of last month, and in compliance with Council
of Europe membership requirements, homosexuality
is no longer to be considered a crime in Armenia.
Clause 116 of the Armenian criminal code making
it illegal to be homosexual in Armenia was abolished,
and with it the threat of five years imprisonment
for anyone who is gay.
Still, gays in Armenia are convinced that a change
in law will not guarantee a change in public opinion
and the current contemptuous attitude towards
them will survive legal changes.
Widely considered to be immoral and disgraceful,
homosexuals in Armenia find little sympathy from
society or the justice system in defense of their
now-guaranteed human rights.
Alexander, who is gay, says neither his friends
nor his family know of his sexual orientation.
"Most of my friends who are homosexual left
Armenia because here they can not protect their
rights," Alexander says. "I do not think
I have a future here.
"Homosexuals are target of blackmail for
the police in Armenia. All the homosexuals who
are on a list of police pay them money regularly."
Mikael Danielyan, Chairman of the Helsinki Association,
says homosexuals often apply to him for support.
"In most cases they complain about the police,
but in their turn the police in most cases do
not like to deal with human rights defendants."
Danielyan says problems for homosexuals is especially
prevalent during military service.
He recalls two cases reported to him by 20-year
old Mamikon Hovsepyan and 18-year old Misak Kocharyan.
After they were recruited for military service,
officers told their families and work associates
that the men were gay.
"When military recruiting officers learn
that a man is homosexual usually they send him
to a clinic for psychiatric examination,"
Danielyan says. "The only progress is that
at least now they put a diagnosis of 'sexual perversion'.
Before, they interpreted homosexuality as 'split
personality'. In any case the gay is released
from military service and instead is registered
in a mental clinic."
says usually commanders do not wish to have homosexuals
in the army, as their presence causes problems
among ranks who are intolerant toward them.
Once identified as gay, a soldier faces intense
humiliation and is ostracized. In distant units
it is not unusual for gay soldiers to be beaten
As for Alexander, he applied to Danielyan not
because he had problems with police or in the
army, but because he realized that gays themselves
should learn how to protect their rights.
Before he came to the Helsinki Association he
applied to several organizations on human rights,
but so far no one helped.
"Some defendants do not want to deal with
our cases and others do not because of some principles,"
Alexander says that Danielyan suggested forming
a support group, but most gays say they did not
want such a group because of publicity it might
"Our society is either illiterate and believes
that homosexuality is a disease which should be
treated, or simply people do not wish to accept
something which is different from their traditional
understanding of morality and family," says
Danielyan, who has written several articles for
local and international media about rights of
The human rights advocate believes that the negative
attitude toward homosexuals in Armenia is partly
inherited from Soviet times. Communist leaders
believed that homosexuality is a product of a
capitalistic society's degradation.
Harutyun Minasyan, a psychologist at Polyclinic
No. 11, says that at least 10 homosexuals a year
apply to him for counseling.
"When they come they first of all take my
promise that I would not tell anyone about them,"
Minasyan says that what they need in most cases
is to share their problems, to have someone who
listens to them.
Almost all who apply to Minasyan suffer from
insomnia and depression. Even if they have a partner
and are happy with them, the social life frightens
them. Young people are especially vulnerable,
the psychologist says, adding that sometimes their
parents have taken them to doctors.
Minasyan saw one case in which parents brought
their son to see him after the boy's brothers
beat him, upon learning that the brother was gay.