Military service is mandatory in Armenia, and the conscription-aged queer* people face the challenging dilemma of either avoiding the military service by revealing their gender identity to the commissioning bodies or going to the army, having to hide their true identity for two years, under constant risk and fear of outing.

According to a 2018 decree by the Ministry of Health, individuals with a ‘personality disorder’ are exempt from the mandatory two-year military service that all Armenian men over the age of 18 must complete. The same decree recognises “non-traditional sexual orientation” as a personal disorder, exempting queer men from mandatory military service. 

Those who choose to reveal their gender identity are going through a series of examinations and medical procedures, often accompanied by harassment, humiliation, and discrimination based on the features of their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

According to the “DiverCity” NGO’s 2021 report, the conscripts often complained about the treatment of medical workers and, particularly, psychiatrists. The conscripts talked about being asked personal questions and questions concerning their sexual lives. 

‘At the psychologist’s, I was asked if I was active or passive when having sex’, one of the queer people interviewed by DiverCity said: ‘I was instructed to get my hormones examined. My mother forced me to undergo hormone therapy for about eight months. I was injected with male hormones.” Often, the aim of these kinds of questions is to violate and humiliate queer conscripts’ dignity. 

Another conscript said that the doctor mocked him for wearing a long coat and sent him to see the psychiatrist based on their appearance only. Another conscript said that the medical workers were trying to trigger a conflict by asking inappropriate questions and finding an excuse to be sent to a mental hospital. They even said, “You are aggressive; you should go to a psychiatric hospital and tell them everything to them.”

“They asked very personal questions of a sexual nature. For example, what position do I have during sex? How do I reach orgasm? What do I do in general? Do I have a partner? Is he older than me or not?” another queer person said. 

Sometimes, when the conscripts are sent to psychiatric hospitals, the doctors try to keep them there overnight to observe the behavior of those “having personality disorder“ as well as to conduct alleged examinations, which is against the existing regulations, taking into account that Armenia has adopted the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) according to which being LGBT is not a disease. The overnight stay violates the rights of the conscripts, risking new and more severe cases of discrimination, harassment, and verbal or non-verbal harassment. 

“DiverCity” NGO’s founder, Artak Adam, is also one of those who faced discrimination during the conscription. Adam is also the only person who voiced the violations of their rights, reporting the case to the police. Not being appropriately addressed in the Armenian courts, and because of the lack of opportunity to exercise their right to a fair trial, Adam appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. 


* Queer: an umbrella term for those individuals who do not identify as either heterosexual or cisgender. It derives from queer theory, which originated from activism, and it berates identities, especially gender and sexual, questions the binary relations between sex and gender, and investigates normative and normalized sexualities and definitions.

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