LGBTQ Heroes: Lilit Martirosyan
Lilit Martirosyan is an advocate for LGBTQ equality in Armenia. Recently, she became the first person to address the Armenian parliament about the need for equality for the country’s LGBTQ community.
Martirosyan’s address to the Armenian parliament has attracted all sorts of attention.
The parliament’s committee on human rights invited Martirosyan to appear before them to discuss discrimination against Armenia’s LGBTQ community.
The Guardian reports that in her presentation, Martirosyan highlighted that her community has been “tortured, raped, kidnapped, subjected to physical violence, burned, immolated, knifed, subjected to murder attempt, killed, emigrated, and robbed.” Martirosyan, who is a Trans woman, also said that Trans people in Armenia are subjected “to stigma and discrimination in social, medical, legal, economic areas, and are left unemployed, poor and morally abandoned.”
The speech has sparked an extreme backlash in Armenia. There have been anti-LGBTQ protests in front of the national assembly, and verbal attacks made by some parliamentarians have included calls for Martirosyan to be burned alive.
Homosexuality has been legal in Armenia since 2003. However, Armenia remains a socially conservative country, and homosexuality remains socially taboo. LGBTQ in Armenia continue to suffer discrimination, violence, and being socially outcast by friends and family.
Armenia is an ancient part of the world, with a fascinating evolution. It’s recent history has been defined by Russia – following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia declared its independence in 1991.
In 2018, popular protests – known as the Velvet Revolution – led to a change of government and the rise of current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
In her speech to the parliamentary committee, Martirosyan said that she and many of the LGBTQ community were in the forefront of the Velvet Revolution because “we believed that our rights would’ve been protected in new Armenia. In the post-revolutionary Armenia, hate has no place.”
Hayk Hakobyan, founder of the Rainbow Armenia Initiative, confirms Martirosyan’s testimony. Hakobyan – who was attacked in August 2018 – has been forced to leave Armenia and is seeking asylum in the Netherlands. He told the Guardian that Armenian society is hostile. “I left Armenia because I was attacked and banished from my home. I fled Armenia because there is no justice in my country.”
Hakobyan believes that no progress has been made for the LGBTQ community since Pashinyan came to power.
“The corruption and arbitrary decisions within the juridical system continue…” said Hakobyan. “The people who attacked me and my friends in August 2018 received a pardon for their crimes and are now free criminals that promote the idea of violence against the LGBT people. This sets a precedent where the people of Armenia can see that violence against LGBT is left unpunished.”