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LGBTI Rights: Respect for diversity and tolerance are traditional Armenian values. It's time to

All people have an equal right to live free from violence, persecution, discrimination and stigma. International human rights law establishes legal obligations on States to ensure that every person without distinction can enjoy these rights. What happened in Armenia on 3rd August in the country’s Syunik province demonstrates the importance for an anti-discrimination law including LGBTI discrimination, which has not yet been officially approved.

© Pink Armenia

Armenia is in the process of democratic normalization and reconciliation. The country has taken its first brave steps towards a new era of democratic governance. So why this absence of reactions and clarifications?

It is therefore important to understand the extend to which and the manner in which legal uncertainty about LGBTI community discriminations sends mixed and conflicting signals which cast doubt over the integrity of the democratic process.

Particularly since the constitutional court of Armenia and the court of cassation can request the European court in Strasbourg to give advisory opinions on questions of principle relating the interpretation or application of the rights and freedom defined in the European convention of human rights.

LGBTI persons are entitled to their full rights under the international convention on civil and political rights (ICCPR).

It is not therefore a question of stigmatising Armenia but rather of supporting it in its efforts to consolidate the democratic reforms under way.

New state laws that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to non-discrimination protection would remove any doubt.

Civil rights laws authoritatively set the morals of a community. These effects occur because anti-discrimination legislation can create social norms that govern what are acceptable and not acceptable behaviours to display towards stigmatized individuals.

The hope raised by the « velvet revolution » in the country offers hope for more transformative social justice politics and for progressive change. It could also provide an opportunity to weaken the societal premium placed on normalcy in favour of pluralism, respect of diversity of opinion and cultural diversity.

We as Armenians must work together to create an inclusive society.

The question now is how to make the concept of social inclusion operational even in the face of resistance. The challenge for policy-makers is to find ways to dissociate the concept of social inclusion from the utopian realm of « perfectly inclusive » world vision to redefining it as a practical tool used to promote an inspirational yet realistic set of policy measures geared towards a society for all.

This requires a paradigm shift. So as to recognize the dignity, value and importance of each person, not only as an ethical norm and moral imperative, but also as a legal principle, a societal goal and, ultimately, practice.

Social cohesion is very important. In a socially cohesive society all individuals and groups have a sense of belonging, recognition and legitimacy. Social cohesive societies are less prone to slip into destructive patterns and conflicts when different interests collide.

Those who are bringing to the fore the « traditional values » to justify the violence against minority groups, just let me say that I grew up with my Armenian grandparents, both of them survivors of the genocide. They taught me to respect diversity and to value the dignity of each individual. They taught me tolerance because they knew what it meant to have a lack of voice, lack of recognition, lack of capacity for active participation as members of an ethnic minority.

These are the « traditional values » I grew up with.

Armenians paid with their lives their status of minority. We should be the first ones to fight against discrimination.

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