British MEP Calls on N. Cyprus To Update Homosexuality Laws
His call for the decriminalisation of homosexuality comes after he met leaders and non-governmental organisations in the northern part of the island. North Cyprus is the last territory in Europe where homosexuality is a crime, a situation that reflects poorly on an island that is due to take over the rotating EU presidency on 1 July, according to an EU Parliament statement.
The high-profile arrest of former Finance Minister Michalis Sarris in north Cyprus on allegations of homosexual relations has focused attention on the issue and prompted Cashman's visit. Following his arrest, another UK MEP, Marina Yannakoudakis, recently wrote to Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu condemning the country's law on homosexuality. She called for the charges to be dropped and asked for a moratorium on further arrests.
Cashman visited the northern part of Cyprus on 12 and 13 April where he met MPs and party leaders and Eroglu. The talks focused on the need for what Cashman called a "comprehensive" review of local laws, which, he said, currently punish homosexuality with up to five years in prison.
Cashman said, "We all agreed that urgent changes are needed, including decriminalising same-sex activity; equalising the age of consent for both same-sex and different-sex intercourse; and defining rape more clearly."
Reshat Shaban, of the 'Queer Cyprus Association,' said, "Thanks to Cashman's visit to northern Cyprus, our demands for equal rights were heard by political leaders. Undoubtedly, the most pressing issue for us is to fully decriminalise homosexuality, equalise the age of consent and better protect LGBTQ people under the law."
Cashman, who is co-president of parliament's LGBT intergroup, said, "All my interlocutors agreed that local laws need updating urgently."
The criminal code in the Turkish-held north of the country must be aligned with binding European standards, he said.
In the government-controlled areas, homosexuality has been decriminalised but same-sex marriage is still illegal.
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