GBT people in armed forces
“Patriotism has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation,” says Narek, a member of the GBT community (name changed by his wish), who has been in Artsakh since the first day of the war.
The 24-year-old young man from Artsakh ended his military service four years ago, and volunteered for the last war. According to Narek, the soldier faces serious difficulties in the army when it is revealed that he is a representative of the GBT community. Narek, fearing discrimination by the society, hid his sexual orientation, considering that keeping secret in the army is the only guarantee of security. “The sexual orientation of one of my fellow servicemen was revealed, after which the whole military unit targeted him. “They offended him personally, offended his parents, and physically abused him, because in the army everything is tougher.”
According to Narek, all GBT people in the Armed Forces have the same fate: being insulted, subjected to physical violence, subjected to psychological pressure. “It is pointless to live in that environment, where they can even lead to suicide and try to fight for your rights.”
According to Article 8 of the RA Government Decision 404-N, by the order of the Minister of Defense 410-N, homosexuality is considered a behavioral disorder of a person, GBT persons are exempted from military service by these points of the law.
According to Sergey Gabrielyan, President of “New Generation” Humanitarian NGO, this decision is the infamous decision inherited from the previous government, which continues current government. “The safe and secure military service of a person is put on one plate, the release of a person from compulsory military service due to his sexual orientation and gender identity is put on the other.”
It should be noted that in 2002 the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses.
According to lawyer Shushan Khnkoyan, if GBT people report their sexual orientation before joining the military service, the psychologist provides them with a referral, after which they go to a mental health center, talk to a psychiatrist, and then are offered to stay in a psychiatric hospital, but many of them refuse to do that: “In the future, GBT people, as a result of not having served, face a number of restrictions, for example, they can not have a driver’s license, hold high state positions, be admitted to higher education institutions, because in Armenia homosexuality is considered a behavioral disorder.”
The lawyer notes that very often GBT people do not admit their homosexuality before being drafted, because they are afraid of stigma, discrimination, violence and leakage of personal data, as there have been cases when conscripts have passed personal data of conscripts to relatives. “When GBT people are revealed in the army, the latter are subjected to violence by both servicemen and commanders, they even commit self-harm in order to get out of that disgraceful situation. Of course, there are exceptions. “The lawyer notes that very often GBT people do not admit their homosexuality before being drafted, because they are afraid of stigma, discrimination, violence and leakage of personal data, as there have been cases when the military comisariat has passed personal data of recruit to his relatives. “When GBT people are revealed in the army, the latter are subjected to violence by both servicemen and commanders, they even commit self-harm in order to get out of that disgraceful situation. Of course, there are exceptions. “
Sergey Gabrielyan notes that in the army, GBT people are mainly isolated, which is done not by their own will, but with the direct knowledge of the officers. “They do not eat bread from the same dishes, the dishes are separated. Only GBTs and their equals are involved in the cleanup. They do not bathe with the rest of the army. The cleaning of the bath and toilet is carried out exclusively by them and by people who are considered to be equal to them, if the military unit does not have appropriate staff. ”
Lawyer Shushan Khnkoyan mentions that there was a case when the GBT person was not provided with medical care in the Armed Forces, because he is gay. “We applied to the RA Ministry of Defense, after which steps were taken and the person received medical assistance.”
According to the lawyer, there are many cases like that, and a few months ago there was a case when the sexual orientation of a member of the GBT community was revealed during the last months of his military service, after which he was subjected to psychological pressure, violence, then tried to attempt suicide. managed to stay alive. “Their sexual orientation becomes a lifelong stigma because homosexuals are legally deprived of protection mechanisms. There is no law on ensuring equality in Armenia, by which people will be able to defend themselves.”
Paragraph 6 of Article 4 of the RA Law on Military Service and Military Servicemen Status defines respect for the honor and dignity of servicemen and prohibition of discrimination. Lawyer Shushan Khnkoyan mentions that in this case the law is not applied in practice. “In the army, when they find out about a person’s sexual orientation, they transfer him to another military unit, where basically everyone is in the same situation.”
According to Narek although the safety of a serviceman is ensured when moving to another military unit, homophobia causes a decrease in combat effectiveness, which also affects military training.
Sergey Gabrielyan, President of the New Generation Humanitarian NGO, says that everyone is responsible for the widespread homophobia in the country. “State bodies must adopt laws, which must fight against stigma and discrimination in the Republic of Armenia, as well as eliminate hatred and all kinds of torture. The people must have the will to accept LGBTI people as full members of society. ”
According to Sergey Gabrielyan, the GBT community once again showed its love for the homeland during the war, participating in the last Artsakh war. “Which I can not say about a mass of people and especially the ones who continue their hatred and discrimination in these critical moments against the GBT people who serve and who try to reveal their identities, and those people still talk about ‘honor’ and ‘morality.”
According to lawyer Shushan Khnkoyan, the non-service of GBT people on one hand causes a reduction in the number of servicemen, on the other hand prevents violence. “As a result of homophobia, young GBT people emigrate from Armenia. Migration levels are high because GBT people do not feel protected in our country.”
Narek also says that if he does not feel safe in the homeland, he will leave loving, but in any case he wants to stay in his country, to believe that a human is the highest value in Armenia.
Necessary concepts / abbreviations
LGBTI – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex
GBT – gay, bisexual, transgender
Homophobia – Feelings of hatred and mistrust towards homosexuals, also irrational fear of homosexuality
The compilation and publication of this material has become possible within the framework of the project on Capacity Building and Empowerment for Protection of LGBTI Human Rights in Armenia implemented by New Generation Humanitarian NGO with the financial support of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of New Generation Humanitarian NGO or the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.