“If I went to the army, my life would be seriously threatened. As a result of physical violence, I would be deprived of life or, submitted to psychological violence and persecution, I might have committed suicide,” says homosexual A.S. to Forrights.am.
The 29-year-old young man dealing with defending the LGBT community interests assures that the homosexuals who are released from compulsory military service simply worry about their lives. He did not reject to serve in military: the state simply did not give guarantees that it would ensure his security. Based on the Defense Minister`s decree, he was released from military service.
Serving in the Armed Forces of Armenia endangers the lives of the homosexual conscripts. The state does not give homosexuals guarantees that they will not be subjected to cruel, discriminatory treatment at the military unit. A., who has been receiving terrifying information from the army, believes that the lives of homosexuals have not changed positively in the armed forces. When it is disclosed that a soldier in a military unit is homosexual, everyone becomes hostile and a series of persecutions begin. The co-servers do not interact with homosexuals, they do not eat at the same table in the canteen, and their dishes are separated.
Yet, this is innocent manifestation of hatred. According to A., in the military unit, they try to find out what is the person’s role during the sexual acts. If it is a passive one, they are transferred to another military unit, but active homosexuals are subjected to criminal charges. The persecutions of passive homosexuality in the new military unit do not stop.
Human rights activist A. assures that there is no case when the military unit is not informed about a soldier’s sexual orientation. Sometimes the disclosed homosexual is subjected to sexual exploitation. Other soldiers do not condemn this behavior even when the sexual act is carried out violently. Beating, humiliation, blasphemy … it goes on so long that leads to suicide. The human rights defender is telling a story he has learned.
“They found a dating site in a person’s phone through which they “revealed” that he was a homosexual. A criminal case has been initiated against him and investigation started. They took him to a medical facility to verify whether he had a sexual intercourse. They explained that it was an illegal behavior, for which he had to be punished. Not knowing the law, the soldier became simply a victim of unlawfulness and tried to prove that he was not homosexual.
In the absence of facts, they gathered that the person was not homosexual and the criminal case was dismissed. Due to these psychological persecutions, the person has tried to take drugs and end his life. Without knowing his identity and fearing it, the soldier has found the solution in ending his life, which fortunately did not happen.” As it is commonly said, the army is the mirror of the society. Intolerance toward homosexuals has been firmly embedded in the culture of Armenians, and in the army it is manifested much cruelly.
A. thinks that intolerance towards homosexuals has certain political context. In its political war with the West, Russia uses the LGBT community as a tool; the public is being preached that the US and Europe are spreading wickedness through homosexuals:
“This Russian propaganda has been intentionally introduced in Armenia. The goal is to keep the Armenians away from the “wicked” Europeans. The Armenians, without thinking, copy the Russian approached of hatred towards human beings. Unfortunately, in the course of time, such hatred became characteristic to the mentality of the majority of Armenians,” tells A.S. to Forrights.am. Being homosexual is equaled with psychological disease.
After being released from military service, A.S. was involved in endless judicial tussles. The RA Ministry of Defense has an internal legal act, through which, based on their statement and the results of medical examination, the homosexuals are released from the military service. This act lists homosexuals as people with mental disorder. A.S. was also recognized as a person with mental disorder. The discrimination of the state did not end here.
In 2016, the Traffic Police notified A.S. that his driver`s license was voided because he had a mental disorder. A. applies to the Administrative Court requesting to nullify the police decision on depriving him of the driver’s license. Maro Khachaturyan, the lawyer representing A.S.’s interests in the court, stated in the lawsuit that the police had discriminated against his client without trying to differentiate whether A.`s mental illness was such that would hinder his driving ability or jeopardize the traffic. According to Maro Khachaturyan, the police did not take into consideration the international practice or the Constitution of Armenia.
“In the court, I have showed the international experience attesting that in other countries homosexuality is not a ground for depriving the person of the right to drive. The International Road Traffic Convention establishes that it has to be clearly proved that a person represents a danger for the road traffic and only then he or she can be deprived of his/her driving license. Our police did not even provide an expert opinion as to how A.S. could compromise the traffic.”
Judge Liana Hakobyan eventually acknowledged the fact of the violation of the A.S.’s right. Decisions that are evenly applied without any distinction have been recognized as unlawful. That is, the court found that the police excluded the individual approach to each person. It should have explicated how the mental illness of A.S. would endanger the traffic.
Judicial act of the judge Liana Hakobyan does not entirely satisfy A.S. and his lawyer. Part of the court ruling will be appealed in the higher court. According to the ruling of judge Hakobyan, homosexuality is recognized a mental illness. Attorney Maro Khachaturyan thinks it is not admissible. International Code F-66 does not consider homosexuality a mental disease. Although Armenia is a country that uses this Code, government agencies, the Ministry of Defense and the Police classify homosexuality along mental illnesses.
According to advocate Khachaturyan, the practice of the law is discriminatory in our country. “That is, only the statement of a person that he is homosexual cannot serve as a basis for him to be considered mentally ill. Only medical examination can confirm the fact of mental disorder. Homosexuality is the inalienable right of a person, it is an innate phenomenon, and internationally it is confirmed that it is not a disease. It turns out we have a problem, not with the law but with the law enforcement bodies,” says Maro Khachaturyan. State authorities have infringed the rights of A.S. in another area too. The Ministry of Defense conveyed the information about the “homosexuality” of A.S. to the Police.
In this regard, Maro Khachaturyan, A.S.’s lawyer, filed a lawsuit demanding the court to recognize the fact of violation of his client`s right of protection of his personal information. “Without the knowledge of my client, the transmition of data related to him is unlawful. The Police and the Ministry of Defense violated the law on personal data protection,” says the lawyer. This case is still under investigation.
The human rights defender A.S. says there is a great need for a state-civil society dialogue,” in order to be able to understand how the state can ensure the right of a homosexual person to live in the army and not avoid serving, and homosexuality not be included in the range of mental illnesses. To recognize a person mentally ill on the grounds that he is a gay person is a gross violation of human rights. This is a discriminatory approach towards homosexual persons and it is the failure of the state.”
Another option of avoiding the violations of the rights of homosexuals in the army is the transition to a professional military service. A large number of citizens will be called to the army with high salaries, and homosexuals will not have to ask for mercy or favor from the state.