Cyprus was given a score of just 34 per cent for the human rights situation and living standards of its LGBT population.

The score was published by LGBT advocacy group Ilga-Europe, which ranked and rated 48 European countries’ LGBT human rights and living standards, with its findings published on Thursday ahead of Friday’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

Cyprus’ score, precisely 34.61 per cent, saw it rank in 28th place of the 48 countries assessed, sandwiched between 27th-placed Kosovo and 29th-placed Hungary.

Malta topped the rankings, as the country has done every year since 2016, this year achieving a score of 87.83 per cent. Iceland ranked in second place with a score of 83.01 per cent, while Belgium ranked in third with a score of 78.47 per cent.

Greece ranked in joint-sixth place with Finland, with both countries achieving a score of 70.77 per cent.

At the other end of the scale, Russia was bottom of the rankings with a score of exactly two per cent, while Azerbaijan was second from bottom, with a score of 2.25 per cent. Turkey ranked third from bottom, with a score of 4.75 per cent.

The last country other than Malta to finish top of the rankings was the United Kingdom in 2015 but prevailing political winds in that country have seen it fall to a comparatively lowly 15th place in this year’s rankings. This year’s score of 51.87 per cent was more than 34 per cent lower than its 2015 peak.

In addition to its rankings table, Ilga-Europe publishes a review of various incidents both in and regarding each country in relation to its LGBT community.

The review criticised Cyprus for deporting an asylum seeker to Nigeria, “although he was at clear risk after Nigerian media had outed him while he was in Cyprus, and even through the appeal against his asylum rejection in Cyprus was still ongoing.”

However, on the matter of asylum, it did note that the Cyprus Refugee Council is currently running a project aimed at integrating LGBT asylum seekers and refugees into the local community.

There was also a section regarding “bias-motivated speech”, in which Ilga-Europe made reference to Cypriot LGBT advocacy group Accept’s “concern over the increase in anti-LGBT hate speech in 2023”.

This, they said, included a non-commissioned military officer who called homosexuality unnatural in a video on social media platform TikTok in January last year.

They also made reference to the fact that MP Andreas Themistocleous was reported to the House ethics committee after deriding fellow MP Alexandra Attalides for her welcoming of the ban on LGBT conversion therapy.

The ban on conversion therapy itself, passed last May, was listed as a positive, with Ilga-Europe keen to stress that it was endorsed by the Cyprus psychologists’ association.

In addition, they welcomed the new enforcement of mandatory sex education at all levels in both public and private schools, while noting that the law was “met with hostility from some politicians, religious groups, and parents”.

In the section labelled “family”, they highlighted that the Green party had tabled a bill in parliament last October which would allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

On the matter of health, they said transgender people have “continued facing difficulties in accessing hormonal therapy”.

Regarding public opinion, they said that despite the holding of a pride parade in May last year and a bicommunal LGBT pride event in June, “there has been an increasing wave of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric” on the island.

This, they said, rings especially true “within social media, with the creation of online communities for [the] so-called protection of traditional families and of children from sexual education.”

They also referenced research carried out by the Cyprus Youth Council, which showed that 20 per cent of respondents found same-sex relationships to be somewhat acceptable and 54 per cent “fully agree with equal marriage”.

Additionally, they made reference to an IMR survey which showed that one in three people in Cyprus support same-sex couples having children.

The north was also included in Ilga-Europe’s research. While it was not given a score of its own or included in the ranking, it was reviewed in the same manner.

One of the most alarming parts of the review of the north was titled “access to adequate food”, with Ilga-Europe writing that “the economic challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic persisted, impacting the LGBT community with income loss and food affordability issues.”

They added that the north’s LGBT advocacy group Kuir Kibris has created a list of supportive non-governmental organisations and local authorities to help alleviate the issue.

In addition, they were scathing of a speech made by the north’s religious affairs directorate head Ahmet Unsal last January, in which they said he had “normalised child marriage, compulsory heterosexuality and patriarchal norms”.

They also said the north’s ‘transport minister’ Erhan Arikli had “questioned the right to freedom of LGBT people and attacked Kuir Kibris’ awareness campaign”.

On the matter of “freedom of assembly”, they pointed out protests held against Unsal’s comments in January as well as the holding of a pride parade in May last year and the aforementioned bicommunal pride event.

However, on the issue of “freedom of expression”, they criticised the removal of rainbow-coloured statues from the Middle East Technical University (Metu)’s campus in the village of Kapouti.

Regarding health, they said transgender people “continued facing difficulties in their access to hormonal therapy and gender-affirming healthcare”, but that Kuir Kibris has “continued providing essential psychological aid and other social services to LGBT people in need.”

Other good news included that Famagusta’s women’s shelter now welcomes LGBT people.

In addition, they reported that the north has now revised its list of dangerous infectious diseases, meaning that people living with HIV will not be deported from the north when seeking a student visa or residency permit.

Now, they will be allowed to stay so long as they can cover their own medical expenses and comply with quarterly checkups.

Progress is not ubiquitous, however, with those applying for work permits possibly still subject to deportation, and laws regarding solitary confinement for transgender detainees not fully respected, according to Ilga-Europe.

A court case in 2022 had affirmed that it was “unacceptable” to keep transgender detainees in solitary confinement, but Ilga-Europe reported that last year a transgender woman was kept in solitary confinement both in a Kyrenia police station and at the north’s central prison.