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MILESTONE: Northern Cyprus becomes last place in Europe to decriminalize homosexuality

(Editor's note: For an understanding of the complicated situation in Northern Cyprus, which is a self-declared state that calls itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, click HERE.)

Turkish Cypriot leaders have bowed to pressure from Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and agreed to repeal a law outlawing homosexuality.

Dervis Eroglu, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot government in the northern part of Cyprus said he would sign a repeal of the ban into law.

Northern Cyprus is the last part of Europe where it is illegal to be gay.

MEPs also pressed Eroglu to keep his promise to ensure that any new law includes a provision to protect children from sexual abuse.

In a 13 December letter to British Conservative MEP for London Marina Yannakoudakis from Eroglu , he writes:

"The draft proposal for the repeal of the part of the criminal code, chapter 154, which penalises same sex sexual activity has been submitted
to the general assembly on 25 October 2011 by a political party, the Communal Democracy Party. This draft legislation states that not only
girls and women but also boys and men can be victims of rape and sexual abuse."

Eroglu pledged to support the repeal, saying:

"We gave our considered opinion to the government that the draft proposal concerned should be adopted and section 171 should be abolished without delay."

Yannakoudakis has led a campaign for the the law change.

She said:

"I am pleased that Eroglu has honoured the promise he made to me in October."

"There have been a number of concerns about human rights in the northern part of Cyprus. By agreeing to decriminalise homosexuality Eroglu is taking concrete measures to ensure those living in the north part of Cyprus may enjoy the same human rights as their fellow Europeans."

In October a number of men were arrested for "homosexual offenses" in North Cyprus, leading to an international outcry about the law.

They included former finance minister Michalis Sarris. He skipped a 17 November court appearance, forgoing €47,000 bail money. Yesterday he was appointed chairman of Marfin Popular Bank, the island’s second-biggest lender.

Sariss has described the circumstances of his arrest as "strange."

Four of those arrested accused the police of brutality. Northern Cyprus group Initiative Against Homophobia accused the Northern Cyprus media in their reporting of the case of "normalizing an attitude of hatred" and "feeding homophobic reports and comments to the public."

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To read the original story or to check for updates, click HERE.