A transgender woman from Armenia is at the centre of an international row after giving an impassioned speech to the country’s National Assembly.
Lilit Martirosyan was ejected from Armenia’s parliament after calling for improved protections for trans people, and has since been subjected to death threats.
Addressing MPs on April 5, she said: “I am delivering this speech to you as a transgender woman, but I ask you to see me as a collective figure.
“I stand for tortured, raped, burnt, stabbed, killed, banished, discriminated, poor and unemployed transgender people of Armenia.
“I stand for tortured, raped, killed, banished, discriminated transgender people of Armenia.”
—Lilit Martirosyan, trans activist
“I call upon you to carry out reforms and policies to achieve gender equality, and to ensure human rights for everyone.”
Protestors rally against Lilit Martirosyan
Martirosyan was escorted from the chamber following her speech, with an MP labelling her “disrespectful” for “violating” the day’s agenda.
Naira Zohrabyan said: “We cannot violate the agenda: this is not an issue of discrimination. If the question was addressed to you, we would invite you, and you would speak.”
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After a video of the exchange was shared online, more than 100 protestors rallied against Martirosyan outside of the parliament building on April 8. Many of that number were religious figures, with some calling for a consecration of the parliamentary floor.
EU and UN support Lilit Martirosyan
On April 9 the EU issued a statement condemning “hate speech, including death threats directed at Lilit Martirosyan, her colleagues and the LGBT+ community as a whole.”
“The EU calls on all in Armenia who promote and believe in the universality of human rights to condemn hate speech and on law enforcement agencies to take urgent steps to guarantee the physical safety of Armenian citizens and to investigate allegations against those suspected of perpetrating hate crimes,” it continued.
A day later (April 10), the UN issued a similar statement.
“No threat of violence, nor any form of discrimination against any group or individual, can be tolerated,” the UN office in Yeravan, Armenia’s capital, wrote.
Anna Naghdalian, spokeswoman for the Armenian foreign ministry, labelled the interventions disrespectful.
“Our international partners should demonstrate more respect and sensitivity towards the Armenian society and refrain from undue engagement in the public debate,” she wrote on April 10.
She added that the government is fully committed to protecting human right and “will not tolerate any illegal actions.”
Armenia is regularly ranked as a hostile place for LGBT+ people. In 2018 the Human Rights Watch accused its government of “failing to effectively investigate anti-LGBT violence” following violence against LGBT+ activists.