Mum’s the word in Armenia, where PinkNews reports that the national police force this week proposed a law against even talking about being gay. Similar to Russia’s incendiary ban on “gay propaganda,” the proposed policy would level a fine of about $4,000 American on anyone found to be “promoting non-traditional sexual relationships.”
As with the Russian law, the language seems to be that special blend of murky ambiguity and creepily open hostility that makes critics allege that it’s little more than an excuse to harass the queer community pretty much anytime they want.
Armenia repealed most of its Soviet-era sodomy laws a decade ago, but you can’t outlaw ill-will, and the anti-gay fervor that seems to be coming to a boil in Eastern Europe this year hasn’t skipped the Southern Caucus nation. Armenia’s national police force exercises broad authority under its Code of Administrative Offenses to detain and fine citizens without judicial hearings.
“Since the mid-1990s, Armenian authorities have used administrative detention as a tool of repression at times of political tension,” said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report that criticized the government’s reaction to the disputed 2003 presidential election.
The code covers misdemeanors deemed “public order crimes,” ranging from running a business without the proper licenses to supplying alcohol to minors to prostitution. But critics like HRW allege that it’s also a catch-all tool for stifling public dissent and intimidating persecuted groups.
“Abuses stem both from ambiguities in the Code itself and from the actions of police and courts, which routinely ignore Code provisions that provide protections for defendants,” HRW complained in 2003.
The activist group Pink Armenia published the results of a study last year finding that 72 percent of Armenians expressed a generally negative opinion of gays and lesbians, and 55 percent said they would stop interacting with even close relatives who came out as gay. Seventy-one percent believed that the state should “fight against” gays, but only twenty-five percent believed it actively was. Over 18 percent of those polled considered being gay “a disease,” while 12 percent said it was the result of the “influence of Western nations. Only four percent believed that being gay was “natural.”
Ten percent blamed it on the Internet.