To fight and never give up. To earn the right to live free, equal, and with dignity: Edgar Khachatryan

LGBTnews interviewed the director of Peace Dialogue NGO Edgar Khachatryan

Mr. Khachatryan, how do you assess the current situation of LGBTI rights in Armenia?

The situation is in fact outrageous. Not only LGBTI people are not protected by the law, but the public awareness of the issues these people face is lacking.

Who is responsible for this situation?

I always think it is the government that should be held responsible. The government is responsible for protecting the rights and freedoms of its citizens. It is primarily the government’s problem. The government neglects its responsibility to raise awareness in the society about the issues and rights of LGBTI people.

Do you believe that if the government takes necessary actions, LGBTI rights will be respected?

Yes, definitely.

Several years ago former Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasyan developed an anti-discriminatory bill, which, however, did not get approved by the National Assembly. It included provisions that stated that discrimination against LGBTI people is unacceptable. Today a new anti-discriminatory bill is being developed. What would your assessment be of the bill if it ends up not containing any provisions regarding LGBTI rights?

The bill must include provisions on LGBTI rights. Otherwise it would be flawed—an anti-discriminatory law created on discrimination. It is difficult to predict whether such provisions will be included in the bill. I am only aware that there are groups, activists, and NGOs that are working toward including such provisions in the bill, but I’m not certain what the final bill will look like.

Mr. Khachatryan, Armenia has signed a number of international documents agreeing to protect the rights of LGBTI people. LGBTnews is conducting a series of interviews with politicians and MPs, majority of which have a negative disposition towards LGBTI people. In your opinion, how is Armenia going to fulfill its obligations with such political leaders?

That is a very complicated question. From the human rights perspective, every citizen, regardless of their race, gender, and religious beliefs must have a way of ensuring their rights, and these rights should be protected by the government and the law. There is an apparent discrimination against LGBTI people. Obstacles are created to impede the process of restoring their violated rights. And these obstacles are created by the same government officials who are happily signing international documents, and even receiving grants for the purposes of carrying out reforms in Armenia. I understand the paradox, but I’m not really sure what should be done in this situation. I’m shocked by the public statements made by the MPs regarding LGBTI people. For example, the latest interviews with the ARF leaders are outrageous. Such people should not be in power. They do not have a basic understanding of human rights and the rule of law.

The interviews with the MPs also address LGBTI people’s right to marry. Do you believe that they should have the right to marry?

Cultural idiosyncrasies and social perceptions may differ among citizens, but from the human rights standpoint every citizen has a right to marry. It is the government that should break the stereotypes.

Mr. Khachatryan, what is your message to LGBTI people?

It may sound a little presumptuous on my part to urge them to fight for their rights, since LGBTI people face many obstacles and dangers in Armenia. They also do not have many supporters, even in the civil society. I would urge them to fight and never give up—earn the right to live free, equal and with dignity.