Last edited: February 14, 2005

Cyprus Moves to Strip Law of Anti-Gay Reference

Data Lounge, June 20, 2000

CYPRUS — The Cyprus National Assembly last week stripped anti-gay language from its two-year-old law legalizing gay sexual relations, an action that civil rights advocates in the country said was long past due.

A suit brought before the European Court of Human Rights in 1993 by Alecos Modinos, the country’s leading advocate for gay rights, resulted in a ruling against Cyprus and an order that the country’s legislature repeal its prohibitions against sex between consenting adult partners.

With the aid of local representatives of the Greek Orthodox church who threatened to actively campaign against any legislator who voted for repeal, the national government managed to stall implementation of the order for five years.

With the European Union threatening to expel Cyprus from the 41 member body, Cypriot lawmakers finally consented in 1998 to repeal the country’s sodomy laws. But in a stab of defiance, deputies inserted the term "unnatural licentiousness" to characterize sexual relations between men.

The small but vocal gay rights community in Cyprus strongly objected, saying it ran counter to the spirit of the EU court ruling. It has taken the House another two years to omit the offending term and replace it with the phrase "intercourse between men."

Modino said that what counted was that the EU would not accept the law because it was full of discriminatory terminology. "I hope that with this amendment gay people will be dealt with as equals and as first class citizens like the rest of the population, and that only the criminals will be punished, whether they are homosexuals or heterosexuals," Modinos said.

"I think it’s a shame for Cyprus to be tarnished because a team of deputies did not sit for five years from 1993 to 1998 to study and understand what it’s all about and still talk today about ‘unnatural licentiousness,’" Modino said.

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