“… The Convention is the spiritual battle of Avarayr for the Armenian people in this new era.” This is an excerpt from the interview of Mr Khachik Stambultsyan, a public figure to the newspaper ‘Iravunq’on 7 July 2019. It refers to the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence or, in other words, the Istanbul Convention. Khachik Stambultsyan is deeply disappointed: ‘You have no right to discriminate between gay and normal people.’
For the 6th month in a row the Istanbul Convention has been used as the main instrument of manipulation against the authorities. There is no lack of intentional distortions and misrepresentation of facts: the online and print media, the social networks announce grimly that the Istanbul Convention is going to open the doors for perverted morality, destruction of the Armenian family and church, gay marriages, alientation of children from parents, the sunset of our traditions, etc. Furthermore, some media outlets that are ‘specialised’ in this topic, easily find people who are ready to distort the truth, impart biased information and hate speech on this topic. In what follows one may find several other quotes of the last months on this topic.
The headline in the issue of ‘Iravunk’ of 9 July 2019, page 3 asks: ‘Who are the proponents of the notorious Istanbul Convention?’ followed by an interview with Hayk Avagyan, director of ‘Luys’ Center for Informtion and Analysis who says: ‘Those who are for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention … are the perverts along with their human rights defenders, foreign agents, and pedophiles.’ In the issue of ‘Iravunk’ of 5 November 2019 you may find an article on page 3 with the headline: ‘It is a premeditated destruction of the country,’ where Yerjanik Ghazaryan, acting secretary of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party states: ‘… with this the Soros-supporters, together with the Council of Europe, are trying to destroy the Armenian family, the church and our morality, which we have preserved for centuries.’ He goes even farther: ‘We propose that Armenia leaves the Council of Europe.’
Does the Istanbul Convention really contain provisions that are dangerous to the State and the public? We sought the answer to this question from the experts in the field.
‘The majority of those who speak on this topic has not read the document at all,’ Aram Abrahamyan, editor-in-chief of ‘Aravot’ daily is convinced. ‘Sometimes people do believe that it is indeed dangerous. These people make 10% of the population, while the rest are being cinically abused. ’ According to Aram Abrahamyan, the manipulation has 2 directions: ‘First, the idea that no matter what gender we are talking about, even if the issue of gender is not discussed at all, violence must not happen, is being abused. And so the people put forward the idea of existence of the ‘third gender’ in a situation where the Convention does not contain the concept of ‘the third gender’.’ The term partner also inflames a lot of passion. Aram Abrahamyan sees another meaning in the word ‘partner:’ ‘It is quite simple because both in the Soviet times and today there are many couples – men and women, who have children, who cohabitate but their marriage is not officially registered and they are referred to as ‘partners’.’ In this light it is pertinent to refer to the interview of Ara Zohrabyan, President of the Chamber of Advocates to ‘Hraparak’ daily, issue of 15 October 2019, page 3: ‘The Convention regards violence between homosexual partners as domestic violence. This means that the Convention euqalises the unnatural union of LGBT people with family status.’ However, the document does not have this and the quoted idea is built on distortion and manipulation.
Lousineh Hakobyan, President of the Europe in Law Association human rights organisation and a practicing lawyer is concerned about the ideas disseminated by Ara Zohrabyan on this topic: ‘With this he shows his incompatibility with the position he holds. His arguments are grounded on the logic that because the Convention foresees the same protection mechanisms for homosexual partners as it foresees for the protection of the the family members, it identifies the homosexual partners with the family. This is an interpretation with has nothing to do with sound logic.’
How can this whole noise be explained after all? According to Aram Abrahamyan, not only are these manipulations fairy tales about the permission of gay marriages but also an expression of discontent by that segment of men who do believe that they can exert violence on their family members.
Lousineh Hakobyan believes that the staunchest critics of the Istanbul Convention are the representatives of the former regime and their supporters: ‘They declare each and every step taken by the present authorities as the end, the apocalypse of the nation and the State and by doing this spread false information, including on the substance and the process of adoption of the Convention.’ The lawyer attaches great importance to effective public awareness campaign to be exercised by the public institutions and officials, including the Human Rights Defender, which will help the public to receive accurate information on the Convention and consequently form a correct opinion on the Convention.
Samvel Martirosyan, expert in the field of information security has his own description of the situation: ‘There are several topics that can be used for political manipulations, regardless of their substance. The first one is the topic of Artsakh, which is always open for discussion but also manipuations, and a great range of topics that are somehow connected with the issue of sexuality in Armenia. Therefore, there is very little substantive discussion on the topic, and in the majority of cases people take materials of third or forth level of importance and simply engage in propaganda.’
It should be noted that the Convention can be included in the NA agenda only after the approval of the Constitutional Court and the Government.