By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com December 13 2002 1:00 AM ET
Armenian gay and lesbian activists are threatening to out members of the political establishment who are gay unless police stop harassing sexual minorities, a human rights advocate told Agence France-Presse on Thursday.
Gay people in Armenia, a deeply conservative, Orthodox Christian nation, face relentless persecution and are sometimes forced to flee the country, said Mikael Danielyan, head of the local Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. "They hide their sexual orientation because--if they don't--the police put pressure on them, they often lose their work, and are beaten up. Some of them have to go abroad," Danielyan said.
Since the former Soviet republic was admitted in January 2001 to the Council of Europe, a human rights and democracy body, Armenia has taken steps to amend its criminal code, under which homosexuality is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail. The new criminal code, which classifies a homosexual act as illegal only if it is with a sexual minor or amounts to rape, should be submitted to its parliament for approval by the end of the year, Danielyan said.
"But even after these changes the situation of sexual minorities will remain difficult. There is absolute intolerance toward gays in society, and there is not a single politician willing to defend their rights," he added.