Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Turkish Cypriots Agree to Repeal Ban on Homosexuality

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu has agreed to repeal a ban on homosexuality in the northern part of Cyprus.

It comes after an outcry over the arrest of three men accused of "conspiring to have a sexual intercourse against the order of nature".

The men's case was taken up by UK Tory MEP Marina Yannakoudakis who met with Eroglu last week.

She was visiting Nicosia as a member of parliament's high-level contact group for relations with the Turkish Cypriot community.

She said she had received assurances from Eroglu that the Turkish Cypriot community was seeking to repeal the ban and that he would sign the repeal into law.

Following the meeting, she said, "It's not illegal to be gay anywhere else in Europe; it's not illegal to be gay in Turkey.

"Chapter 154 of the penal code is an anachronism and needs to be repealed.

"All Cypriot adults should have the right to engage in consensual sex, be it with the same or different gender. I hope that Eroglu will keep the promise he made to me to rescind the ban and I will keep the pressure on him until he does."

The northern part of Cyprus is the last place in Europe where homosexuality is still illegal.

The recent high-profile arrest of the three gay men has once again brought the issue into stark focus. Violations of the law can result in a prison-sentence of up to five years.

During her visit, the MEP held meetings with leaders from both sides of the 'green line' including Republic of Cyprus president Dimitris Christofias and Alexander Downer, special adviser of the UN secretary general on Cyprus, as well as Greek and Turkish Cypriot political parties and trade unions.

She also held what she called a "particularly poignant" meeting with the committee for missing persons in Cyprus, who thanked the deputy for her work in parliament raising awareness of the fate of those missing.

Yannakoudakis said there was a "great deal of pessimism" about the future of the peace negotiations between the two sides.

She said, "While Greek and Turkish Cypriots continue to talk, issues such as exploration for natural gas in waters off Cyprus have slowed progress.

"I do not believe that drilling should be halted, nor should it be used as an excuse to apply the brakes to the peace process. If natural gas were to be found it would benefit all communities in Cyprus," she said.

She hopes that the two sides can make progress at further talks at the end of October.

She said she saw "further evidence" of bi-communal cooperation at a crisis centre which deals with fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

She also met with the crime and criminal matters committee, which is also made up of Turkish and Greek Cypriots.

"There are still concerns, however, that EU aid is not getting through to the northern part of Cyprus. I was told of about €27m which was cancelled by the Turkish Cypriot authorities due to worries about its location near a military base.

"While progress on a political settlement may have slowed, I saw many examples of how the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities are working well together."
Source: The Parliament

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