LGBT rights in Cyprus

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LGBT rights in Cyprus Cyprus
Location of  Cyprus  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Cyprus  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1998,
age of consent equalised in 2002
Gender identity/expression
Military service Same conditions apply for both straight and gay males to define whether it is compulsory for them to serve the two-year military service
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Civil unions since 2015
Adoption Stepchild adoption only since 2015. No joint adoption for same-sex couples

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Cyprus may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Cyprus and civil unions became legal in November 2015.

In Cyprus, the socially conservative Eastern Orthodox Church has a significant influence over public opinion when it comes to LGBT-rights. However, ever since Cyprus sought membership in the European Union it has had to change its human rights legislation, including its laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Although administered by the British Empire from 1878, Cyprus remained officially part of the Ottoman Empire until 1914, when it was annexed by the British Empire following the decision of the Ottoman Turks to side with Germany in the First World War. Even then, Cyprus was not officially claimed by the British Empire until 1925, following recognition of British ownership of the island by the newly created Republic of Turkey through the Treaty of Lausanne, signed by Britain and Turkey in 1923.[1] Up until this time Ottoman laws were technically in force on the island, albeit administered by local and British colonial officials, and in respect to homosexuality Ottoman Turkish law had been liberalised in 1858, when it had ceased to be a criminal offence throughout the Ottoman Empire.[2]

Although Britain assumed full legal ownership of Cyprus in 1925, Ottoman law was not formally replaced on the island until 1929, when Ottoman legal tolerance of homosexuality was finally ended, with the incorporation of the British Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 into Cyprus Law. For the first time since 1858 this made male homosexuality a criminal act in Cyprus. Female homosexuality was not recognised or mentioned in the law.

With independence from Britain in 1960 Cyprus retained British colonial law on the island almost in its entirety, with the relevant parts of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 becoming Cyprus Law CAP 154 articles 171 to 174.[3] The articles were first challenged in 1993, when Alexandros Modinos, a Cypriot architect and gay rights activist won a legal court case against the Government of Cyprus, known as Modinos v. Cyprus, at the European Court of Human Rights. The Court ruled that Section 171 of the Criminal Code of Cyprus violated Modinos's right to a private life, protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, an international agreement ratified by Cyprus in 1962.

Despite the legal ruling, Cyprus did not formally revise its criminal code to comply with the ruling until 1998, when failing to do so meant losing membership in the European Union. Even then, the age of consent for homosexual conduct was set at eighteen, while that for heterosexual conduct was at sixteen. Aside from the unequal age of consent, the revised criminal code also made it a crime to "promote" homosexuality, which was used to restrict the LGBT-rights movement.

In 2000, the discriminatory ban on "promoting" homosexuality was lifted, and the age of consent was equalised in 2002. Today, the universal of consent is seventeen years of age.[4] Sexual conduct that occurs in public, or with a minor, is subject to a prison term of five years.

The Cyprus military still bars homosexuals from serving, believing that homosexuality is a mental illness. Gay sexual conduct is also, technically, still a crime under military law; the term is 6 months in a military jail although this is rarely, if ever, enforced.[5]

In Northern Cyprus, Turkish Cypriot deputies passed an amendment on Monday, January 27, 2014 repealing a colonial-era law that punished homosexual acts with up to five years in prison by a new Criminal Code. It was the last territory in Europe to decriminalise sexual relations between consenting, adult men. In response to the vote, Paulo Corte-Real from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, a rights advocacy group said that "We welcome today's vote and can finally call Europe a continent completely free from laws criminalising homosexuality".[6]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

The current law of Cyprus only recognizes marriage as a union between one man and one woman. There was no official recognition of either same-sex marriages or civil unions.

On 26 November 2015, the civil unions bill was passed by the parliament with 39 in favour, 12 against and 3 abstentions, and awaits presidential signature.[7]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Since 2004, Cyprus has implemented an anti-discrimination law (Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation Law 2004) that explicitly forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment.[8] The law was designed to comply with the European Union's Employment Framework Directive of 2000. No prosecutions of gays have been brought since this new law was implemented.

In 2010 reports were made about an openly gay Cypriot diplomat who was denied a posting abroad because his "flaunting of his vices" was considered a liability. In the same case there were reports of mobbing and harassment.

