Cyprus: Cyprus Moves to Legalize Sodomy

Early this year, the Justice Ministry in Cyprus presented a bill to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults, and the Council of Ministers passed the bill on to the Legal Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives there at the end of January. The proposed bill would decriminalize private homosexual relations between adults, while simultaneously strengthening penalties against sexual assault against both adults and minors. Currently, Cypriot Criminal Code cap. 154, Sections 171 and 173 prohibit a "male person" from having "carnal knowledge" with another man, or any two persons having "carnal knowledge against the order of nature".

These actions follow in the wake of a 1993 European Court of Human Rights decision ordering Cyprus to decriminalize gay sex, in a case brought by Alexander Modinos, a gay activist in Cyprus. Cyprus is the only member of the European Community (EC) which still has an anti-sodomy law on the books. The Cyprus Ministry of Justice had previously claimed that a change in the law was unnecessary since this law, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison, had not been enforced since 1980 and was "rendered inoperative" by the EC Convention on Human Rights.