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Last holdout in Europe, N. Cyprus drops anti-gay law

The island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean Sea is divided between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the southern Republic of Cyprus.
The island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean Sea is divided between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the southern Republic of Cyprus.

If the president of Northern Cyprus grants his expected approval, the breakaway northern region of Cyprus will soon lose its disgraceful status as the only area of Europe where homosexual activity is a crime.

The parliament in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus voted Jan. 27 to repeal the law that provides for prison sentences of up to five years for male-male sexual relations.

[Update: The law was enacted, as expected, shortly after Jan. 27.]

When the repeal takes effect, the number of countries with anti-gay laws (and jurisdictions such as Northern Cyprus seeking recognition as countries) will drop by one.   The current total is 83 countries with laws against homosexual behavior, or 84 countries if you include Russia because of its law against “gay propaganda.”

The Guardian reported:

“The change of heart by MPs in Northern Cyprus has been partially influenced by neighbouring Turkey’s enthusiasm for revitalising negotiations with the EU on its future membership.

“Legal action against Northern Cyprus’s laws criminalising homosexuality had also been launched at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg by the London-based Human Dignity Trust.

“Cyprus legalised gay sex between consenting adults after a ruling by the human rights court in 1993, but the division between the island’s Greek and Turkish republics meant many criminal laws inherited from the era of British colonial occupation – including the ban on homosexuality – remained in force in the North.”

Headlines from April 2013
Headlines from April 2013

LGBTI News Turkey reported that the bill would also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender. It also includes provisions about hate speech and hate crimes against LGBT people.

The bill also would eliminate the death penalty, increase penalties for sexual abuse of children and the mentally disabled, and expand the definition of sexual violence, LGBTI News Turkey reported.

The Guardian noted that “Once enacted, the new law will mean that no states in Europe, Australasia or North America criminalise homosexuality. The contrasting trend in Africa, however, has been for new laws banning gay groups to come before local parliaments.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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