In 2013, the penal code was amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity thus criminalising all discrimination against them. In the northern part of Cyprus, discrimination protection was brought in by a law change in the Criminal Code along with the vote for the legalisation of homosexual conduct on January 27, 2014.[9][10]

In May 2015, Parliament amended the penal code, making it a crime to engage in unacceptable behaviour and violence against people based on their sexual orientation.[11]

Living conditions[edit]

In 1996, a criminal trial against Father Pancratios Meraklis, who was accused of sodomy, caused serious rioting that stopped the proceedings. Meraklis had been regarded as a possible bishop, but was blocked by then Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos I of Cyprus, who believed Meraklis to be homosexual and that AIDS could be spread through casual conduct.[12] These comments irked public health officials and more open-minded Cyprus citizens.

In 2003 a twenty-eight-year-old Cypriot man was barred from getting a driver's license because he was regarded as "psychologically unstable." The man had been discharged from the military for homosexuality, which the military classifies as a mental illness.[13]

The "gay scene" continues to grow in Cyprus. Bars and clubs are found in 4 cities, including Different, and gay-friendly Kaliwas Lounge in Paphos; Alaloum, Escape, and Jackare in Limassol; Secrets Club in Larnaca and gay-friendly establishments such as Novecento, Ithaki and Svoura in Nicosia.


The pandemic came to Cyprus in 1986, and since then has had a few hundred of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The government regularly tests pregnant women, drug users, National Guard troops and blood donors.[14] In a 2001 report to the United Nations, the government broadly mentioned various efforts it had undertaken to fight the disease.[15] All non-EU foreigners seeking work and living permit on island need to made test on HIV, Hepatitis B & C, Syphilis and Tuberculosis and if result is positive the permit will not be granted.

In 2004 the Ministry of Health published a report on the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Cyprus.

LGBT rights movement in Cyprus[edit]

In 1987–88 the Cypriot Gay Liberation Movement (AKOK, or Apeleftherotiko Kinima Omofilofilon Kiprou) was created. As a LGBT rights organisation in the nation it has been successful in helping to repeal the civilian criminal prohibitions regarding homosexuality.

Gay Flag in Cyprus

In 2007, Initiative Against Homophobia was established in Northern Cyprus to deal with the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer LGBT people in Cyprus north. On 25 April 2008, the initiative presented a proposal regarding the revising of criminal law to the head of Parliament Fatma Ekenoglu.[16] In 2010 representatives of ILGA-Europe presented the proposal to head of parliament Hasan Bozer. However, no action has been taken on the proposal and people continued to be arrested with claim of unnatural sex. During well known Sarris court case in October 2011, Communal Democracy Party (TDP) presented the same proposal to the parliament with demand of urgent discussion to end criminalisation of homosexuality in Cyprus north. Since March 2012, Initiative Against Homophobia continues its activities with name Queer Cyprus Association.

Accept - LGBT Cyprus is the only officially registered organisation in Cyprus dealing with an LGBT agenda since September 8, 2011. It has the support of several concerned citizens, assisted by various interested NGOs, the European Parliament and foreign Embassies operating in Cyprus. The organisation has also had at times assistance from local municipalities and often had events held under the auspices of local city mayors.

Accept - LGBT Cyprus organised the first ever Cyprus Pride Parade on the island on 31 May 2014. The Parade was an unexpectedly very successful with over 4500 marching or attending the day's events. Accept - LGBT Cyprus had expected several hundred participants, but were overwhelmed by the event’s popularity. The march received extensive political support from almost all parties across the political spectrum, former President of Cyprus George Vasiliou, the European Parliament’s Office in Cyprus, the European Commission’s Representation in Cyprus, and 15 Embassies who marched with the parade including Ambassadors and Embassy staff (Austria, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, USA). Furthermore, for the first time ever, the Embassies of Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden and the USA hoisted a rainbow flag on the day at the Embassies' grounds. Cypriot-born, international pop singer Anna Vissi also attended the march. The 81-year-old Alecos Modinos, who won a 1993 European Court of Human Rights case against Cyprus for its laws criminalising homosexuality, headed the procession. Scuffles broke out between a group of Orthodox Christian protesters including clerics who denounced the event they called “shameful”, demonstrating outside the Parliament.

