Cyprus' first gay pride has shown local public opinion supports LGBT rights, and it is now up to political leaders to take concrete action to make these rights a reality, the head of a European gay rights NGO told The Cyprus Daily yesterday.
Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, joined thousands in Saturday's gay pride festival. Other participants included foreign diplomats, politicians and singing sensation Anna Vissi.
Organisers Accept LGBT Cyprus hailed the event as a 'huge success" while veteran gay activist Alecos Modinos spoke of a "dream come true" 25 years after he took Cyprus to the European Court of Human Rights, setting in motion the process which led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1998.
Paradis described Saturday's pride as "a turning point" for the LGBT community in Cyprus.
"The fact that more than 4.000 people, from all walks of life, united to march under the same rainbow colours shows just how much support there is in Cypriot society for human rights of LGBT people," she said.
And she added: "Now is the time for political leaders in the country to take concrete action to make these rights a reality, starting with legal recognition of couples."
Cyprus scores very low compared to other EU countries with regards to the legal protection and recognition of rights of LGBTI people.
"ILGA-Europe's annual ranking of 49 European countries puts Cyprus in 36th position. There is no legal protection against hate crimes and hate speech, very limited legal protection against discrimination and recognition of rights of LGBT families," Paradis said.
Asked how her organisation can move things forward, she said ILGA-Europe can share expertise learned from other countries on the development of laws and policies, provide training and technical support to LGBT groups and support the demands of the Cypriot LGBT community with the national government.
"And of course show solidarity and direct support as we did by coming to Cyprus," she said.
Saturday's parade, held under the theme "Same Love - Equal Rights", sought to press for equal rights for all Cypriots and progress on a bill for civil partnership.
Some sections of Cypriot society still consider homosexuality taboo and the Orthodox Church has described it as an "illness which needs treatment".
Bishop of Tamassos presented a petition to the Presidential Palace earlier on Saturday voicing opposition to the pride, while there were some scuffles with police when a fringe religious group holding a counter march tried to approach the place where the gay pride was due to end.