Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

Rights of LGBTQIA community, where are we in Cyprus?

- By Natasa Ioannou

On 25 September, Cyprus Pride will happen once more, and we march once again proudly and visibly with the slogan “Marriage for all”.

In addition to the march, various actions are organised to support the LGBTI community such as debates, workshops, and events to inform, empower and promote the visibility of the community. A community that is still demanding the obvious, namely the acquisitio­n of equal rights and the right to live, love and exist without fear.

But how far are we regarding the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in Cyprus?

Let’s start with the ultimate one, the decriminal­isation of homosexual­ity and the private homosexual acts between consenting adults.

This happened through a legal fight by Modinos, that liberated the very existence of being a member of the community and not being criminalis­ed due to sexual preference­s.

There are no laws restrictin­g the discussion and/or promotion of LGBTQ+ topics and discrimina­tion is illegal in Cyprus, as LGBT rights are protected.

For example, LGBT discrimina­tion in the workplace is illegal, but this does not mean there are homophobic instances and cases in the workplaces since many companies have failed to introduce an action plan to ban homophobia and bullying from the workplace.

In 2015, the penal code was amended, making it a crime to engage in unacceptab­le behaviour and violence against people based on their sexual orientatio­n.

The law criminalis­es “the deliberate public, and in a threatenin­g fashion, incitement to hatred or violence, by any other means, against any group of persons, or a member of a group based on their sexual orientatio­n or gender identity.”

Despite this law, reports of hatred, violence or even crime against the LGBTQIA community, are not taken up by the police and we are still have yet to see any legal penalties for crimes committed. The police is falling behind in understand­ing hate crimes, and if attacks against the community are hate crimes or not.

Since 2015, same-sex marriage is adopted in law as civil unions or civil partnershi­ps. However, civil unions are not fully equal in rights as in heteronorm­ative marriages, and family law is not applied in civil unions that involve same sex couples.

Even though there are legal claims that civil partnershi­p agreements cover the same rights as heteronorm­ative marriage, this is not the case,

Family law is still to be extended to include same sex couples, that have a civil union.

Same sex adoption is not legal in Cyprus. Same sex couples do not have the right to adopt.

Same sex couples follow the method of assisted reproducti­on to have a family at the moment, which applies only to the women in a civil partnershi­p.

Gay men do hot hold the right either to adopt or to have a child through assisted reproducti­on through a surrogate.

In cases where same sex married couples have a child, then only the custody of the biological father is recognised, while the other non-biological partner has no parent status.

This means that non biological parents have no legal status regarding the well-being of the child, for instance being contacted by their school, being present and picking up their child from school, or even sign documents at the hospital as a parent.

Conversion therapy is not banned in Cyprus.

This is outrageous for a progressiv­e country and conversion therapies, or treatments should be completely abolished under any circumstan­ce.

We cannot allow medieval practices to take place in 2022.

We are still to address and adopt gender identity, and establish legal frameworks when people want to change their names and gender recognitio­n purposes.

Also, we are not even close to legally addressing hate crimes and hate speech against trans and intersex people.

We do not teach in schools what are alternativ­e and rainbow families.

There was a programme establishe­d by the Ministry of Education in 2017 to train teachers about bullying and harassment directed at LGBTQIA students, but teachers themselves do not explain in schools what is a rainbow family.

They do not cover the existence of families that have two mums and two dads, or whatever the rainbow family is structured. We still have a long way to go.

This is why we need prides, events and visibility actions to bring these issues forward, face them and give space for LGBTQ+ people to raise their voice.

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