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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cyprus still bottom of the list on LGBT rights

By Poly Pantelides -

CYPRUS remains at the bottom of the list in Europe for its attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, latest statistics showed yesterday.
Yesterday marked International Day against Homophobia, during which the numbers were released, according to which almost half of LGBT individuals are psychologically abused, while a further 15 per cent are victims of physical abuse including rape.
The survey was carried out by the Cyprus association for LGBT individuals, ACCEPT, and the Cyprus Family Planning Association.
About half of those asked reported feeling uncomfortable around LGBT individuals, 75 per cent took issue with having LGBT friends and a whopping 97 per cent of parents admitted they would change their behaviour towards an LGBT child, said ACCEPT’s Yoryis Regginos.
Cyprus ranks last among the EU-27 for LGBT rights having two negative points with the worst possible rating - minus seven out of a possible 17 points.
Negative points included the lack of legal recognition of same-sex and the fact that transgender individuals only get legal gender status after sterilisation.
The European Union was Cyprus’ only saving grace with two positive points awarded for EU-required  legislation to prevent discrimination regarding employment and the setting-up of legal procedures to recognise transgender individuals.
The UK topped the chart, scoring 12.5 points out of a possible 17.  Sweden and Spain follow closely with twelve points. Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Portugal all have ten points. Somewhere in the middle lie Finland with six, France with five, and Switzerland and Luxembourg with four. Cyprus ties with Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan among others.
The only three countries scoring worse were Moldova and Belarus with three negative points and Ukraine finishing last with four.   “When we had to decriminalise homosexuality ten years ago there were 44 MPs in the house. When it was time to pass the bill, only six stayed behind to vote. The rest didn’t want to raise their hand in favour of the legislation and imagine that was something we had to do!” DISY’s Christos Pourgourides said during the news conference.
He was referring to the fact that political leadership, looking towards EU accession, had to grant equal rights to homosexual individuals, at least on paper.  “Cyprus society is ultra-conservative and I’m sorry to say this, racist. We can barely tolerate ‘the dark man’ cleaning up the stable, and the Sri Lankan lady who cleans after our old parents and we’re going to tolerate the neighbourhood’s gay couple?” said journalist Giorgos Pavlides exposing a number of stereotypes that are to close to home for comfort.
But at least in 2004 the Ombudswoman’s office launched the Authority against Racism and Discrimination, said its head Aristos Tsiartas, adding however that Cyprus was under [EU] obligation to create the body.
“Despite a series of legally binding anti-discrimination adjustments, still, when it comes to such matters social practise and attitudes override legal standards,” Tsiartas added.
LGBT rights events do not tend to draw in the crowds but being election time, party representatives including MP candidates from EDEK, DISY, AKEL, EVROKO and
KYPROS did yesterday attend the news conference at Europe House. After the cameramen left, a discussion on the role of the Church almost got out of hand when KYPROS’ Thekla Petridou tried to assure everyone that Archbishop Chrysostomos was all in favour of LGBT rights.  “Why would I lie?” she responded to comments that the Church would not have come out with such a statement.
In the end, everyone at present agreed to disagree on the exact role of the Church whose members ten years ago vehemently fought against the proposed legislation to decriminalise homosexuality.
A number of events are scheduled to run through the week including an ongoing multimedia exhibition running until Thursday at Irene Hall on Ledra Street and an open discussion at Europe House at 7:30pm today.

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