Around 55,000 girls and women in Cyprus over the age of 12 have reportedly been victims of stalking, MPs heard during discussion on Wednesday at the House legal affairs committee on a government bill against stalking.
Presenting the bill to MPs, permanent secretary of the justice ministry Andreas Mylonas said that it aims at protecting persons from stalking, mainly women.
According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Mylonas said, in Cyprus, 11 per cent of the female population over 12, around 55,000 women, have been victims of stalking. The EU average is 18 per cent, he said.
The bill provides for harsh penalties, Mylonas said, and protection of the victim by interim orders as well as civil actions to compensate the victim. People convicted of stalking may be sentenced by up to one year in prison and or fined up to €2,000.
In cases when stalkers’ behaviour leads to fear of violence against the victim or against a member of his or her family or damage of his or her property, the culprit may be punished by imprisonment up to five years and or a fine up to €10,000.
Mylonas said that the bill comes in response to two reports of the ombudswoman, in 2014 and 2015, that cited a legal gap as regards stalking.
Gender Equality Commissioner, Iosifina Antoniou, expressed her satisfaction over the tabling of the bill to the committee.
To-date, she said, due to the legal gap, police remain idle in cases of stalking.
Antoniou referred to a murder attempt on a woman in Oroklini in 2013. The woman in question, the commissioner said, had been reporting for a year and a half prior to the murder attempt that she was being harassed but police did not take any measures that could have prevented the incident.
Disy MP and president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Stella Kyriakides, welcomed the tabling of the bill and the start of its discussion at the committee.
This, she said, is an important first step for the application of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, which Cyprus ratified earlier in the month.