By Evie Andreou
The passing of the law that regulates the rights and obligations of couples in civil cohabitation is a first step towards combating discrimination, the head of Accept LGBT Cyprus Costas Gavrielides said on Friday.
The group, which has been lobbying for the bill for the last five years, said they were very satisfied with the move by parliament. The plenary gave the green light on Thursday to the much-anticipated bill on civil cohabitation regulating the rights and obligations couples wishing to enter into a union other than a ‘traditional’ marriage.
Despite carrying the full force of traditional unions between two persons, regulating such issues like inheritance, adoptions are forbidden for couples entering into a civil cohabitation agreement. The prohibition applies to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples. The bill passed with 39 votes for, 12 against, while three MPs abstained.
“It was a long road, it took five years in the make, but this changes the lives of many people,” Gavrielides told the Cyprus Mail.
He said that the passing of the specific law, would help other sidelined groups, as human rights have entered another level, and are not only referred to vis a vis the Cyprus problem, which is what traditionally human rights in Cyprus so far meant, he said
“As of today, all those same sex couples that were married abroad, but not recognised as such in Cyprus, will have their rights recognised,” Gavrielides said.
He added that there were couples battling in courts for years to have their rights recognised.
One of these cases, he said, was a same sex couple that was married in Canada, but one of the spouses who was not a Cypriot, was not given residence permit to live on the island, because the state did not recognise his marriage to a Cypriot national.
“There are many cases like this one. We were facing many problems in the past. This law will re-unite families,” he said.
Based on experience recorded in other countries, he is certain the law will help combat homophobia and encourage more people to stop hiding their sexual orientation.
“In other countries when these kinds of laws were passed, homophobia was reduced significantly so more same-sex couples felt more comfortable in expressing themselves. We expect that the same will happen here as well,” he said.
Commenting on the prohibition of adoption, Gavrielides is positive it will be eventually become an option for partners in civil cohabitation.
“Adoption is an important aspect. We welcome AKEL’s move to put the issue forth and ask for an amendment, and I believe we will eventually get there,” he said. “Five years ago when we started discussing the cohabitation bill, there were intense reactions by some people. But following discussion, pre-existing fears will slowly cease to exist,” he said.
“We thank the government and the interior minister Socratis Hasikos for promoting the bill, and everyone who worked towards its implementation,” Gavrielides said.
The regulation of civil cohabitation comes 22 years after Cyprus was slammed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which ruled in 1993 that the country’s antiquated 1885 anti-sodomy law violated the rights of Alecos Modinos, the first Cypriot gay activist, to a private life guaranteed under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Modinos, who had founded in 1987 the Cypriot Gay Liberation Movement asking for homosexuality to be decriminalised, took Cyprus to court in 1992 challenging the colonial law, which remained in place after the island’s independence in 1960. The law was eventually repealed in 1998. Modinos could not be reached for a comment on the latest development .