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Northern Cyprus becomes final European state to decriminalize homosexuality

The Parliament of Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus [official website, in Turkish] passed a bill decriminalizing homosexual relations between men [text, PDF, in Turkish], making it the last European territory to do so. Like the anti-homosexuality laws of Isle of Man and Guernsey [JURIST op-eds], Northern Cyprus's law criminalizing homosexual relations was a holdover from British colonial rule, although the island became independent in 1960. In 1974, the island split between its Turkish and Greek parts; Greek Cypriots decriminalized homosexual acts in response to pressure from the EU in the 1990s. Turkish Cypriot President Dervis Eroglu has 15 days to sign the bill into law [Reuters report].

Although Northern Cyprus was the final European state to decriminalize homosexual acts, a number of African countries have recently introduced or adopted legislation criminalizing homosexual conduct. Last week the president of Nigeria signed [JURIST report] into law a bill banning same-sex marriages and criminalizing homosexual associations, meetings and societies by subjecting them to punishment of up to fourteen years in prison. In December, Uganda's Parliament passed a similar anti-homosexuality bill [JURIST report] in December that, if signed by President Yoweri Museveni, would impose harsher sentences for "aggravated homosexuality", already a crime under Ugandan law. Homosexuality is illegal in 37 African countries [CGE backgrounder], and South Africa is the only country on the continent [BBC report] where same-sex marriage is not prohibited.

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