Armenia: Authorities withdraw proposal to ban discussion of gay and lesbian relationships

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Armenian police proposed a ban on the discussion of gay and lesbian relationships last week, but just days after its submission, officials in the country have said they are withdrawing the bill due to “shortcomings”.

The police drafted the proposed article to the Administrative Violations Code which would see Armenian citizens fined up to £2,500 for promoting what it calls “non traditional sexual relationships”.

But just days after news of the bill went viral, authorities have decided to withdraw the bill.

Police chief Vladimir Gasparian said the bill had “shortcomings” and was therefore no longer a priority for the police.

The proposed move by Armenia to ban the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” would have followed the lead of Russia who also recently banned “gay propaganda”.

Mamikon Hovsepian, head of LGBT rights group Pink Armenia, said: “This is definitely the shadow of Russia. We live in Russia’s shadow”.

Police spokesman Ashot Aharonian denied that the bill was withdrawn over concerns of international pressure

He said the bill was originally drafted because many worried Armenians were sending in letters to the national police service expressing concern over “growing public manifestations of homosexuality”.

Sevak Kirakosian, another LGBT rights activist, said that bill might have been introduced by the government to distract its citizens from the country’s economic problems.

He added: “The police are trying to improve their reputation in the people’s eyes”.

Armenia decriminalised homosexuality in 2003 after having banned sex between men under Soviet rule in 1936, and was the first country to sign on to the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in 2008.

But attitudes towards LGBT people have recently taken a turn in the country, following a series of attacks on gay bars last year in May by far-right groups.

LGBT Armenians have no legal recognition of their relationships, cannot adopt, and have no legal protections from discrimination.

Writing for PinkNews, prospective Liberal Democrat candidate for the European Parliament Giles Goodall pointed out that Armenia and Azerbaijan were neighboured when it came to LGBT rights in the EU, just ahead of Bulgaria and Italy which are ranked lowest