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LGBT People Suffer Widespread Harassment, Discrimination in Armenia, Report Says

Societal attitude towards representatives of the LGBT community in Armenia is growing increasingly negative, and the state fails to take the proper measures to prevent discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to PINK Armenia's annual report (ARM) on the human rights situation of LGBT people in Armenia. 

By all measures, 2015 was a year of regression for LGBT rights in Armenia as the newly adopted constitutional amendments re-defined marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman. Furthermore, a wave of hate speech against the LGBT community and their supporters hit the country after the first Armenian LGBT rights forum held by Pink Armenia on October 17-18. An article about the event and a photograph of its participants was posted and shared by various local media outlets; subsequently, the comment sections of the publications filled up with hate speech and harassment, including death threats, from a vast number of users. Armenia's law enforcement agencies, however, refused to open a case into the threats, citing lack of evidence of criminal activity.

Gay and transgender individuals continued to face widespread discrimination in the army, in prisons, and police stations, the report states. Studies show that LGBT people in these institutions are forced into the heaviest and most "degrading" kinds of work,  such as cleaning toilets, urinals and other dirty areas. Homosexual inmates often report that prison staff have their fair share of guilt in their harassment; they either shut their eyes to the pressure against LGBT individuals or even foster it.

LGBT military personnel remain one of the groups most vulnerable to bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the study, these individuals are continuously subjected to blackmail and threats by fellow soldiers when their orientation or identity is revealed. Further, the serious issue of police ill-treatment also remains unresolved as instead of listening to LGBT people's complaints, the police often subject them to ridicule for their sexual orientation.

Armenia lacks legislative definition of hate speech and discrimination targeting LGBT people, the report says, and the absence of legal mechanisms and a general policy to protect and promote LGBT rights prevents representatives of the community from exercising their rights effectively.

In many cases, LGBT individuals refrain from submitting complaints to state authorities; instead they prefer to turn to human rights NGOs for assistance. In 2015, the authors stress, only two persons filed a complaint with Armenia's Human Rights Ombudsman about violations of their rights; meanwhile, Pink Armenia received 46 complaints from LGBT people.

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