The Cheap, Homophobic Ploy of Armenia’s Republican Party
After India’s highest court admitted that “The LGBTQ community has the same fundamental rights as citizens” and decriminalized Homosexuality earlier this month, the hope for a freer future for everybody suddenly became more tangible. However, literally one month ago, a homophobic attack in a small village called Shurnoukh in southern Armenia has generated a public discussion about human rights in Armenia again.
After the long-awaited failure of the former governing national-conservative Republican Party of Armenia, following the victory of the peaceful Velvet revolution in May 2018, the former governing Republican party maintained an intriguing silence. It seemed as if they did not want to interfere in the transformation processes taking place in the “New Armenia” (as it became known following the revolution), but all the while maintaining the information war on all possible media channels.
On the 9th of September, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and the representative of the Republican party, Mr. Eduard Sharmazanov, expressed his willingness to settle a new political agenda by proposing amendments to the current legislation and creating some new ones.
His personal agenda includes amending the “Law about Child’s rights” and forbidding the “propaganda of obscenity and homosexuality”. Perhaps worst of all, however, is that Mr Sharmazanov defended his decision with the following statement:
“If from a kiss of different sexes a healthy child is born, then from a kiss of the same sexes a very bad thing is born.”
Here, I’d like to give a little background on LGBT community’s rights in Armenia. The Republic of Armenia signed the UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We do not have Anti-discrimination Law, however, according to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia “Discrimination based on sex, race, skin colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion, world view, political or other views, belonging to a national minority, property status, birth, disability, age, or other personal or social circumstances shall be prohibited.” Armenia was the second country in Asia to recognize same sex marriages from another country since 2017.
However, marriage is recognized by law only between a man and a woman. Although the homosexuality is considered legal in Armenia since 2003, the public opinion remains highly intolerant: 94% of Armenians did not want to have gay neighbours, according to the surveys. And there’s usually only one NGO, PINK Armenia, that actively works for human rights of LGBT people in Armenia in spite of all the hatred they usually receive from the society.
The statement made by Mr Sharmazanov is thus a cheap manipulation of an unconscious social mind; wholly unfitting of the “experienced politician” that the people of Armenia may consider him to be.
Nevertheless, this is more than one-man;Mr Sharmazanov expresses the approach and the attitude of the whole Republican party. The party, which was governing for more than 10 years, initiated the Armenia’s European Association process, failed it, then restarted the association negotiations with the EU and concluded them last year by signing the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (also known as CEPA).
And here’s when we need to understand the following: why the same party, which didn’t express any strong disagreement regarding the above mentioned question for all these time suddenly decided to “prioritize the issue”?
Why did the party, who decided to follow the European path of democracy, express such strong support for human rights, non-discrimination and fundamental freedoms by signing CEPA, suddenly change the path to a totally opposing direction by making such a statement?
Well, the answer is more simple than one may think. Homosexuality remains a very sensitive topic for the conservative Armenian society, which has been resisting for years to any kind of improvement in this field.
The Republican party clearly understands, that their reputation has been hugely damaged by the Velvet revolution. Not only do people no longer trust them, but even go as far as to hate them so overwhelmingly, that it has even been expressed at the personal level.
One thing is sure though: the hate of the conservative nation against the phenomenon of homosexuality is far more immense than against their party. Guiding themselves with an ancient proverb that says “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, the people sadly prefer to choose the humiliated Republican party “for the sake of the preserving our children from homosexual propaganda”.
The party’s reputation is so damaged, that now they don’t even care who will support them. It doesn’t matter what kind of social groups will follow them: they just need a crowd whose hatred can be redirected toward any other subject.
What the current government thinks about this initiative is still unclear, as there wasn’t any official feedback after the announcement. We haven’t received a commentary from the Armenian Ombudsman either.
One thing is sure, however: questions, which create a strong emotional resonance in our society will be used as cheap manipulation tools to grab as many seats in the parliament during the upcoming elections, as possible.
For the Republican party this is a fight for life, as in the case of defeat, they will lose all possible power leverages at least for a decade. But before making a decision in favor of a party, who kept the political, social and economic environment of our country in corruption for many years, just ask yourself a simple question: “Is it worth voting for the Republicans just to spite LGBT folks? Is it worth not having a proper job, decent education and healthcare systems and a nation whose 30% lives in poverty, just to make sure that LGBT people cannot exercise their rights in Armenia? I don’t think that the answer to any of these questions should be ‘YES’. Hopefully, neither do you.
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Image: Wikimedia Commons