Armenia’s first registered transgender woman has received death threats after making speech in her country’s national assembly, ONA reports citing the Guardian.
Lilit Martirosyan became the first member of her country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community to take to the parliamentary podium, speaking out against discrimination at a session of its committee on human rights. A video of the speech has been shared around the world.
Martirosyan expressed solidarity with a community that has been “tortured, raped, kidnapped, subjected to physical violence, burned, immolated, knifed, subjected to murder attempt, killed, emigrated, and robbed”. She said transgender 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, two weeks ago, has since sparked a backlash in Armenia, where homosexuality has been decriminalised but discrimination against LGBTI people is rife. There have been anti-LGBTI protests in front of the national assembly and verbal attacks made by some parliamentarians have included calls for her to be burned alive.
The prime minister and the main opposition have tried to blame each other for allowing Martirosyan’s speech.
“This was the first time in Armenia when a transgender woman spoke from a high podium… of violence against transgender people,” Martirosyan told the Guardian. “[A] transphobic man with a knife came to the national assembly to announce that he would kill me and that others like me must be killed, too … I have received many messages via Facebook and email from various people telling that they will find and kill me.
Martirosyan said the home addresses of several people who work for Right Side, the transgender rights organisation she created in 2016, have been leaked and that her own home address has been spread across the internet by extremist groups who have threatened to “kill them if we find them”. Nationalists, she said, have gathered outside her house.
The UN office in Armenia said it was “concerned about the recent rise in hate speech and threats of violence against human rights and LGBTI activists”. “Neither threats of violence nor any form of discrimination against any group or individual can be tolerated,” read a statement.
Martirosyan, the first Armenian able to obtain a passport under a new name in 2015, told parliament that at least 283 crimes against transgender people had been registered up until last year. “For me, it means there are 283 criminals in Armenia living next to me and you. And who knows, maybe the 284th will commit their crime just tomorrow,” she said.
Her speech was condemned by the chairperson of the parliamentary session.
Vartan Ghukasian, from the opposition BHK party, was quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as saying “perverts” must be expelled from Armenia. “Send them to Holland,” Ghukasian said. “We want … females to be females and males to be males. You can’t mix female with male. It’s shameful.”