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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 31 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 05
Turkish government in Northern Cyprus OKs Gay sex
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Turkish government in Northern Cyprus OKs Gay sex

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus became the last jurisdiction in Europe to decriminalize same-sex sexual relations when, on January 27, it repealed a law dating back to the British colonial era.

Northern Cyprus was established after Turkish military forces invaded the island country in 1974, occupying the northern third of the island. Only Turkey recognizes the Northern Cyprus government. The remainder of the island is governed by the Republic of Cyprus, which considers the northern portion of the island to be under illegal foreign occupation.

The amendment abolishing the North's anti-Gay law still needs to be signed by the president of the occupied territory, Dervis Eroglu, but he has promised to do so.

At the time of the reform, the Northern Cypriot regime was being sued by Human Dignity Trust in the European Court for Human Rights. In August 2012, the ECHR agreed to examine a legal challenge against Turkey for the ban against Gay sex in their Cypriot client state.

As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey is required to protect the rights of LGBT individuals.

'This is a historic day for gay people in Europe and a major victory for human rights, equality and the Human Dignity Trust,' Jonathan Cooper, the chief executive of the Human Dignity Trust, said:

'Our case before the European court required the law to be changed. Nowhere in Europe now still criminalizes gay people and we are proud to say that we have played a significant role in bringing this shameful chapter in European history to an end.

'Laws against private, consenting homosexual acts between adults criminalize someone's very identity and have no place in the modern world.

'These pernicious anti-gay laws, which protect no one and cause deep distress and harm to gay and lesbian people, still exist in 82 legal jurisdictions. But that is one fewer than yesterday, and this we must celebrate.'

'It's been long overdue and I'm pleased that following conversations with Dervis Eroglu, he has promised to sign the bill into law,' said Marina Yannakoudakis, a former Greek Cypriot who now represents Great Britain in the European Parliament.

Yannakoudakis led an international campaign to pressure the North Cypriot government to drop the ban against Gay sex.

'I haven't stopped campaigning. There are still around 40 countries in the Commonwealth where homosexuality is illegal and some countries are moving backwards,' she added.

Northern Cyprus's anti-Gay laws provoked an international incident in 2011, when former Republic of Cyprus Finance Minister Michalis Sarris was arrested in the northern zone in the company of a 17-year old boy and charged with a felony count of sexual misconduct.

The Republic of Cyprus decriminalized Gay sex in 1998, under pressure from the European Union, of which the country is a member state. A ban on 'promoting' homosexuality was repealed in 2000, and a nondiscrimination law protecting sexual orientation was passed in 2004. The Cypriot government is currently considering a same-sex civil union law.

Despite the fact that Turkish authorities enforced the anti-Gay ban in Cyprus, Gay sex has been legal in Turkey since 1858.

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