Cyprus Mail

A long way to go on LGBT rights

By Jean Christou

Just as the possibility of civil partnerships moves closer, and the island is due to see its second LGBT pride parade next month, Cyprus has been ranked two percentage points lower on ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map for 2015, released on Sunday.

The map, which covers 49 European countries, ranks them on a scale of 0 per cent to 100 per cent, with full respect for human rights at the top and ‘gross violations’ on the bottom.

None of the countries ranked at 100 per cent but the UK came closest with 86 per cent, followed by Belgium at 83 per cent and Malta at 77 per cent. Azerbaijan was at the bottom with 5 per cent.

Cyprus ranked at 18 per cent, down two percentage points on last year. The islands fell into the same category as Lithuania, Latvia and Kosovo. Cyprus was ahead of Moldova, Belarus, Turkey, Ukraine, Armenia and Russia but behind Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Poland.

The rankings were compiled based on points accumulated in terms of anti-discrimination and equality, hate crimes and hate speech, legal gender recognition and freedom of assembly and expression.

The Cyprus report sheet said that overall, acceptance of LGBTI people appeared to grow in all but the most conservative corners of society on the island, and mentioned last year’s first pride parade, which was deemed a huge success.

“Two legal reforms moved forward, albeit at varying pace: a 2013 bill to punish incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity remained stalled, and a public consultation was opened on the Civil Partnership Draft Bill for same-sex couples,” the report said. It also mentioned the Church’s derogatory reference to homosexuality as “an affliction and a moral downfall” resulting in “an increase in divorce, paedophilia, people dying of AIDS”, and “families torn apart”, as an example of bias-motivated speech.

In another black mark, ILGA said, researchers found that gay and lesbian jobseekers in Cyprus were up to 43 per cent less likely to be interviewed for a job.

Dr Nick Drydakis, based at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, sent out 9,062 mock applications for positions in offices, industrial jobs, hospitality jobs, and the retail industry. The fake CVs and cover letters presented four almost identical profiles: two male and two female, with similar qualifications and experiences. Researchers found that CVs mentioning volunteer experience in the ‘Cypriot Homosexual Association’ received 39 per cent fewer responses for male applicants, and 43 per cent fewer responses for female applicants.

On legal gender recognition, ILGA referred to the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights Eliza Savvidou who accused the Civil Registry and Migration Department of transphobia, as it failed to process a trans woman’s request for social assistance.

“The Commissioner pointed to several administrative shortcomings, possibly motivated by transphobia, which had kept the woman in legal limbo for several years. Ms Savvidou suggested that the authorities implement “a clear framework” for “quick and transparent administrative procedures through which trans individuals can change their sex and name based on their own self-definition on all their official documents, including birth certificate, passport, identity card, driving licence, educational documents, etc,” said the report.

Across Europe, ILGA said it had witnessed several countries making historic strides, while others had stalled in terms of their equality development. “The vital ingredient, present in so many of the countries who have climbed in our Rainbow Map rankings, was unshakable leadership from political figures and activist leaders, often in challenging contexts,” said Paulo Côrte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board.

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