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Akel wants parliament to discuss Archbishop’s disparaging comments on gays (Update)

Archbishop Chrysostomos

The Human Rights Commissioner’s office said on Thursday that the recent statements of Archbishop Chrysostomos against homosexuals went beyond the concept of freedom of expression and were subject to criminal investigation.

In the same tone, Akel MP Irene Charalambidou urged her colleagues in the House human rights committee to support her proposal to discuss the stance of Chrysostomos towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) community.

On Tuesday, Accept-LGBTI Cyprus had said it would report the Primate to the attorney-general for promoting hatred due to sexual orientation or gender identity.

These announcements followed statements by Chrysostomos that sparked outrage as they were deemed as inciting hatred against LGBTI.

He had said during a TV show on Monday that he would tell school children that homosexuality is a sin and unnatural and that one ought to struggle to overcome it. On Wednesday, he said that his comments were misinterpreted and that the Church loved homosexuals but he believed they have no shame as they should not brag about their homosexuality and organise pride parades.

The archbishop also said that his convictions stemmed from the gospel and the Christian faith and that he did not intend to encourage homosexuality just to avoid criticism.

“All are equal before the law and any form of homophobic speech in the name of any religion, tradition or ideology, cannot be tolerated,” the commissioner’s office said.

It said the archbishop’s statements were “abusive, insulting, devaluing and target a distinct group of people based on their legally protected characteristics: sexual orientation and gender identity”.

Such statements, it said, perpetuate perverse stereotypes, prejudices and hatred against LGBTI and refer to times when homosexuality was paired with immorality, crime, deviation, and mental illness. They also “encourage hostility, but also incite potentially violent behaviours”.

“The recent legislative developments in the country, the safeguarding of civil partnership and the criminalisation of homophobic rhetoric, as well as the mass participation in the pride parades, demonstrate both the recognition of the multiple forms of discrimination which are traditionally sustained by our LGBTI co-citizens and the state’s commitment to strengthen the institutional framework of equality and combating discrimination,” it added.

Charalambidou said she expected her colleagues from the other political parties in the House human rights committee to agree to discuss the archbishop’s stance against the LGBTI community.

The parliament, she said, cannot turn a blind eye to the marginalisation of human beings and the violation of the laws of the Republic. “We have an obligation to our fellow human beings to defend their human right to equality and acceptance.”

In May 2015, parliament amended the penal code, making it a crime to engage in unacceptable behaviour and violence against people based on their sexual orientation.

The law criminalises “the deliberate public, and in a threatening fashion, incitement to hatred or violence, and the incitement to hatred or violence, verbally or through the press, textually or pictorially or by any other means, against any group of persons, or a member of a group based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Depending on the offence, perpetrators could face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to €5,000, or both.

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