Cyprus marked International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on Tuesday with a clear message that there will be no tolerance of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights, Maria Stylianou-Lottides said May 17 was a day to recognise “the rights of all people to be themselves and to express themselves freely without fear of persecution, ridicule or marginalisation.”

In a written statement, Lottides said that substantive recognition of this right has not yet been achieved despite the gradual progress that has been made in strengthening the institutional framework for the protection of the rights of individuals and of the LGBTQI community.

In practice, Lottides said, relevant research shows that members of the LGBTQI community remain extremely vulnerable to homophobic perceptions, attitudes and behaviours, experience intense discrimination on a daily basis, and are deprived of opportunities and choices in many areas of life.

Lottides added that it is not uncommon for homophobic perceptions to manifest themselves through verbal and/or physical attack, even in progressive societies, and therefore all need to remain fully committed to promoting the equal exercise of human rights by lesbians, homosexuals and bisexuals, trans and intersex people.

Lottides said that in this direction, legislation has been introduced criminalising homophobic and transphobic hate speech, and prejudicial motives against a group of persons related to sexual orientation or gender identity are deemed an aggravating factor in punishment.

She also mentioned the statement of intention on the part of the state regarding legal recognition of identity and preparation of a relevant bill, which seeks to regulate the right of trans people to make corrections to gender on the basis of self-identification on all official documents.

Lottides also referred to a recent incident of police stereotyping which came to light after an individual complained that he had been homophobically attacked and said that in order to combat the phenomenon of underreporting, there was a need to cultivate a climate of trust between victims and law enforcement authorities.

To this end, there are plans for further training of police in charge of investigating homophobic and transphobic crimes, Lottides said.

Justice Minister Stephie Dracou also issued a statement for the occasion, saying in modern societies segregation based on sexual orientation or gender identity have no place.

“But we do not dwell on words. On the contrary, significant steps have been taken in this direction in recent years. The institutionalisation of political coexistence and the criminalisation of homophobic and transphobic language, as well as the tightening of penalties for homophobic or transphobic motives, demonstrate our determination,” the statement read.

Dracou also referred to a recently signed Memorandum of Cooperation between Cyprus and the UK for the protection and promotion of the rights of LGBTI people in the workplace, bilaterally and at a European level, and the IDAHOT + Forum 2022 hosted for the first time in Cyprus earlier in May, together with UK and in cooperation with the Council of Europe, which was attended by 250 people from European countries.

Political parties and other groups also issued statements to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.