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Discussion of New Armenian Law on NGOs Ends with Republican MPs’ Homophobic Rants and ‘Jokes’

The discussion of the new Armenian law “On Public Organizations” at the National Assembly today ended with homophobic comments from lawmakers representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia's (RPA) faction. 

Introducing the bill to the MPs, Justice Minister Arpine Hovhannisyan noted that when drawing up the draft, the authors were guided by one principle: “to not needlessly interfere with the activities of civil society institutions, but, at the same time, have our finger on their pulse just in case.” The new law, Hovhannisyan continued, envisaged an “important reform,” allowing NGOs to engage in entrepreneurial activities the proceeds of which would be left entirely in their disposal.

RPA lawmaker Hayk Babukhanyan, for some reason, assumed that a laxer law on public organizations would put Armenia at the risk of "turning the European model into an idol.” “We should not do that. Otherwise, we’ll end up with gay parades on our streets. I don’t want to live in such Armenia,” he ranted.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, replied that he didn’t believe such a scenario was possible in Armenia. “I’m of a high opinion about our society, and I hope that at least those present in this hall do not welcome all kinds of colored parades.”

Arpine Hovhannisyan, in turn, said: “I did not expect that [the discussion of the draft law on NGOs] would lead to the approval or disapproval of different minorities.”

Levon Martirosyan, another RPA representative, was quick to jump on the homophobic wagon: “I’m against gay parades in general and especially so in Armenia. A joke comes to mind – a gay parade is to take place, but to save time, it’s decided that it should be held right next to a trauma center so that all those battered gays are rushed to doctors as soon as possible.”

The “joke” sent most of the lawmakers into fits of laughter.