“The Penal Code Must be Updated!”

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Since 13 October 2011, we have been concerned while following the police arrests based on Article 171 of Chapter 154 of the Penal Code. The fact that the individuals have been subjected to torture during their arrests, clearly shows that they are on an unfair trial.

It is worrying that the arrested individuals have been “targeted” by media, completely ignoring media ethics. We are saddened by the fact that the media, which should be respective towards human rights and support a fair trial in line with contemporary norms, have taken pleasure in witnessing the judgment of people based on a law which dates from 1889 British colonial period.

Following the arrests, our statement was published with tabloidized titles with the intervention of many media organs which ignored the content of our statement. Therefore, we felt the need to issue another press release which explains our sensitivities in a more detailed manner.

We are saddened by the situation the arrested individuals are experiencing. Regardless of whether they are in a romantic relationship or not, we believe, the fact that the individuals are subjected to doctor controls are uncivilized actions that are against human dignity.

There is an allegation that the sexual activity was performed with a “child”. But, it is important to note that the decision will be given by the Court. However, we would like to remind that:

  • In our country, rape is defined as an “attack to honor”. In the scope of the Penal Code, only offenses against women are considered in the context of “honor and morality”. Therefore, sexual assault and rape are not regulated as attacks against “bodily integrity”. In line with this information, the fact that men can also be rape victims is ignored by the Penal Code.
  • The legal loophole in the existing law does not define a consent age for men. Therefore, in situations involving relations with people under the age of 18, the outdated Article 171 of Chapter 154 is used and the incident is defined as “unnatural”, regardless of being consensual or not, and is investigated, prosecuted and judged accordingly.
  • However, during the “Modinos vs Cyprus” case at the European Court of Human Rights, it was found that Article 171 of Chapter 154 is against “the right to respect for private life” which is regulated under Article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention.
  • The abovementioned article of the Penal Code has been referred to the Supreme Court for another legal process due to the fact that it is against the “intervening in private life” principle stated in Article 19 of the TRNC Constitution.

Since the establishment of Initiative Against Homophobia in 2007, we have been working towards countering discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identity in North Cyprus. We organize informative activities and panels to end the existing homophobia, biphobia and transphobia produced by the lack of knowledge about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Despite all our work, due to the “irresponsibility” of the media, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have been portrayed as “perverted” people who engage in sexual relations with children.

As Initiative Against Homophobia, we made the following requests to the former Chairperson of Parliament Fatma Ekenoğlu when we first presented our proposal for the Change of the Penal Code:

  • Article 171 of Chapter 154 of the Penal Code should be removed and consensual same-sex relations should be regulated as are in modern countries.
  • Articles 144, 147, 153 and 154 of Chapter 154 of the Penal Code should be changed in a way that regulates assault and rape as crimes which are also inflicted on men and as attacks to the bodily integrity of individuals.
  • The definition of rape in the Penal Code should be in line with a contemporary legal understanding and in accordance with the United Nations definitions.

Following the recent arrests, as Initiative Against Homophobia, we argue that Article 171 of Chapter 154 of the Penal Code is a violation to Human Rights and leads to discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. As stated in our Proposal for the Penal Code Change, which was presented for the second time to the Chairperson of the Parliament in 2010, as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals we refuse to be accused of having “Unnatural” relations. We refuse judgments based on regulations dating from the British Colonial Period that are disrespectful to human rights and dignity. We request that the Penal Code is prepared and that people who have been arrested or will be arrested in the future are judged with a fair trial.

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