Thursday 23 July 2015

New draft of Armenia Constitution effectively bans same-sex marriage

Armenia’s (current) Constitution in many aspects (not all) is pretty progressive. Of course, having the Constitution full with progressive ideas does not mean that they are being implemented.

Now that Armenia president is moving towards the end of his second (and final) consecutive terms, ruling regime is finding ways to keep him in power even if not directly, and to ensure that Armenia is governed by Republican party in the foreseeable future. And here we are, we have this recently circulated new version of the Constitution to be approved by the parliament and then via national referendum.

Not only this new version of the Constitution is pretty dangerous in terms of turning Armenia into seemingly parliamentary but in reality autocratic country, but it contains further limitations of freedoms and rights, including LGBT related.

While current Constitution is way ahead of many other European constitutions by effectively allowing possibility of same-sex marriage (not that it was implemented, but at least there was no limitation), new draft with subtle changes in wording re-defines marriage as between man and woman.

In its latest newsletter, PINK Armenia circulated translated summary of these limiting provisions. One more reason, why there should be a firm NO to this draft Constitution.
On July 15, a state commission formed by President Serzh Sargsyan on publicized its draft constitutional amendments envisaging Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial head of state not elected by popular vote.

Under the new Constitution, the president of the republic will be elected by an electoral college consisting of National Assembly members and representatives of local government bodies. It is widely believed that President Sargsyan has initiated the reform to be able to stay in power in some other capacity after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.

Lawmakers discussing plans to amend Armenia's constitution back in 2005 expressed broad support for a ban on same-sex marriages. 10 years later we still witness the same intention. The Constitutional amendments refer to changes for the freedom of marriage.

Article 35 of the (current) Constitution of The Republic of Armenia states: Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and found a family according to their free will. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and divorce.
Article 34, in contrast, according to the amendments, states: Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry with each other and found a family according to their free will. Thus, the new Constitution is limiting the freedom of marriage to opposite sex, Armenia is to join the countries who have a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The draft Constitution is expected to be completed by early August. Subsequently, the draft shall be submitted to the President. If approved, it will be introduced to the National Assembly, and then a Referendum Day will be set.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Armenia president’s administration, ministries respond to LGBT rights letter

While replies from both president’s administration and ministries are vague and do not suggest any commitment by the authorities for tackling discrimination based no sexual orientation and gender identity, what is more important here is that PINK Armenia defied status quo and challenged relevant state bodies re their commitment for LGBT rights and against discrimination. It is the first time I could recall that Armenia president’s administration replies to LGBT rights related formal query.
Via PINK Armenia: “Necessary prerequisites exist in RA legislation to exclude any act of discrimination” - reads a formal reply from the administration of Armenia president in response to letter by PINK Armenia calling Armenian authorities to the call of PINK Armenia to protect LGBT rights.

To mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, PINK Armenia addressed a letter to the Armenia president Serj Sargsyan, several ministries and MPs, with a call to provide in the Republic of Armenia legal provisions for combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to monitor cases of discrimination against LGBT people. The administration of the president noted further that “if there is a need for further legislative regulations, it should be noted that the president of the Republic of Armenia has no right to initiate legislation”.

PINK Armenia also urged president Serj Sargsyan not to award national prizes to individuals and organisations who spread blatant hate speech against LGBT citizens of Armenia and the persons involved in the protection of their rights, to which head of legal department of the president’s staff Grigor Muradyan clarified in the response letter that the person’s worldview is not considered when awarding prizes “if that person does not display any illegal behavior which is to become a subject of assessment of authorities in each specific case”. This part is particularly vague and

Replies were received from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice too.

The Ministry of Justice noted that they have conducted a legal study on relevance of having a separate piece of legislation to combat discrimination, where the matters regarding discrimination have been analysed. [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - I wonder what did they conclude?!…]

The Ministry also reminded that in 2010 the Gender Policy Concept Paper was approved and Republic of Armenia Gender Policy Strategic Program for 2011-2015 was confirmed. [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - Unfortunately, these positive gender related initiatives are effectively stopped now, following Russia inspired hysteric anti-EU outburst]

The letter from the Ministry of Health stated that the issue is outside the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. However, the Ministry of Health is willing to provide assistance if recommendations from relevant bodies are made.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Turkey’s Armenian MP Garo Paylan: I want “new world” founded on equality

We need more MPs like Garo Paylan both in Turkey and Armenia, and beyond. The world, and the world of politics, will be a better place with them.

Highly recommend this interview by Armenian Weekly’s Nanore Barsoumian with the newly elected ethnic Armenian MP of the Turkey parliament from progressive LGBT-friendly HDP party.

*Garo Paylan (Photo: Nanore Barsoumian)

Selected extracts below /emphasis mine/:

“Three weeks after his election into Turkey’s Parliament on the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) list, Garo Paylan spoke to the Armenian Weekly about his path to parliament, and the challenges of being an Armenian in Turkey’s political scene.

During the interview conducted in Istanbul, Paylan also discussed issues that are close to his heart, including the HDP’s politics and commitment to creating what he terms a “new world” founded on equality.”

Says Garo Paylan: “Turkish citizens want the change—so they will vote for whoever speaks the new language for them. We wanted equality, and they heard us. It’s the radical democrats that for the first time are offering equality. We are radical democrats and we have everyone sitting at our table. This is why we have to struggle for LGBT rights, for the Armenians, the Kurds, and the Alevis. We have to offer equality to every identity.

Of course, we had some concerns. For instance, we were concerned that people were not ready to hear about the Armenian Genocide. Yet, we are vocal about the Armenian Genocide. We also support LGBT rights, and equality between men and women—everything that is considered radical about democracy. This is about [creating] a new world.”

“The AKP thought that insulting Armenians will gain them the Muslim votes, but it didn’t work. They tried to spotlight the fact that we had an LGBT candidate, thinking that it would affect the conservative vote, but it didn’t. There were other similar attempts, but they also failed. This is important. Our words won. We trust our words. This is what’s most important.”