Proposed Armenian Bill Would Ban “Propaganda of Homosexuality”

Eduard Sharmazanov, the Deputy Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly, is planning to propose a bill that would ban “homosexual propaganda,” Armenian news outlet Aravot reported.

Sharmazanov said this was one of several legislative projects, and would potentially manifest as a change in the “Protection of Children” law already in place.

If a kiss between members of opposite sexes will eventually lead to a healthy baby,” Sharmazanov explained, “then a kiss between members of the same sex leads to something very bad.”

When asked if Elton John, for example, would be banned from the country, Sharmazanov replied that, if he were to come and kiss his boyfriend in public, that would be “promoting homosexual propaganda.”

Sharmazanov is a member of the Republican Party of Armenia, which currently holds a majority of seats in parliament. However, the country is coming off of mass protests in April against corruption in the Republican-led government, and a reshaping of the political system.

The protests were triggered by former president Serzh Sargsyan’s appointment by parliament as prime minister, making him the nation’s most powerful figure, as Al Jazeera reported. Many interpreted the move as an attempt to cling to power.

Sargsyan eventually stepped down in the face of the protests, and Nikol Pashinyan, the opposition leader, was elected as prime minister by parliament in May.

Pashinyan, leading what eventually became known as Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution,” promised an increased protection of human rights and an end to rigged elections and corruption, according to the BBC.

The BBC noted the unprecedented nature of the peaceful uprising against single-party rule, as Armenia is a former Soviet state. Russia, however, has not interfered in the political processes.

While the recent events clearly benefit democratic development in the nation, Sharamazov’s proposed bill demonstrates the lack of social progress in Armenia.

Aravot described the proposed legislative project as evidence of the Republican Party’s desire to “support and have their place in the lawmaking process.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Armenia’s criminal code “does not recognize anti-LGBT hate as an aggravating criminal circumstance, and a government bill on equality does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as a ground for protection from discrimination.”

In August, Hayk Hakobyan, an LGBT rights activist, and his guests were attacked in Hakobyan’s house. A crowd that grew to roughly 30 people “shouted homophobic slurs and threats,” according to Human Rights Watch, and chased Hakobyan and his friends, “hitting, kicking, throwing stones, and shouting.”

Police said no charges or arrests had been made.

New Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, however, has embraced LGBT rights as part of human rights, Human Rights Watch said.

Time will tell if Pashinyan stands up to the homophobia Human Rights Watch described as “pervasive,” including in Armenia’s own National Assembly.