DAW: Alexander Modinos, you
are from Cyprus and last year (1990) applied to the Council of Europe,
to the Human Rights Commission, making a case against the Government
of Cyprus that you were being denied your rights as a citizen of that
Republic. What was the outcome?
A.M: The hearing took place on 6th December1990
and the Commission unanimously decided that my application was accepted.
DAW: Then you had some problems with an
Archbishop, I think?
A. M.: As a result of the decision there
was a lot of publicity. The Attorney-General admitted that our antiquated
1885 Victorian anti-homosexual laws are anti-constitutional, and
contrary to the European Convention. The Archbishop opposed any
abolition of the existing anti-homosexual legislation. As a result
of the decision of the Human Rights Commission he came out openly
on radio at Christmas time openly opposing any change.
DAW: What did he threaten?
A. M.: He threatened to ex-communicate
known homosexuals and withhold their Christian rights as well as
not give them a burial.
DAW: How have the Cyprus authorities reacted
since the Human Rights Commission decision?
A. M.: They have done nothing. They have
not done anything at all to abolish or change the legislation, but
neither did the Archbishop keep his word. He, so far, has also done
nothing. I have not been ex-communicated.
DAW: Can you tell me something about life
for homosexuals in Cyprus? -- Most of our readers will have little
A. M.: The legislation considers homosexual
relations between adult males a criminal offence. So we are liable
to prosecution. The church which is powerful considers homosexual
practices the gravest of sins and society in Cyprus stigmatises
it. So obviously in a small place where everybody knows everybody
else homosexuals hide their identity. They lead a double life. For
the great majority of the men they are 'underground" -- in
secret . I believe this is a great problem. In the effort to hide
their homosexual identity people have many and unknown partners
... In a place where homosexuality is not accepted people cannot
ask for help. They are forced to hide so the problem becomes enormous
when you do face it.
DAW: Are there cruising areas
A. M.: Yes -- in the parks, and at night
on the beaches. It is very dangerous because the police know about
the places too and continuously harass homosexual men. They take
them to the police station and...
DAW: Has anyone been imprisoned for a
longer time recently?
A. M.: No not a long sentence. Recently
we had a Swiss tourist who was sentenced to a months imprisonment,
but the President and the Swiss Embassy intervened and he was released
within a week.
DAW: But it is important that tourists
know they risk this a few days in prison.
A. M.: Probably after the decision of the
Human Rights Commission it would not have happened had he taken
someone to his hotel room, but he admitted his 'guilt". He
did not even have sex with anyone, but met someone who happened
to be a policeman... I'm not sure, but maybe it was a provocation
DAW: How do you view the future?
A. M.: It will take a long time to change
the legislation, but we are able to give talks, appear on the radio,
discuss the subject more openly than before. The majority of the
Cyprus people -- I am surprised at this -- have in the last 3 years
been very kind to me I am an open homosexual. So I believe society
in Cyprus is ready for the change. Homosexual men will not be convinced
so easily because they feel ashamed, embarrassed, and frightened.
DAW: Is it similar in the Turkish part?
A. M.: Nearly 40% of Cyprus' land is occupied
by Turkey and we are not free to move from the Greek south to the
Turkish-occupied north. Nor are the Turks allowed to come to the
south. No, I'm talking about he whole island - with a population
of less than 700,000 people, Greeks and Turks. Armenians and other
minorities. The legislation is the same. The leaders of both religions,
the Greek Orthodox and the Muslim, both condemn homosexuality, so
it's the same society and the same legislation. Cyprus is still
recognised by all nations as a united single nation. I mean the
DAW: We know that in Istanbul people are
arrested and beaten up. Do you know of anything similar in the north
of the island?
A. M.: The legislation, per se, does not
forbid me to be homosexual, but I become a criminal from the moment
I admit to sodomy. Well, I have admitted that I have practised and
intend to practise that. To prove that the law is unconstitutional
- because I have a right to practise my sexuality - in private.
