Cyprus Mail

Progress on LGBT rights, but still a way to go, say support groups

Cyprus has made tremendous progress in terms of LGBT rights and so far 16 couples have had civil partnerships since December 2015 when parliament passed the law allowing the union, activists heard on Monday.
During a conference organised by the interior ministry, the Ombudswoman’s office and the Cyprus Academy of Public Administration aimed at avoiding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification, participants heard eight of the couples identified as heterosexual while the other eight identified as homosexual.
Zinaida Onoufriou from the Ombudswoman’s office said the island had come a long way over the past six years albeit slowly. Homosexuality, 20 years ago was a criminal offence, 10 years ago homosexuals were trying not to be marginalised and now, the matter is at the heart of human rights, she said.
Although the state is trying to bridge the difference and give them equal rights, there is lack of social protection for LGBT’s where transsexuals and intersex individuals still face discrimination and violent attacks.
The most important developments for human rights on the island, according to Aristos Tsiartas from the Ombudswoman’s office were the laws passed on civil partnerships and criminalising homophobia. The former serves not only as a test for Cyprus legal and ethical matters but a means to test society’s consciousness, prejudices and stereotypes, he said.
Tsiartas said Cyprus was a society that often displayed zealous interest in people’s personal lives – a matter which needed special attention and some respect for people’s privacy.
“We need to separate our personal duties from our opinions,” he added.
Accept LGBT members at the conference, along with other participants heard a 2014 European study found six per cent of LGBT members have fallen victim to physical or sexual attack and 19 per cent had been harassed.
Another study focusing on the EU found public servants, doctors and teachers had minimal knowledge on the needs of LGBT communities.
Some LGBT’s face terrible prejudice with some health care professionals in Europe still believing homosexuality is a disease and transsexualism is a mental disorder, the conference heard.
Natasa Ikonomou from the interior ministry said “we believe education and knowledge are the necessary tools to achieve a high standard of services provided” to all members of society.

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