Statement on transphobic violence in Armenia

We, members of the LGBTI Intergroup, want to express our deep concern in relation to the wave of hate speech and death threats targeting Lilit Martirosyan over the last week, because she is a trans woman.

On Friday 5 April Lilit Martirosyan, a trans activist and President of the NGO Right Side, spoke on behalf of the Armenian trans community and highlighted 263 cases of transphobic incidences targeting trans people in Armenia in front of the Armenian National Assembly. Lilit Martirosyan made history by being the first ever trans woman to do so.

We were alarmed to witness the widespread hate speech that targeted Lilit Martirosyan and trans people in general following her intervention in the National Assembly, including at the highest political levels. Statements by the Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Protection of Human Rights and Public Affairs Naira Zohrabyan that « trans people should not be allowed to give a speech, even in the new Armenia », or the denunciation by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of the delivery of Lilit’s passport (with a female first name but the mention of male sex) as an anomaly and making of Lilit’s birth name public, are unacceptable as they directly contribute to transphobic violence.

We were also informed that following Lilit Martirosyan’s speech, she had to go into hiding because of constant intimidations, harassment, and death threats, but also because her address was made public. It is not only her safety, but also the safety of the trans that is now compromised – as show the increasing violence targeting trans sex workers since 5 April.

However the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia published a statement on 10 April, presenting this hate speech as an issue of “morality” and different “tonality” instead of condemning its content.

Trans people are among the most marginalised, discriminated and killed groups of people in the world – and Armenia is no exception. It is the duty of elected officials and Armenian authorities to take a stand against transphobic hate speech, as it contributes and legitimises the already alarming level of hate and violence towards trans people.

Human rights such as the right to life, the right to freedom of expression, the right to be protected against discrimination and the right to respect for one’s private life are universal, inalienable and indivisible; they therefore apply to all human beings. Furthermore, the lack of legal gender recognition procedures, as is the case in Armenia, creates legal limbos for trans people who find themselves even more exposed to discrimination and violence. Trans rights are not a matter of opinion or morality, but a matter of human rights. 

We therefore count on Armenian authorities to urgently afford Lilit Martirosyan appropriate and full protection. We also call on the Armenian government to take a stand against this unacceptable wave of hate speech against both Lilit Martirosyan’s person and trans people in general, sanction perpetrators and put in place appropriate remedies to the victims.

Terry Reintke MEP, co-president of the LGBTI Intergroup

Daniele Viotti MEP, co-president of the LGBTI Intergroup

Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, vice-president of the LGBTI Intergroup

Sophie in’t Veld MEP, vice-president of the LGBTI Intergroup