By Constantinos Psillides
THE House Legal Affairs Committee has introduced a bill criminalising homophobic behaviour, punishing offenders with a €5,000 fine and prison sentence of up to three years.
Committee chairman, DISY MP Sotiris Sampson, said the bill will be discussed by the committee at their next meeting and then sent to the plenary session. The parliamentary discussion is unrelated to the first gay parade that is expected to take place on May 31.
AKEL MP Aristos Damianou told the press that it was about time to introduce a bill regarding homophobic behaviour, since racist and xenophobic behaviour are already criminalised. Asked what constitutes “homophobic behaviour”, he said that the bill defines it as one “that encourages hate against individuals or groups that have a sexual preference.” Damianou added that “in this day and age we are required to do so by our international commitments,”
“What we did, basically, is to ensure that people have a right to choose their partners regardless of whether other people like it or not,” said Damianou.
Asked by the Cyprus Mail why “homophobic behaviour” has such a vague definition, the MP said that vagueness was in fact the goal of the legislators. “The definition is purposefully vague so as to give courts the flexibility to judge such cases based on the evidence before them”.
The opposition AKEL party is not satisfied with the bill in its present form and wants a provision to be included that will allow individuals to file lawsuits.
An earlier bill regarding civil unions should have been sent to the House by the Interior Ministry in November 2013 but Minister Socratis Hasikos sent it back to the competent departments saying that proper procedure wasn’t followed. Hasikos had then shifted the blame on the previous administration, promising to have the bill ready by April or May of this year.