The International Lesbian, Gay, Trans and Intersex Group or ILGA arrived in North Cyprus and held a press conference yesterday. The head of their European Policies department, Silvan Agius pointed out that North Cyprus was the only country left in Europe that considers homosexuality a crime. He is here to pressure the government, political parties and trade unions to push to change the law.
He said that on his last visit here two years ago, he was assured that the law would be changed to decriminalise homosexuality. However, so far, no change to the law has been made.
An ILGA lawyer, Oncel Polili explained the current legal situation on homosexuality. He said that the penal code punishes ‘unnatural’ intercourse between two men with a prison term of up to five years. He said that there were currently two landmark cases that were being addressed by the European Court of Human Rights and that these might help change the law in the TRNC.
As we understand it, homosexuality is illegal in North Cyprus, although it is legal in the South and in Turkey. These laws go back to British colonial rule. South Cyprus decriminalised homosexuality in 1998 as part of its accession path to the European Union in 2004.
Dervis Eroglu, the President, has a number of times gone on record to say that section 171 should be abolished without delay. He said that he would sign any bill that decriminalised homosexuality but that no such bill had yet been passed by parliament.