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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Cyprus: gays labelled "social deviant" by party leader

Map of Cyprus.Image via Wikipedia
Source: Cyprus Mail

Cyprus’ gay community is up in arms after a politician apparently branded them as social deviants.

DISY deputy Andreas Themistocleous stirred up a hornet’s nest when he seemingly likened homosexuality to pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia.

The Internet is abuzz with reaction from gay groups and sympathisers, including a dedicated group on Facebook attacking Themistocleous. The group, set up only last week, is already 850 strong and counting. Among others, the deputy is called a racist, a chauvinist and a homophobic.

Themistocleous’ contentious remarks came during a live radio show discussing the Ombudswoman’s latest report recommending legal reforms to allow same-sex partnerships. At one point while debating with the Ombudswoman, the Limassol deputy said:

“Just because there exist among us pedophiles, people who practice bestiality, necrophiliacs and other criminals, should the state legitimise their status too?”

Themistocleous yesterday sought to clarify his position through Politis newspaper. He explained he was merely responding to the Ombudswoman’s argument that gay people always formed a significant section of society and should therefore be legitimised.

“For argument’s sake, I then cited the example of criminals, and she [the Ombudswoman] countered that the actions of these groups have negative consequences on other people. I then wondered how, by the same rationale, can the actions of someone who practices bestiality affect other people.

“But in no way did I equate the two types of behavior,” he added, evidently referring to homosexuality and bestiality.

The DISY MP said he believed that people have the inalienable right to privacy, adding that it was a ‘good thing’ that the Republic of Cyprus has decriminalised homosexuality.

But, he added, this in no way forces the state to institute same-sex partnerships or marriages, nor does there exist a human rights charter that imposes such an obligation.

“In that case, we would have to change the legal basis for public mores,” he said.

Nevertheless, Themistocleous stuck to his guns, asserting his opposition to both same-sex partnerships and the right of gay people to adoption.

“Since so many people are cheating on their better halves, why not also legalise polygamy?” he quipped.

In what could be interpreted as a sarcastic remark, the deputy urged gay people to ‘inform us’ of any discrimination against them, so that “we can change the laws.”

“These are my views and I shall defend them in public for as long as I am a deputy. If society decides that it does not want me in parliament, then I shall go home. There are others in DISY whom they can turn to if they want to legalise same-sex marriages.”

Meanwhile Cyprus’ gay community has been galvanised – perhaps more than ever before – by Themistocleous’ remarks. On the Facebook group, one person wrote: “Some people are gay, get over it!”Another post reads: “In 1992 the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases as a mental illness.”

Several other sympathetic websites are expressing outrage. On the Gay Cyprus blog people were yesterday organising to send letters of protest to the heads of political parties in Cyprus as well as to the chairman of the European Popular Party, of which DISY is a member.

And Themistocleous’ clarifications yesterday did little to placate the gay community.

“It sounds a lot like he’s saying he tolerates homosexuals, as if he’s doing them a favour,” said Giorgis Renginos, a spokesman for an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People) group.

“A lot of people should be outraged. This is not just an affront to gay people, it’s an affront to democracy. It is discrimination, plain and simple,” he added.

Renginos said the group is seeking legal advice on how to proceed, including a possible lawsuit against Themistocleous.

And he took the opportunity to announce the establishment of an LGBT association. A website is also on the cards. “We hope to be up and running sometime in the next couple of weeks,” Renginos told the Mail.

The association’s top priority would be to advocate and push for the legalization of same-sex marriages.

The group plans to hold a press conference – the first of its kind in Cyprus – on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia.

“What we want to do is educate the public about homosexuality. There are so many misconceptions out there, for example that all pedophiles are homosexuals or that gays prey on young people or that they try to ‘convert’ them. It’s time to set the record straight,” said Renginos.

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