The breakaway state in the north has decriminalised homosexuality after increased pressure over the past couple of years, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
Last October, the Turkish Cypriot leadership had pledged to repeal the ban on homosexuality, an antiquated remnant of colonial law within two months. Europe is now the third continent in the world with no laws criminalising gay sex, ILGA said.
In the north, homosexuality was punishable by imprisonment for five years and Turkish Cypriot activists, had even until recently been forced to hold protests in secret, leaving LGBT signs and symbols anonymously in various places.
Paulo Côrte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s executive Board, welcomed the move: “We can finally call Europe a continent completely free from laws criminalising homosexuality. In 1981, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in its historic judgment in Dudgeon v UK case that such laws are in breach of the European Human Rights Convention and must be abolished. It took Europe 33 years to completely free the continent from these unjust and discriminatory laws.”
In August 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) agreed to examine a legal challenge against Turkey for the north’s continued failure to repeal a law banning homosexuality.
A similar antiquated law had existed in the Republic but after decades of legal battles by Greek Cypriot activist Alecos Modinos, the colonial law was thrown out in 1998. But it took another two years to have deliberately offensive terms describing homosexual relations – ‘unnatural licentiousness’ – removed from the new legislation and then only under threat from Europe.
In 2002, parliament removed a further bone of contention, equalising the age of consent for heterosexuals and homosexuals to 17. Before that, heterosexual couples aged 16 and up were considered consenting adults while homosexuals had to wait until they were 18 to remain within the law.