By Martin Banks - 13th December 2011
I am also pleased that new legislation will protect children
Turkish Cypriot leaders have bowed to pressure from MEPs and agreed to repeal a law outlawing homosexuality.
Dervis Eroglu, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot government in the northern part of the island, said he would sign a repeal of the ban into law.
The move comes after MEPs condemned the ban on homosexuality in the northern part of Cyprus – that 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 letter from Eroglu on Tuesday, 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."
The news was welcomed by UK Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, who has led a campaign for 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.
"I am also pleased that new legislation will protect children, especially boys, from sexual abuse.
"The anti-gay law had left an enormous hole in the justice system allowing children to go unprotected from rape and abuse," added the deputy, a member of parliament's high-level contact group for relations with the Turkish Cypriot community.