Europe

Northern Cyprus lifts ban on gay sex

Northern Cyprus border in UN-controlled buffer zone - file pic Image copyright AFP
Image caption The ethnic Greek and Turkish communities remain divided in Cyprus

The EU has welcomed the decision of Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus to decriminalise homosexual relations.

It is believed to be the last European territory where gay sex between consenting adults was still illegal - a relic of British colonial rule.

The Republic of Cyprus had long since changed the law. Breakaway northern Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said on Twitter: "The right to love now legal all over Europe!"

British Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, who has campaigned on the issue, said she had received assurances from Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu that he would sign the decriminalisation bill into law.

"I congratulate the Turkish Cypriot LGBT community on finally being able to exercise the most basic human right of all - the right to love," she said on her website.

"As other [British] Commonwealth countries such as Nigeria and Uganda impose increasingly draconian measures to persecute LGBT people, I hope that people will learn from Cyprus that the anti-gay legacy of Britain's colonial past should be scrapped and not strengthened," she added.

The Turkish Cypriot parliament voted on Monday to scrap Section 171 of the criminal code, which carries a punishment of five years for homosexual acts.

The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus came into being after Turkish troops occupied the north of the island in 1974, in response to a Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta ruling Athens at the time.

The island has been divided ever since.

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