary
• The State of Armenia remains deeply oppressive toward LGBT individuals, as reflected by public officials’ statements against the LGBT community.
• The Armenian State fails to protect LGBT individuals from public stigma and hate speech because it has failed to enact laws that criminalize hate speech, including against LGBT persons.
• Individuals in Armenia are subject to discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity by both State and non-State actors, including in access to education, employment opportunities, and healthcare.
• Though inadequate reporting makes exact numbers uncertain, local human rights groups report an alarming number of non-combat deaths in the army each year, including deaths of LGBT individuals. Gay and bisexual men serving in the army may be particularly at risk. The Armenian State fails to adequately prevent, investigate, and/or prosecute incidents of gender and sexual orientation-based killings, including against LGBT individuals.
• Gay and bisexual men in Armenia suffer cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment while serving in the army or detained in prison. In some instances, the State is responsible for this abuse or fails to adequately prevent, investigate, and/or prosecute incidents of violence toward LGBT individuals.
• The Armenian State refuses to recognize the gender identity of transgender persons. By denying transgender individuals appropriate identity documents, the State withholds from them the status of legal personhood.

Recommendations
The State of Armenia must adopt legislative, administrative, and judicial measures to ensure respect, protection, and promotion of, and minimize violation of, human rights without any distinction based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. To that end, the Human Rights Committee should recommend:

1. Armenia should adopt anti-discrimination legislation that condemns discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
2. Armenia should take appropriate measures to end all discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity by adopting comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. In particular, the State party should introduce a comprehensive system of laws that criminalize hate speech and discourage statements by public officials that foster discrimination against LGBT people.
3. Armenia should take action to end all violence committed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the Armenian army or who are detained in prison. In particular, the State party should protect LGBT persons from discrimination, physical and mental torture, and degrading treatment. The State party should revise the military code and put in place measures to fully investigate alleged crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and where appropriate, ensure that such crimes are properly prosecuted and punished.
4. Armenia should take appropriate measures to ensure that all persons have the enjoyment of their rights and are entitled to access basic services, such as education and employment, without discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In particular, the State Party should pay special attention to undertake these efforts outside of the capital city of Yerevan.
5. Armenia should take steps to improve its public health campaign to end discrimination against LGBT persons infected with HIV/AIDS.
6. Armenia should adopt appropriate laws that permit transgender persons to legally transition, and to receive identity documents that reflect an individual’s identified gender.

Question to the State party
1. What is the State party doing to address discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity?
2. What is the State party doing to address hate speech and homophobic statements by public officials, which are detrimental to the full exercise of the right to freedom of expression?
3. What is the State party doing to protect individuals from physical and mental torture, and degrading treatment on grounds of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in the Armenian army and among detainees?
4. What is the State party doing to legally recognize sex and name that reflect the individual’s gender identity in the case of transgender people?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Disgrace for ARF Dashnaktsutyun in Armenia as party promotes anti-gay terrorism supporter MP Artsvik Minasyan into ruling board

 “Հին ընկերները”... չեն փոխվում 

So all these talks that ARF Dashnaktsutyun has changed, that they oppose violence and homophobia were bankrupt. Not only they didn’t reprimand anti-gay terrorism supporter MP Artsvik Minasyan, by allowing him to take a seat in the Armenian parliament and represent the party... This is bad enough. Now it’s been reported that Artsvik Minasyan has been elected into party’s ruling board in Armenia.

Instead of punishment - praise and promotion.

Truly and sadly, some things (and some parties) do not change.

Big FAIL to ARF.
***
Here is a reminder of what ARF Dashnak MP Artsvik Minasyan said after sponsoring bailout for firebombers of gay friendly DIY bar in Armenia capital Yerevan.

[about firebombers] they are “normal people, normal persons; the investigation will reveal to what extent the violation they committed endangered public safety”.

[about DIY owner] “people like Tsomak destroy Armenian society”.

[about justifying anti-gay terrorism] He then went on further to justify arsonists, saying they acted in accordance with the "context of our societal & national ideology, in the right way" (!!).

