Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights Maria Stylianou Lottidi said on Saturday her priority, also as Ombudswoman, was to have an open-door policy at all times.
In her first interview since being appointed, she told CNA that “after six months [on the job] I realise that had I not served as a lawyer for the Republic in the legal service it is possible I wouldn`t be able to deal with the wide spectrum of demands of the Commissioner for Administration.”
She said that as soon as she assumed duties she realised that people needed to see the new Commissioner in person. “I found that the people needed to have direct contact with the Commissioner, so that their voice can be heard,” she said.
“Therefore my priority is to see whoever needs to speak with the Commissioner, I am at their disposal.”
Asked about the greatest challenges her office faces, Lottidi says it was to be able to deal with the workload, and to be able to find immediate solutions to the citizens` problems.
Replying to a question as to whether she believes that people with special needs can truly be integrated in society, the Ombudswoman said “of course it is feasible, not just feasible; it is a must.”
The Office of the Commissioner, she said acts as a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in the framework of which “we receive many complaints, which have to do with the reasonable adjustment and immediate response (of authorities), whether it has to do with a school escort, a teacher for special education, or how accessible transport vehicles or buildings are, or generally the way of life of a person who has a disability.”
Authorities did respond positively to the issues. “People are starting to become more aware,” she said adding that authorities were doing their best.
“Effectiveness is not always at the desired level but there is goodwill and as a mechanism we are there to point out any problems which need to be corrected,” she said.
On gender equality, Lottidi said it was protected by legislation. What her office has to deal with, she noted, was an attitude that sees women as vulnerable and ready to accept any harassment.
This had to change and people needed to be taught new perspectives when growing up about gender equality and equality among people in general.
Her office, she added, was currently looking into three harassment complaints and also some sexual harassment complaints. On immigration, Lottidi said the state was doing what it could within its means. “Unfortunately, this is not at the desired level,” she said.
Gender identity was another topic for the Ombudswoman who said that in 2009 the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner was discussing the issue and whether it could be introduced in Cyprus.
“Eight years later, we see that quite a few countries have introduced legislation to allow gender identity change, including Greece recently. Its introduction in the legislative system is now being discussed at a preliminary level in Cyprus as well,” she concluded.