Northern Cyprus on Monday became the last European jurisdiction to decriminalize homosexuality.
Parliamentarians in the disputed area — known formally as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — approved the repeal of the law that criminalized consensual same-sex acts between adult men by a 28-1 vote margin. Reports indicate that 21 lawmakers abstained from the vote.
Those convicted under the colonial-era statute faced up to five years in prison.
LGBT rights advocates on the divided island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea applauded the vote.
“Despite the timid result of just 28 votes in favor, 21 abstentions and one vote against, today is the day when homosexuality has ceased to be considered a criminal offense for any Cypriot,” said Accept-LGBT Cyprus, an advocacy group based in Nicosia, the Cypriot capital. “Accept-LGBT Cyprus welcomes this development with great satisfaction, acknowledging its importance with regards to the progress of the human rights of the LGBT people throughout Cyprus and for all Cypriots.”
Paulo Côrte-Real, co-chair of the ILGA-Europe Executive Board, also welcomed the vote.
“We welcome today’s vote and can finally call Europe a continent completely free from laws criminalizing homosexuality,” he said.
Turkish troops invaded Northern Cyprus in 1974 after a military coup toppled then-Cypriot President Makarios III. The region declared its independence in 1983.
Turkey is the only country that recognizes Northern Cyprus as an independent country.