Read also:

MPs of ARF Dashnaktsutyun party bail out neo-nazi attacker of DIY bar. Dashnak MP Artsvin Minasyan supports arson attack, effectively encouraging terrorism in Armenia

ARF Dashnaktsutyun must "send a strong message", or else is tarnished with this "heinous act" (re neo-nazi attack on DIY and Dashnak MP in Armenia supporting hate crime)

Disgraced Armenia MP from ARF Dashnaktsutyun Artsvik Minasyan calls for fight against gays as “threat to national security”

ARF Central Committee in US condemns hate crime in Armenia as more local Dashnak MPs endorse firebombers and encourage anti-gay violence

Disgraced ARF Dashnaktsutyun MP Artsvik Minasyan, who endorsed anti-gay attackers and violence, approved as member of ARF parliamentary group in Armenia

Sunday, 8 July 2012

History in making: Rainbow flag flying above UK Government Office to mark Gay Pride Day

This is why (along with other reasons) I made London my new home. This is why, despite all the problems and remaining challenges, UK is the best place in Europe to be gay. [And unfortunately, according to the same survey by ILGA-Europe, Armenia trailing in the bottom, among the worst...]

*picture via @libdemvoice: A proud moment - the Rainbow flag flying above the Deputy Prime Minister's office [Cr: Verity Harding]


PinkNews: In a first for central Government, the Cabinet Office is flying a rainbow flag to mark World Pride being held this weekend in London. The iconic flag has been flown on the personal request of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Officials say that Mr Clegg thought it ‘was about time for Whitehall to bring itself up to date’ by flying the flag in solidarity with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community. Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “There has to be a first time for everything – flying this iconic flag in the heart of Whitehall is a small but important emblem that the Government and this country are behind equal rights. “I’m absolutely delighted that, with a little bit of persuasion and determination, we’ve been able to fly the rainbow flag for this weekend’s festivities. I hope this is the start of a new era of pride across the historic Whitehall village.”

Pink Paper: It can be seen flying above the Cabinet Office, adjacent to Downing Street: the centre of government dealings. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who in an interview this week reiterated his support of gay marriage.

AP: Nick Clegg has hailed the start of a "new era of pride" as the rainbow flag was raised in Whitehall for the first time. The Deputy Prime Minister said flying the flag, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride, to coincide with London's gay pride event this weekend was a "small but important emblem". It comes after Mr Clegg called on Thursday for churches and other religious premises to be allowed to host gay weddings.

And finally, UK PM's message on World Pride: “The UK has been judged to be the best country in Europe in which to live if you’re gay so it is great that World Pride is being celebrated here in London – especially during this Diamond Jubilee and Olympic year. “I’m very pleased that the Mayor of London has enabled the march and events in Trafalgar Square to go ahead and I want to thank all the volunteers who will be stewarding the event and contributing to it. “It is 40 years since people first marched in London calling for equal rights. Since then we’ve come a very long way and progress is still being made. We have just finished consulting on how to introduce same sex marriage and we are working with countries across the globe to bring about greater equality. “I hope you all have a happy Pride and remember all those who have, and those who are still fighting for, greater rights and protection for the LGBT community.”

For pictures of the day: Day in pictures - 7 July World Pride 2012, London

Day in pictures - 7 July World Pride 2012, London



 *In/around World Pride 2012 rally at Trafalgar sq, London
 *Even Ann Summers sex shop turned rainbow for the occasion, Soho, London
 *Grindr Pride at Village, Soho, London
 *Soho was totally packed; view of Old Compton street
 *Sexy 'English lads', Soho, London
 *Escape and Madame JoJo's, well known gay venues in Soho, London
 *Purse-shoes... this was fun :)) Soho, London
 *'Strip show' from the balcony of Old Comptons, Soho, London
*Soho, London

Saturday, 7 July 2012

"I sign this petition in memory of my great-grandfather" - To the Government of Armenia: Honor the Constitutional Right of Each Citizen [including LGBT]

As I posted earlier, the Armenian Gay and Lesbian Association of New York has sponsored historic petition co-signed by 20+ leading Armenian cultural figures who have unified their voices to support human rights in Armenia. This is the first time such a petition has been created in support of LGBT human rights in Armenia.

