A fake wave of homophobia, or why do marginal groups kick up a fuss?

An Armenian website has been appeared on the Internet recently spreading hatred and revulsion towards LGBTI persons. The articles of the website are immediately shared on Facebook by several Facebook accounts and a number of people and some so called media sites copy them. Besides copying, it’s a great chance for them to spread information for hate speech and revulsion analyses, interviews and comments.

Thus, it’s apparent that Armenia was commended to raise a wave of homophobia and transphobia.

The articles in the website also give a hint that raising such wave is fake and artificial. For example, a few days ago, following the example of founder of Institute for Democracy and Human Rights NGO (IDHR) Armine Araqelyan, one of the activists got into a fountain basin at Yerevan’s Republic Square and was forcibly taken out of there by law enforcement officials. This incident, as well as Armine Araqelyan’s steps, didn’t have any relation with LGBTI rights. This case, however, became a subject for that website to raise a wave of homophobia. The article was in paid announcements on Facebook and was shared by various groups, pages and a group of individuals.

The analysis of Facebook walls of above mentioned pages, groups and individuals makes it clear which outer and inner institutions have initiated the artificial wave of homophobia and transphobia. 

However, it’s worth mentioning that despite the huge efforts of the group controlled by famous institutions, they didn’t succeed in achieving their provocative goals. The false wave of homophobia and transphobia didn’t spread on a large scale and wasn’t included in public priority issues, it didn’t provoke any serious media, none of them copied and talked about the issue, and those pages on Facebook who shared those articles have quite small audience. Thus, we are dealing with a marginal group which is led by the same institutions, by the order of which Robert Aharonyan, together with a few young people, burnt a rainbow flag at a protest last year in front of the EU Delegation office in Armenia and was outed then.

Nevertheless, it’s curious to know why it is expedient for some people to manipulate the issue of LGBTI rights and raise a wave of homophobia.

The reason of it is discovered in one of the newspapers by an interview with Hayk Ayvazyan, who is a member of so called “For the sake of sovereignty restoration” virtual and false public initiation.

Ayvazyan says in the interview, “A financial agreement was signed between Armenia and European Union on “Support to human rights defendence in Armenia” on December 11, 2015 which obliges Armenia to adopt laws on “Anti-discrimination” and “Domestic violence”. It’s mentioned in the agreement that in case of accepting the laws Europian Union obliges to give 12 million euros to Armenia for the implementation of agreement in four stages till 2018”.

The adoption of the project gives hope to LGBTI community. That is because some clauses there are directed to giving priority to the rights of LGBTI community representatives in our society. Ayvazyan also underscored that those amended draft bills should be tabled, they are currently in the process of revision. According to Ayvazyan, clauses defending homosexuals will be written with more sincere context in the new versions of the bill.

Here is the reason of raising a false wave of homophobia and transphobia; the perspective of adopting “Anti-discrimination” and “Domestic violence” laws and the chance of LGBTI rights’ existence in the clauses. It is not accidental that there are two sectors for those two bills in the new created website.

It’s true that Armenia signed a financial agreement with Europian Union on “Support to human rights defendence in Armenia” on December 11, 2015 and that EU obliges to give 12 million euros financial support to Armenia. And that’s true it is planned to adopt “Anti-discrimination” and “Domestic violence prevention” laws. Ayvazyan is also right about the bill being in the process of revision and that they will be publicized soon.

According to the information of the official page of “Eurasia Partnership Foundation” in Armenia, they are implementing “Towards Adoption of Anti-Discrimination Legislation” project. One of the objectives of the project is “to support the efforts of the government and of the international community to produce strong and all-encompassing anti-discrimination legislation, in the future to be accepted by the parliament and by the population”.

There isn’t any publicized information on the process of producing anti-discrimination legislation by the Government and the international community, as well as “Eurasia’s” support to the project, the stage of the project, the context of the bill and about those who are involved in the works etc.

During a discussion in a legislative session last year in June about “A training on “Gender equality in youth work” project, Chief of Serzh Sargsyan staff Vigen Sargsyan got annoyed about the word “gender” and replied aggressively, “We came up with it once while producing  corresponding legislation with Ministry of Social Affairs. The Armenian Apostolic Church has expressed its opinion about this. Why do we come to this again when it is not acceptable in our society? If you want to have men and women equality, just say as it is. What is gender? Why are you always using the term gender in the statutory acts? I think it needs to be edited”. And, of course, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan ordered to edit it and remove the word “gender”.

Accordingly, it was ordered by Baghramyan 26 not to use the word “gender” in any bill and not to wander away from our imaginations about the man – women platform.

The reason, of course, isn’t only conservative ideology of domineering Republican Party of Armenia. The issue of LGBTI rights, as we have analyzed in our previous articles, has already become an indicator of foreign policy choice, orientations and value choice. Thus the activation of marginal groups in Armenia and attempts to raise a false wave of homophobia is conditioned on this issue.