I am sure if the Turkish Cypriots - or if I went there and proclaimed
publicly I was homosexual they would not harass me just because
of that. It is quite another matter for Turks there who dare not
form a gay movement. We have one movement in Cyprus. We do not have
members from the occupied part because they are not free to come.
We have tried to communicate for the last 17 years -- and quite
a lot of the European members of the UN Force - like Denmark, Britain
and other countries -- are gay and have a good time both in the
south and in the north. Unfortunately they are too frightened to
even as much as take a message -- not to talk of organising a part
of the Gay movement of Cyprus in the north.
DAW: Is it possible to have an openly
gay centre in Cyprus ?
A. M.: We HAVE an openly gay centre in
Cyprus ! We have meetings every Wednesday evening -- during the
Winter and Spring. We have a gay line which operates from 7.30 pm
to 7.30 am. The number is Nicosia 02 44 33 46. Last year we celebrated
in Nicosia thirty years since the founding of the gay movement in
Cyprus -- publicly -- with about 110 people present, and we have
a bit of capital now. Last January we had 254 people at another
party in Limassol and collected 500 pounds. You see more people
from Nicosia could come to a public place in Limassol than in Nicosia
We are the only organisation in the island which carries out safe
sex education --. for men gays and bisexuals as well as men who
have sex with other men but consider themselves neither. We have
a support group for people who are alone, or to the hospital if
they come to us. If people come to Nicosia for treatment we can
put two people up. It was used for people who were thrown out, but
Cyprus is small and the families do not usually throw out people
who are HIV or have AIDS now -- as they did 2 or 3 years ago. People
are more tolerant now.
DAW: Thank you for this interview.
Interviewer: Colin de la Motte-Sherman in Prague
Since 1991, the following events in relation to Cyprus are worth
(I) May 1998
"They have abolished one law to make another one much worse,"
said Alecos Modinos, the gay man whose case convinced the European
Court of Human Rights in 1993 to order Cyprus to decriminalize homosexual
acts between consenting adults, about the law the nation's parliament
finally passed May 21, 1998, just eight days before a deadline set
by the Council of Europe before it would impose sanctions. Modinos'
concerns are shared by AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL.
The problems stem from amendments - made in a two-hour closed-door
discussion in parliament before the vote was taken - designed to
appease the Orthodox Church of Cyprus by showing that the government
was not "encouraging" homosexuality. One problem is vague
language: "unnatural licentiousness" apparently used as
a synonym for homosexuality, "indecent proposals" and
"advertising," as in personal ads for gay relationships.
Jail terms prescribed for "indecent proposals" and "advertising"
are said to be greater than those for comparable heterosexual acts.
Modinos says that the law now specifically targets men for violations
which previously applied to any person. A "Cyprus Mail"
editorial said, "The amendments to the gay sex bill are ridiculous,
petulant and spiteful."
An AMNESTY statement read, "We believe the provisions must
either be deleted or amended. We do, however, consider it likely
that the Cypriot authorities will give the correct interpretation
to the law to ensure it does not violate citizens' guaranteed rights
under the constitution. We believe that discrimination against homosexuals
continues because the sentences provided for under the new law are
not analogous with those stipulated for the same crimes committed
by heterosexuals. 'Unnatural licentiousness,' which is referred
to many times in the new law, implies condemnation of the homosexual
(II) July 2000
Under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, the
Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is empowered to
ensure that actions taken by governments and parliaments in response
to a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights do indeed fully
rectify the human rights violations identified in the judgment.
The Committee of Ministers was not satisfied that the 1998 legislation
complied with the judgment, and the latest legislation is the outcome
of discussions between the Committee of Ministers and the Cyprus
The legislation passed by the Cyprus Parliament was at first thought
to have "equalised the male age of consent (albeit by raising
the age of consent for heterosexual males from 16 to 18, while setting
that for women at 16)".
Later it became clear that no change had been made in the age of
Colin de la Motte-Sherman