Chairman of Golden Apricot International Film Festival, one of my favourite film-makers, prominent Canadian Armenian director Atom Egoyan is among those who co-signed the petition.

It has since been supported by more than 300 (at the time of writing this post) Armenian and foreign citizens, including well known activists, cultural, art figures.

Comments are being posted under the petition by people who signed it.

Here is a very touching one by Christine Allen:
My great-grandfather, Shukrey Sanjiyan, was brutally attacked during a pogrom in Tarsus on November 15, 1895. He managed to survive and made his way to the U.S. via France in 1897. The rest of his family was slaughtered during the genocide. It is in his memory that I, his lesbian great-granddaughter, sign this petition. My wife and I have been together for over 26 years and our youngest daughter, Kalie Sanjiyan, carries his name. I work for equal rights for all people in America, and I support equal rights for all people in the homeland of my heart, Armenia.
[For more comments - follow this link to the petition.]

Please sign and share the petition with all your friends, family and allies[The Armenian translation has now been posted with English original]

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Anatomy of violence, or Armenia MP (president of Football Federation) Ruben Hayrapetyan slaughterhouse

Military doctor severely beaten by bodyguards of Armenia MP, president of Football Federation Ruben Hayrapetyan (aka 'Nemets Rubo') has died on 29 June. [For background to this story, read: Unbearable cruelty of being of Armenia tycoon - turned MP - turned Football Federation president & his entourage]



Video above details some of the 'heroic' pages from the history of violence of disgraced Armenia MP, president of Football Federation, oligarch Ruben Hayrapetyan, nicknamed 'Nemets Rubo'.

Posting this video, Hetq Online reminds how 'Nemets Rubo' threatened and/or enacted violence towards journalists, drug addicts, and (more recently) gays. The author righty points out that after all the violent rhetoric and actions, there should be no surprise that we witnessed yet another violence, this time with more tragic consequences. [Ռուբեն Հայրապետյանը միշտ զգուշացրել է (վիդեո)]

To remind, following recent firebombing of gay friendly bar DIY in Yerevan, ‘Nemets Rubo‘ said he “condemns terrorism” but “in favour of punishing gays and ready to do it myself”. “We should think of another way of punishing to eradicate them from our society.”

Other high profile MPs from ruling Republican party who supported firebombers and encouraged anti-gay violence include vice-speaker of the Armenian parliament, spokesman of the ruling Republican party Eduard Sharmazanov, and MP, (now) secretary of Republican party parliamentary group Hovhannes Sahakyan. 
[I recommend reading Հոդված ատելության մասին by Sergey Danielyan too]

Last night, there was a candlelight vigil in Yerevan in memory of beating victim Vahe Avetyan. People gathered in front of the restaurant where the violence took place [Harsnaqar restaurant belongs to 'Nemets Rubo'] Many held 'I am Vahe Avetyan' posters condemning violence, calling for boycott of oligarch MP businesses and his resignation as MP and president of Football Federation.

Among protesters rightly condemning violence, I noticed two well known personalities who have their share of moral responsibility for this atmosphere of hatred and violence.

Armenian MP from the ARF Dashnaktsutyun party Armen Rostomyan said nothing when his colleagues from the ARF party, and in particular Artsvik Minasyan, Hrayr Karapetyan and Artur Aghabekyan supported firebombers and at least in case of Artsvik Minasyan (+ here) and Artur Aghabekyan openly encouraged anti-gay violence.

Larisa Alaverdyan, former MP and ex-Ombudsman, effectively sided with homophobes during TV programme discussing attacks towards gay friendly bar and Diversity march.




Below are two pictures from the candlelight vigil protest action via CivilNet and PanArmenian FB page.

*picture via CivilNet/Seda Grigoryan


*"Slaughterhouse" written on the wall of Harsnaqar restaurant, picture via PanArmenian/Hrant Khachatryan [Հանցաքար" և "Սպանդանոց" գրվեցին ռեստորանի պատերին]