Taking into account that according to the information on “Eurasia” foundation website, within the frameworks of the implemented projects they attempt to promote the efforts of “the Government and international community’ to have anti-discrimination legislation, and the process and the bill haven’t been publicized yet, we can assume that the two sides are currently in the process of negotiation over adding a clause in the bill for LGBTI rights or not. The opinion of the organization implementing the project, which, in fact, appears to be a mediator, is another thing, but the opinions of international community and the Government are clear. The winner will become clear just after the publication of the bill. However, before that let’s introduce our views;

  1. This marginal group, which attempts to raise an artificial wave of homophobia, solves the same problem as Robert Aharonyan earlier failed to solve and was outed. The aim is to show that Armenian society isn’t ready yet to adopt legislation for the protection of LGBTI rights. It is an absolute lie, because LGBTI rights are human rights coming from legislative and legal basis. However, you can hardly count people in Armenia who will announce about being against legislation and rights. Moreover, in 2008 Armenia validated the UN declaration on “Sexual orientation and gender identity”. So what is the reason for not legalizing the protection of LGBTI rights in the country? It is surely not because the society isn’t ready, and international community shouldn’t be under a delusion. It’s not the society that isn’t ready, but certain marginal groups coming from some outer and inner institutions. Thus, any attempt to raise a wave of homophobia is simply just a provocation, it doesn’t matter which side rouses it and which side implements it. LGBTI community shouldn’t be influenced by such provocations and shouldn’t promote the extension of artificial hysteria.
  2. According to a legal research by “Eurasia” titled “Is it expedient to adopt a separate ‘non-discrimination law’?”, in Armenian statutory acts only “sexual orientation” isn’t protected by prohibited grounds of discrimination (See page 11). Race, skin color, ethnic origin, social origin, age, sex and a number of other prohibited grounds of discrimination are regulated by different laws, including even “gender” but without sexual orientation. If sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination isn’t included in an anti-discrimination bill and the prohibited ground on the bases of “gender” as discrimination isn’t re-established, then why do we need such legislation of discrimination which will not fill up fundamental gaps?
  3. The issue of LGBTI rights was the most discussed and problematic during discussions and adoption of anti-discrimination legislation in post-Soviet countries as well like Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. However, in May, 2014 Georgian Parliament adopted a law on the “Elimination of all forms of discrimination”, where it is clearly mentioned about the prohibited ground of discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ukrainian Parliament also adopted an anti-discrimination law in May, 2014 which provided a number of amendments in other laws, and prohibited ground of discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation got a clear legislative definition. In 2013 the parliament of Moldova adopted a Law on “Ensuring equality”. However, as result of oppositions mainly by the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is subordinated to the Russian Orthodox Church, some amendments were made; prohibited ground of discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation was protected only in the area of employment. We should highlight that in those three countries most favorable options of the bills for LGBTI rights were offered by the Government, civil society protected those bills, in three countries, particularly in Georgia and Moldova, Churches and institutions which are influenced by Russia opposed to the bills. However, they didn’t win in any of the countries; prohibited ground of discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation is mentioned in this or that context of the legislation of those three countries, more in Georgia and less in Moldova.
  4. If prohibited ground of discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation isn’t defined in Armenian anti-discrimination law, it will be a serious blow to the reputation of European Union, an unforgivable concession of rights. The prohibited ground must be included in anti-discrimination bill and civil society should fight for preserving those clauses in the bill. The question of whether Armenian Parliament and vast majority will adopt such kind of bill or not, depends on the battle of civil society and the persistence of the international community. If those bases aren’t included in the bill from the very beginning within the frameworks of the project implemented by the support of the Netherlands, then the Armenian society will have all the rights to review its opinion about the Netherlands to be a country of rights and freedom.
  5. In the interview with one of the news agencies Ara Ghazaryan, who introduced himself to be a member of working group of developing a Draft law, answered to the question of what kinds of issues will the project regulate and why it is expedient to have such kind of project; “The need of developing the project comes from the necessity to protect the rights of people with disabilities, pensioners, children and women. Armenia has international commitments which assume to protect the rights of those people. In this regard, the information media provides doesn’t correspond with reality and seeks to discredit our work, as well as puts the protection of our citizens’ rights in danger”. It’s not clear what Ara Ghazaryan tries to reject, what he speaks about and what discredits their work, but it is not hard to guess. We don’t know the principles that project experts were chosen with and if they and “Eurasia” are responsible for the content of the bill or not, but LGBTnews is going to be alert to reveal those problems and bring it to public attention.

And finally, rights and freedom aren’t given anyone for no reason; they are achieved through a battle. While speaking about LGBTI rights in Armenia, we speak about approximately a hundred and thousand people (according to the data on the percentage of LGBTI people in the society in the scientific literature). LGBTI persons and right advocates, as it became clear from the above mentioned, have several opponents at the same time and very few allies.

However, it’s not something to be discouraged about but it is a chance to unite. Human rights defenders, as well as institutions dealing with protection of LGBTI rights have a great role here. Thus, the estimation of activities of Armenian civil society will be the ending result of the process.