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17 May 2020 - International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2020

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2020
May 17, 2020

Cyprus is taking steps forward

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which is commemorated on 17 May each year, is an opportunity to reflect on the problems arising from the outbreaks of homophobia and transphobia, not only for the individuals themselves who are victimised, but also for our society as a whole. At the same time, it is also an opportunity to celebrate the actions that have been taken to date to eliminate discrimination by sending the message to LGBTI people that society is slowly, but steadily, rallying around them and that their diversity is by no means a cause for shame.

This year Cyprus saw a significant increase in the annual ranking of the international organisation for LGBTI rights ILGA-Europe, published on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and BisexualIty 2020 .

In particular, with 31% Cyprus climbed to 19th place (from 23rd in 2019) among the countries of the European Union, and to 29th among the 49 countries of the Council of Europe.

Although the rate of legislation we have had as a country remains low, the progress made is substantial. Special mention is the series of actions of the Ministry of the Interior, which are most often not known to the general public, but constitute serious assistance in the fight against discrimination.

Among them, the Ministry's directive to the Department of Population Records to amend the process of securing travel documents for trans persons in order to allow the change of name and gender in the official documents of the Republic (birth certificate, identity card and passport) stands out. 

This is a positive step pending the passage of the Gender Identity Law, which will also cover the process of modifying trans persons' data, especially for people who do not fall within the main categories of the law, with clear timetables and ensuring the confidentiality of the amendments.

At this point, it is worth noting that, despite its approval by the Legal Service, the draft Legal Recognition of Gender Identity Bill is still far from providing an easy and functional process through which a citizen can change data when he wishes. 

With the agreement of the President of the Republic and pending the official decision of the Minister of the Interior to set up a special committee for further examination of the draft, in recent months a series of meetings have taken place with the Commissioner for Legislation, Mrs Louisas Christodoulidou-Zannetou, with a view to exchanging views on necessary conversions. I am sure that with the end of the emergency measures taken to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which are afflicting all but particularly vulnerable groups, the draft will proceed immediately and will soon be tabled in Parliament.

Equally important for the period we are going through is the preparation of the National Action Plan for the Promotion of Multiculturalism and Acceptance of Diversity, which will include specific packages of actions, measures, programmes and activities for the protection, promotion, professional and social inclusion and development within The Cyprus society, both LGBTI and immigrants, as well as the disabled. , Roma, and other groups, including multiple identities. The National Action Plan will be based on the relevant recommendations of the Council of Europe and the European Union and the contribution of human rights organisations will be called for in its creation.

At the same time, the amendment of the application of the criminalisation of homophobic and transphobic hate speech is being discussed. A proposal has already been submitted to the President of the Republic and is expected to be considered in cooperation with the Commissioner for Legislation soon. Ways of removing barriers that continue to afflict same-sex couples, including those married abroad, and protecting all families without exception, are also being considered. 

The road to eliminating discrimination and prejudice is long and difficult and the examples of the problems faced by LGBTI people in our country are many and everyday. But we are in a better position than ever before and I am sure that, with steady and substantial steps, improvement will continue seamlessly and every year we will become better and better. 

By the way, I would like to convey, particularly to young LGBTI people, a message of support and support, as well as the assurance that the effort for change is dynamic and lasting.