Gays in Northern Cyprus seek European support for law reform

PinkNews Staff Writer July 9, 2008
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An anti-homophobia group in Northern Cyprus has launched an English language version of their website.

The politically isolated country is home to the Initiative Against Homophobia.

It claims that items 171, 172, and 173 of Punishment Regulations-Chapter 154 should be abrogated from the code of law.

These rules “provide the main framework for regulating discrimination against sexual orientation, and they have not been revised since British colonial time.”

Members of the Initiative Against Homophobia presented their request together with a resolution regarding the intended changes on the current regulations to Fatma Ekenoglu, the head of the Parliamentary of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

“The Initiative Against Homophobia aims to stop homophobia and transphobia within society, prevent discrimination (on the grounds of) sexual orientation and sexual identities,” the group said on their website.

They describe themselves as a “civil society organisation” dedicated to increasing awareness and fighting for the fundamental rights and freedoms of LGBT people.

The new website is a step forward for the gay community in Northern Cyprus, as more people around the world will be able to find out about the situation for LGBT people in the politically closed nation.

An invasion of the island by Turkish troops in 1974 led to partition, with the occupied northern part of the island declaring itself independent in 1983.

With the exception of Turkey, the international community does not recognise Northern Cyprus as a separate state.

Cyprus is a highly conservative country where the Cypriot Orthodox Church has a huge influence over society.

It has frequently stated that homosexuality is wrong and should be kept illegal.

When the island became an independent nation in 1960 the anti-gay British colonial laws remained.

Homosexuality is not accepted in mainstream society so LGBT Cypriots fear the consequences coming out.

The most recent Eurobarometer survey found Cyprus to be the most homophobic country in the European Union. 73 per cent of respondents said they discriminate against homosexuals.

The prospect of joining the EU led to decriminalisation in 1998, with the age of consent for gay sex set at 18, two years above that for heterosexuals.

Cyprus also introduced some laws against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and the age of consent was equalised in 2002.

It bars gay people from serving in the military. Cyprus joined the EU in 2005.

In recent years newspapers have printed articles on the dire situation for LGBT people in the country which has to be seen as a step forward in informing the public.

While some gay friendly venues have opened up in Cyprus, the law in the occupied north makes any moves towards gay rights difficult.

Initiative Against Homophobia said: “The basic problem is the existing prohibitive law (in Northern Cyprus) makes the organisation and coordination of gay liberation initiatives impossible.

“The fear of outing and of public confession creates a vicious circle where any movement is condemned from the outset.

“For this reason the immediate change of this anachronistic law is the necessary condition for any further activities.

“In order to reach this aim LGBT people in the northern part of Cyprus hope that European institutions, such as the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights will put pressure on the Turkish Cypriot authorities to introduce much-needed reforms and law changes.”

Visit the Initiative Against Homophobia website.

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