YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenian police on Thursday withdrew a proposal that would have banned any public promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” in the country, similar to anti-gay laws in Russia.
The proposed amendments to Armenia’s administrative offenses would have fined citizens, legal entities, and officials up to $4,000 for propagating “non-traditional sexual relationships,” but were withdrawn just days after posting it on their website. Police initially stated that the bill was needed to protect “the model of the traditional Armenian family” against “phenomena alien to national Armenian mentality.”
The bill prompted concern from some civil rights activists after being posted on the police website earlier this week, reported Radio Free Europe. Armenian authorities also faced potential strong reaction from Western governments and human rights groups. The latter powerfully criticized similar legislation that was recently enacted in Russia.
Ashot Aharonian, a police spokesman said the Armenian police chief, Vladimir Gasparian, withdrew the bill due to “shortcomings” exposed by critics, and for not being a pressing “priority” for the police at the moment.
Aharonian claimed that a legal department at the national police service drafted the amendments in response to letters from many Armenians worried about they see as growing “public manifestations of homosexuality,” but that authorities never intended to crack down on sexual minorities. He insisted that the bill was not withdrawn under domestic or foreign pressure.
Mamikon Hovsepian, the head of the Karik, an Armenian LGBT rights advocacy group, suggested that the proposed bill was “definitely the shadow of Russia.”
LGBT activist Sevak Kirakosian said the proposed ban on gay “propaganda” might have also been a government attempt to deflect the public’s attention from socioeconomic problems that have blighted Aremenia. Several Armenian organizations had openly voiced support for the police initiative.
One of them, the Armenian Organization for Constitutional Rights Defense, said the bill does not violate human rights. “Nobody wants to prevent anybody from having such a lifestyle,” it said in a statement. “But there are many people who do not want this lifestyle to be imposed on them and their children watching television.”
Armenia and the majority of other former Soviet republics decriminalized homosexuality in the early 1990s, but hostility in the region toward LGBT people remains high.