LGBT rights in Armenia

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LGBT rights in Armenia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Male legal since 2003,
Female not criminalized
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption Same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt
Military service Gays and lesbians are not allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections No law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Armenia () have yet to be claimed and acquired.

Homosexuality has been legal in Armenia since 2003. However, even though it has been decriminalized, the situation of local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens has not changed substantially.

Public opinion about homosexuality has not changed. There is, moreover, no legal protection for LGBT persons whose human rights are violated regularly. [1] [2]

Many fear violence in their workplace or from their family, and therefore, do not file complaints of human rights violations or of criminal offences. [3]


Although same-sex relationships were quite common in ancient Armenia influenced by Hellenistic, Persian and Roman cultures, after Christianity became the official religion of the Kingdom of Armenia in 301 A.D., the popular perception of homosexuality has shifted towards rejection and negative beliefs.

Even though there is not much written documentation available on the issue of homosexuality in the Armenian history, however some sources provide arguments allowing to conclude that it was widely accepted in the past. In the list of the most known ancient gay Armenians King Pap (circa 353 AD – 374) holds a special place. Described by religious clergy in "Buzandaran Patmutiunk" as possessed by demons he was told to indulge in hedonistic parties with his own guard.

Whereas Byzantine vassal between VII-X centuries, Armenia remains the cradle of the Pavlikian movement (also known as Paulician). It is a dualistic Christian sect which was opposed to the authority of the Church. Paulicians rejected the Old Testament, baptism and were described by their contemporaries as heretics and sodomites. Empress Theodora the Macedonian killed, drowned or hanged no fewer than 100,000 Paulicians in Armenia. Many researchers see in Paulicians the foreruners of Cathars (Albigensians) and later Protestants.

Another legendary character is Sarmad, Armenian by origin, he was a sufi poet living in India in the 17th century. He was known for espousing and ridiculing the major religions of his day, but also wrote beautiful religious poetry in the form of rubaiyats. He is known to have wandered the streets and the courts of the emperor completely naked. A sensual and intelligent man, this renowned ascetic came to know a tragic romantic fate as he fell in love with a 14 year old Hindu boy.[4]

Armenia remained divided under the foreign rule between the 4th and 19th centuries. After the collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, the First Republic of Armenia has been established in May 1918 and endured two years. Soon after the invasion of the Red Army in December 1920, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed. During the Soviet period the legislation of this country was so far dictated by Moscow. In 1936 the anti-sodomy article was introduced in the penal code to punish sexual intercourse between men. Although the repressive law, some eminent artists were expressing their sexuality through artwork. The poet Yeghishe Charents and film-director Sergei Parajanov are among the most known LGBT Armenians of the Soviet era.

Former legislation against homosexuality

Between 1920-1991 Armenia was part of the ex-USSR.

Until 2003 the legislation of Armenia followed the corresponding Section 121 from the former Soviet Union penal code, which only specifically criminalized anal intercourse between men. Lesbian and non-penetrative gay sex between consenting adults was not explicitly mentioned in the law as being a criminal offence.

The specific article of the penal code was 116, dating back to 1936, and the maximum penalty was 5 years.

The abolition of the anti-gay law along with the death penalty was among Armenia's pre-accession conditions to the Council of Europe back in 2001. In December 2002, Azgayin Zhoghov (National Assembly) has approved the new penal code in which the anti-gay article has been removed. On August 1, 2003 the President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan has ratified it bringing to an end the decades of repression against gay men in this tiny South Caucasian Republic.

There were 7 prosecutions in 1996 and 4 in 1997 under this law (Amnesty International 1999 Report on Armenia); and 4 in 1999 (Opinion of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe on the accession of Armenia - Doc. 8756 - 6 June 2000).

In 2001, local human rights NGO "Helsinki Association"[5] published via its website the story of a 20 year old Hovik Minassian[6].

In 1999 the young man was sentenced to 3 months of imprisonment for having sex with another man. He was the last condemned under article 116. In his testimony, he denounced prison guard abuse and mistreatment but also the corrupted judge who shortened his sentence for a $US 1000 bribe. The mediatization of his case signed the first gay "coming out" in Armenia.

The birth of a movement

Following the abolition of the law, some sporadic signs of an emerging LGBT rights movement were observed in Armenia. In October 2003, a group of 15 LGBT people gathered in Yerevan to set up an organization which was initially baptised GLAG (Gay and Lesbian Armenian Group). But after several meetings the participants failed to achieve their goal.

In the fall of 2004, prompted by the announcement of Armen Avetisyan, founder of AAU (Armenian Aryan Union), an extreme right group, that some Armenian top officials were gay, various parliament members initiated heated debates that were broadcast over the public TV channel; these had the scent of a witch-hunting. In hate-filled rhetoric at odds with lawmakers of a democratic republic, members of Parliament stated that any member found to be gay should resign – an opinion shared by the Presidential Advisor for National Security, Garnik Isagulyan.[7].

In October 2004, AGLA France organized a protest and picketed in front of the Armenian embassy in Paris to denounce the homophobic campaign and denigration of gays by Armenian lawmakers and media outlets. The Association's open letter to the President of Armenia was published a few days later in the newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak.

Thus LGBT groups in the extensive Armenian Diaspora led to the movement in Republic.

In 2005, supported by AGLA France, two young men from Armenia participated in ILGA-Europe's annual conference which took place in Paris. A year later, Menq/WFCE [8], the first gay-operated NGO to fight HIV/AIDS, has been registered in Yerevan.

In 2007, Pink Armenia [9], another NGO, emerged to promote public awareness on HIV and other STI (sexually transmitted infections) prevention but also to fight the discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Recognition of same-sex marriage

In 2006, a couple of gay Armenians from France celebrated an informal wedding ceremony[10] [11] in the Etchmiadzin Cathedral (Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church). The article published about this improvised marriage in "168 Zham" (168 Hours) newspaper has provoked a scandal and indignation of local conservative media outlets, politicians and religious officials. [12]

Civil unions and same-sex marriages are not currently recognised in Armenia and there is no public debate surrounding such legislation at the given time.


As of today, Armenia does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children and there is no known debate surrounding such legislation at the given time.

Anti-discrimination law

Even though Armenia was the first nation in the region to endorse the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity in December 2008, as of today there is no legislation protecting LGBT persons from discrimination.

Military service

According to the Helsinki Rights Committee in Armenia, in 2004 an internal defence ministry decree effectively bans gay men from serving in the armed forces. In practice, gays are marked as mentally ill and sent to a psychatrist.[13]

Gender identity/expression

No information available at this moment.

See also


External links


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