Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Human Rights Watch: World Report 2014 on LGBT rights violations in Armenia and Georgia, silence re Azerbaijan

Unfortunately, no similar section (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) is available within the country specific Human Rights Watch report for Azerbaijan. This is regrettable, as in a country with the poorest rights record in the South Caucasus, there is no doubts about violation of rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity too. Subsequently, without more publicity, LGBT rights in the country are moving even more underground and the issue is becoming even less visible while the rights abuses continue in Azerbaijan. Of course, the situation is exacerbated with the lack of active groups such as PINK Armenia (Yerevan) and Identoba (Tbilisi) in Baku.


Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists have expressed concern for the alarming level of homophobia in Armenia. According to PINK Armenia, a local rights group, transgender women who engage in sex work are frequently assaulted and receive no police protection when they report abuse. PINK Armenia also reported that the LGBT population continues to experience employment discrimination, obstacles to health care, and physical and psychological abuse in the army, in public, and in families.

According to an August Amnesty International report, government officials frequently condone violent attacks against LGBT people, characterizing the violence as an expression of “traditional values.” In July, the Armenian police made a proposal to amend the code of administrative offenses to establish a fine of up to US$4,000 for promoting “nontraditional sexual relationships.” The proposal was subsequently withdrawn.

Also in July, a Yerevan court convicted two people for damage to property stemming from a bomb attack in May 2012 against DIY, a bar frequented by LGBT and women’s rights activists. Graffiti identified LGBT people as targets of the attack. One attacker was sentenced to 19 months in prison and the other received a two-year suspended sentence. They were both amnestied in October. Local human rights groups expressed frustration that the sentence was too lenient. Armenia does not have hate speech legislation.


Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On May 17, 2013, a peaceful gathering to mark International Day Against Homophobia was violently disrupted by thousands of counter-demonstrators, including some Orthodox clergy. The day before, the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church publicly urged the authorities not to allow the gathering, calling it an “an insult” to Georgian traditions. Police had to evacuate the LGBT activists to safety, but they failed to contain the mob, which attacked a van carrying the activists, throwing stones and other objects; one journalist was hit on the head and briefly hospitalized. Authorities charged two Orthodox priests and three other men with obstructing freedom of assembly and petty hooliganism. The Tbilisi City Court ordered that charges be dropped against one priest. At time of writing, the trials against the others were ongoing.

Identoba, a local LGBT rights group, reported 34 incidents of violence and intimidation against LGBT people during and after the May 17 incident. The group noted that many victims do not report homophobic violence due to fear of retribution and police failure to investigate adequately.

No comments: