The education and culture ministry is not trying to censor the arts, its minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Wednesday, after it decided to cut a line from a play that normalised same-sex love.
Prodromou’s statement suggested there was no contradiction between his words and the reality, after the line “can a boy love another boy and a girl love another girl?” in Around The World In 80 Days was cut from weekday shows, staged for schools.
The children’s rights commissioner as well as Cyprus’ theatre organisation (THOC) have slammed the move, calling it nothing short of censorship.
On Wednesday, Prodromou highlighted it was perfectly understandable that society would have different opinions over certain topics and the role of the ministry is to ensure that children are exposed to matters that reflect their maturity and age.
“Under no circumstances is the ministry trying to censor, as some public statements by others have suggested. Through responsible procedures, the ministry ensures that children can watch recommended theatre productions according to their age.”
The committee that made the decision to remove the contentious line is made up of qualified educators “that have the knowledge, scientific expertise and experience” for matters that relate to children’s education in connection to their spiritual and emotional maturity.
Providing a timeline of the events, the ministry said that when watching the rehearsal, some things had not yet been finalised such as the costumes and lighting. Nonetheless, the committee noted a line in the script that it found issue with that read “Can a boy want to be a girl and a girl want to be a boy?”
The committee asked for this line to be altered or removed. “This was not due to homophobic reasons or being opposed to diversity. It believed this was not appropriate for the age group that would watch this.”
With the idea that the contentious phrase would be dealt with, the committee greenlighted the play. It then became apparent that the question was replaced with “can a boy love another boy and a girl love another girl?”
A number of parents appeared to find fault with this, filing complaints to the ministry both for the wording but also the costumes, after a male character wore high heels.
As a result of the outcry, it was decided the text of the play will only be altered on weekdays for school performances, while the original play will still be performed to general audiences on Sundays.
The ministry added it was open to considering whether age restrictions should be placed in theatre productions, similarly to how movies come with age ratings.