The military drafting process at the military commissariat can be a difficult and disturbing experience for many conscripts, especially those who are perceived as ‘different’ by societal norms. Unfortunately, members of the GBTQ community have only one chance to seek exemption: reveal their gender identity or sexual orientation, which provides them with an opportunity to avoid dangers that put their lives and health at risk. Hence, they often face discrimination, mockery, and bullying.

In Armenia, a 2018 Ministry of Health decree states that individuals with a ‘personality disorder’ can be exempt from the mandatory two-year military service that is imposed on all Armenian men aged 18 and above. However, the same decree categorises ‘non-traditional sexual orientation’ as a personality disorder, resulting in the exemption of queer men from military service. This legal classification not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes but also institutionalizes discrimination against GBTQ individuals.

Discriminatory treatment begins with the drafting committees during the initial examination and persists when conscripts are sent to psychiatric hospitals for a so-called ‘diagnosis’ of personality disorder to justify their exemption. In these psychiatric institutions, members of the GBTQ community report that staff members and doctors violate their dignity, resulting in profound impacts on their mental well-being and, at times, endangering their physical safety.

Unfortunately, some staff members of military commissariats and psychiatrists bully and humiliate these draftees. These acts occur either publicly, in front of peers, or in private settings. Insensitive jokes and invasive questions about personal and sexual lives are used to demean and degrade individuals.

DiverCity NGO is one of the few NGOs in Armenia that works with draftees who have faced discrimination during the drafting process. In 2022, the organization published a report based on interviews and first-hand reports of discrimination and verbal harassment by military commissariats and doctor staff. The draftees interviewed shared their experiences of having to discuss their sexual lives and preferences with other draftees present.

The negative societal opinion of queer people that is generally held and the prevalence of homophobia only exacerbate the traumatic experiences of these conscripts, compelling them to remain silent out of fear of backlash and more severe consequences.

This discrimination violates the rights and dignity of GBTQ individuals and contributes to the perpetuation of a harmful culture within military institutions. It is crucial to adopt a more inclusive and understanding approach, not only to safeguard the mental and physical well-being of queer conscripts but also to challenge societal norms that contribute to such discrimination. Advocating for change, educating on LGBTQ issues, and building empathy within the military and wider society are essential to breaking the cycle of discrimination and creating a more just and accepting environment for all.

#DiverCityNGO #ԲազմազանությունՀԿ #DCNGO