During a press release, Accept-LGBT Cyprus President Costa Gavrielides expressed his surprise and joy at the turnout, but also his annoyance with the Civil Partnership Bill not being submitted to Parliament despite news of a possible April vote. As of June 2014, the bill had not been submitted.[17]

Prior to the Parade, the event was preceded by the first Cyprus Pride Festival that took between the 17th of May 2014 (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) and 31 May 2014. The first day of the event a Rainbow Walk took place to the north of Nicosia with the colaboation of Accept - LGBT Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot organisation Queer Cyprus, amongst others.

In North Cyprus, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity was not embodied into law until January 27, 2014.[9] Therefore, in 2008, another civil society initiative, "Shortbus Movement", consisted of Human Rights activists, started to take an action to support LGBTI activities in Cyprus. The group secured financial support from the European Commission Office in Cyprus and the European Parliament. "Shortbus movement" ceised operations around 2012 with many members forming the Turkish Cypriot LGBTI group "Queer Cyprus" which operates till today.

Public opinion[edit]

Most Cyprus citizens are members of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, which opposes LGBT-rights movements. In 2000, a Major Holy Synod had to be convened to investigate rumours that Bishop Athansassios of Limassol had engaged in a homosexual relationship while a novice monk. The charges were not proved.[18]

A 2006 survey showed that 75% of Cypriots disapprove of homosexuality, and many think that it can be 'cured'[19] A 2006 E.U. poll revealed that only 14% of Cypriots as being in favour for same-sex marriage with 10% for authorising adoption.[20] However, the situation has seen a rapid turnaround in just a few years, with a 2014 survey finding that 53.3% of Cypriot citizens think that civil unions should be made legal.[21]

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 37% of Cypriots thought that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, 56% were against.[22]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1998)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2002)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2013)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2013)
Same-sex marriage No
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil unions.) Yes (Since 2015) [23]
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2015) [24]
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No (The only country in the EU to still officially ban LGBT people in the military, not enforced)[citation needed]
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned for opposite-sex couples also)[citation needed]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Xypolia, Ilia (2011). "'Cypriot Muslims among Ottomans, Turks and British" (PDF). Bogazici Journal 25 (2): 109–120. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Ishtiaq Hussain, The Tanzimat: Secular reforms in the Ottoman Empire (London: Faith Matters, 2011 p.10 URL link
  3. ^ Robert T. Francoeur and Raymond J. Noonan (eds.), The Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality (London: Continuum, 2003) 294
  4. ^ "Cyprus". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  5. ^ Helena Smith (26 January 2002). "Cyprus divided over gay rights". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Afanasieva, Dasha (2014-01-27). "Northern Cyprus becomes last European territory to decriminalize gay sex". Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  7. ^ "Civil unions become law - Cyprus". InCyprus (in en-GB). Retrieved 2015-11-26. 
  8. ^ However, in 2011 there have been reports about a Cypriot diplomat who was denied a posting abroad on account of his open homosexuality which was considered a liability by the authorities. Claims of harassment and mobbing where also made in the same case.Implementation of Anti-discrimination directives into national law, European Union
  9. ^ a b Owen Bowcott (214-01-27). "Northern Cyprus votes to legalise gay sex". Retrieved 2014-04-04.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ "Cyprus: Penal code amended to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity". PinkNews. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  11. ^ House votes to criminalise homophobia
  12. ^ – Meraklis Admits AIDS, Not Gay [dead link]
  13. ^ – Gay Cyprus man can't get driver's license[dead link]
  14. ^ – HIV/AIDS incidence low in Cyprus[dead link]
  15. ^ User (27 June 2001). "United Nations". United Nations. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  16. ^ Initiative Against Homophobia. "Proposal of Criminal law presented by Initiative Against Homophobia". Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  17. ^ "Greek Cypriots in first gay pride parade". GMA Network. 2014-01-06. 
  18. ^ Cyprus synod seeks end to scandal over 'gay' bishop The Telegraph, 15 November 2000
  19. ^ Overview on being gay in Cyprus Gay Cyprus Online
  20. ^ Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage Angus Reid Global Monitor
  21. ^
  22. ^ Special Eurobarometer 437
  23. ^ "Civil unions become law - Cyprus". InCyprus (in en-GB). Retrieved 2015-11-26. 
  24. ^ "Civil unions to become a reality in Cyprus". ILGA-Europe (in en-GB). Retrieved 2015-11-26. 

Sources and external links[edit]