It must have taken a lot of courage for Lilit Martirosyan to walk into the parliamentary hall, stand up before lawmakers, and make history. A transgender Armenian woman giving a speech in the country’s parliament was an unprecedented event in this socially conservative part of the world.
“I stand for tortured, raped, burnt, stabbed, killed, banished, discriminated, poor and unemployed transgender people of Armenia,” Martirosyan, an activist for transgender rights, told the lawmakers at an April 5 hearing on human rights. She went on to say that hate crimes against transgender people mostly go unpunished. “I call upon you to carry out reforms and policies to achieve gender equality, and to ensure human rights for everyone,” she said.
Predictably, the address angered some of the lawmakers.
“As the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party, head of a family steeped in Armenian traditions and faith, I say this [transgender rights] is not going to pass,” said Gagik Tsarukyan, the head of the second-largest faction in parliament. “This is a vice and we must hide the vice as we did before.”
Three days later, a crowd gathered in front of the parliament, with a collection of religious figures and other social conservatives condemning the speech and, according to activists, threatening violence against sexual minorities. Some of the protesters even called for consecrating the parliamentary floor to cleanse it after Martirosyan’s speech. Read more via Eurasianet