Last edited: April 15, 2007


  • Statute: Article 171, Repealed June 8, 2000
  • Penalty: 5 years
  • Restrictions: Gay men only


From the International Lesbian and Gay Association

On 8th June 2000 the Cyprus Parliament enacted legislation which eliminated some of the main remaining areas of discrimination against gay men in the criminal law: it eliminated the pejorative description of gay sex (replacing "unnatural licentiousness" with "intercourse between men"), and eliminated the discriminatory provisions on privacy (which had deemed as "in public" any sexual acts between men where more than two people were present). Provisions banning "indecent behaviour or invitation or provocation or advertisement aimed at performing unnatural acts between males" have been restricted to such actions directed at those under 18. Discrimination in the age of consent remains. There are no (and have never been) any provisions penalising lesbian sexual relations. (Based on information supplied to ILGA by Alecos Modinos).

Until 1998 Article 171 of the Criminal Code completely prohibited (male) homosexual acts between consenting adults. Under this Article, gay men faced prosecution with a sentence of 2 to 14 years imprisonment. "Attempts to commit" homosexual acts between men could be punished with up to three years’ imprisonment. (A.K.O.K statement at Gay Cyprus web site, and PB) [the sentences under the old law are variously reported as a maximum of 5 years (PB), 7 years (press reports) and 2 to 14 years (A.K.O.K statement)]

In 1989 Alecos Modinos, president of the Cypriot Gay Liberation Movement, began a challenge to this law with a case before the European Commission of Human Rights. Having attempted unsuccessfully to secure a friendly settlement, the Commission drew up a report on 3 December 1991, in which it expressed the unanimous opinion that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention, which protects the right to a private life. The Commission referred the case to the European Court of Human Rights on 21 Feb. 1992. In a judgment delivered on 22nd April 1993 the Court held, by eight votes to one, that the prohibition of male homosexual conduct in private between adults constituted a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. (Source: European Court of Human Rights press release, 22 April 1993, quoted in ILGA bulletin 3/93 p. 23)

In January 1995, the Cyprus Government, in order to comply with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, introduced a bill in the Cyprus Parliament to abolish the ban on homosexuality under Article 171 of the Criminal Code. The bill was referred to the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, where it became stalled in the face of strong opposition particularly from the Church. In the meanwhile, the European Commission of Human Rights had declared admissible a second challenge to the law, by Stavros Marongos (RW/2835), while the Council of Europe had warned the Cyprus government repeatedly that it must conform to the Court’s ruling. None-the-less, a government plan to vote on the bill in May 1997 was postponed because of the intensity of the opposition, and despite pleading from government ministers that failure to change the law was weakening Cyprus’ position in Europe and even risked Cyprus being expelled from the Council of Europe (Cyprus Mail 5 Nov 97).

In April 1998 the Council of Europe lost patience with Cyprus, and set a deadline for compliance of 29th May 1998. The Deputy Secretary-General of the Council, Hans Kruger, commented: "Cyprus has no choice, no real choice in fact. This is an international obligation which the country has and must comply with ... You can prolong it here and there, but not in the long run.... There is an urgent need now to come to some rapport..." "I really don’t know what would happen if the law is not changed," said Kruger, referring to some news reports that the island could even face expulsion from the Council of Europe if it fails to comply with the court ruling." (Reuters 14 May 1998)

However, Church opposition continued: "Archbishop Chrysostomos, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus, laughed in an interview with a CyBC TV journalist as he openly derided homosexuality and the European ruling. He said only "enemies of our nation" would endorse decriminalisation of homosexual acts. "If we don’t stand firm and tell Europe this does not conform, not only to Christ’s religion, but also to the moral standpoint of our nation, eventually they will come and tell us to be homosexuals in order to be accepted into Europe," Chrysostomos said. "If you go and say it’s all right to be a homosexual you will encourage it and the place will be full of homosexuals".. Gay rights activist Alecos Modinos told the Cyprus Mail last night the Archbishop should think before he speaks. "He’s still stuck on the Adam and Eve business," Modinos said. "Of course, it’s not for us to dispute what he believes but he is in a position of authority and he must be more careful and act more wisely before expressing his opinion." (Cyprus Mail 8 April 1998)

On May 21st the House of Representatives finally voted by 36 to 8 in favour of the bill decriminalising homosexuality between men. However, it soon became clear that the new law contained extensive discriminatory provisions, many included at the last minute as concessions to opponents of the reform. (Cyprus Mail May 22, 1998)

The discriminatory provisions of this legislation were as follows:

  1. the age of consent for sexual activity between males was set at 18, while the age of consent for heterosexual activity was 16,
  2. the revised Article 171 penalised "unnatural acts between males [this has also been translated as: "carnal knowledge against the order of nature"] performed in public or which involve one of the persons being aged under 18" with up to five years in prison and included in its definition of acts performed "in public" those which took place "between more than two people or in presence of a third party" - this could have continued to lead to the imprisonment of male adults solely for engaging in consensual homosexual relations in private.
  3. Anal intercourse ("carnal knowledge against the order of nature") "for profit or as an occupation" was an offence. (Art. 171 CC: up to 7 years)
  4. Article 174(A) penalised "indecent behaviour or invitation or provocation or advertisement aimed at performing unnatural acts between males" with a sentence of one year’s imprisonment. The wide scope of these provisions could have led to the imprisonment of individuals solely for having exercised their right to freedom of expression and to freedom of assembly and association.
  5. "Unnatural licentiousness", which was referred to many times in the Greek text of the law (the official translation referred to "unnatural offences"), implied condemnation of the homosexual act.

(Amnesty International Public Statement dated 18 June 1998 and "AMNESTY CONCERN AT NEW GAY LAW "- Cyprus Mail May 26, 1998; supplemented with information from Graupner H. 1997)

The pre-1998 legislation made no reference to lesbian relationships.


[Home] [World]