Simpler procedures to change gender identity and legally allowing gay couples to adopt are the next challenges for the island’s LGBTI community, which has seen great strides in how it is treated over the last year.
Tuesday was the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), which also marked the beginning of the third Pride Festival in Cyprus that will culminate in the Pride Parade in Nicosia on May 28.
The international day aims to bring to the fore, the “stigma and prejudice” faced by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) community in Cyprus, ie “10 per cent of the population, some 85,000 Cypriots”, head of rights group ACCEPT Costas Gavrielides said on Tuesday.
“The vision of ACCEPT is a society without discriminations and prejudices, based on respect for every citizen and the acceptance of his or her diversity especially when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity,” Gavrielides said.
For the first time we can speak of achieving great goals, he added, as last year the law on cohabitation agreements was passed, as well as the criminalisation of public incitement to violence or hatred due to homophobia or transphobia. In addition to this, very successful pride festivals and parades were held in the last two years, he said.
These acts have seen Cyprus climb the annual list prepared by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association (ILGA) that reflects the legal and human rights situation for LGBTI people in European countries.
“For the first time our country does not rank last among EU countries. For the first time we have moved from 28th to the 19th place,” Gavrielides said.
Our score rose from 18 per cent to 32 per cent, while among 49 countries worldwide, Cyprus has this year moved up from the 39th to the 26th place, Gavrielides said.
“We are on a good track but a lot remains to be done as Cyprus is still below the EU average,” he said.
To reach the EU average, “Cyprus still needs to take steps to safeguard equal treatment in providing services, education and health”, Gavrielides said, as well as “equality in family through the choice of civil marriage for homosexual couples, adoption, legal recognition of gender identity without humiliating medical procedures and proper implementation of decisions for LGBTI asylum seekers.
“The prohibition of adoption by homosexual couples is unconstitutional and we call on the Supreme court to examine it,” he added.
The group also said that “the prohibition of medically assisted reproduction for lesbians, and the choice of surrogacy for homosexual couples” was unconstitutional as it is discriminatory. “The state should not dictate to its people how to live their lives nor forbid them to have families”.
It is time, Gavrielides said, for the discussion to begin on the legal change of gender identity for trans people. That is, “the legal procedure by which trans people may change their name and their gender, according to how they feel and not how the state categorises them”.
The legal recognition of gender change is very important as it will make day to day issues much simpler for trans people like picking up parcels, opening a bank account, applying for utility services, or even using a personalised card for public road transportation.
“All these could be a problem if a person’s gender identity is not the same as that indicated on their ID card, or other official documents,” he said. “They are treated as using fake documents and they are forced to reveal they are trans without them wanting to do so. This violates their right for privacy”.
He added that many trans people are excluded from society and the job market.
President Nicos Anastasiades sent out a message on the occasion of IDAHO; “We recognise and respect fundamental human rights. Avoiding discrimination (is) among our top values,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
And on Tuesday the Aglandjia municipality became the first local government authority to hoist the rainbow flag, Gavrielides said, with the Turkish Cypriot Nicosia municipality hoisted the rainbow flag near the Ledra street crossing in the north.
The Pride Festival, which takes place between May 17 and 28, includes film screenings, plays, a human library, a book presentation, a public discussion, a street play, and free AIDS HIV tests in Nicosia and Limassol.