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Cyprus

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum sentence of life in prison for violations. The government enforced the law effectively. Most convicted offenders received considerably less than the maximum sentence. In July the Cypriot Women’s Lobby staged a demonstration outside the Supreme Court to protest the court’s decision to reduce the prison sentence of two men found guilty in a rape case from 12 years to 10 years because the survivor had not been seriously injured. From January to August, there were 67 sexual assault cases and 11 rape cases reported to police.

There were reports of violence against women, including spousal abuse, and the number of cases reported increased sharply in recent years. The law establishes clear mechanisms for reporting and prosecuting family violence and provides that the testimony of minors and experts, such as psychologists, may be used as evidence to prosecute abusers. The law provides for the imprisonment of persons found guilty of abusing family members. The court can issue a same-day restraining order against suspected or convicted domestic-violence offenders. Doctors, hospital workers, and education professionals are required to report all suspected cases of domestic violence to police. Many victims refused to testify in court, however, and by law, one spouse cannot be compelled to testify against the other. Courts were obliged to drop cases of domestic violence if the spousal victim was the only witness and refused to testify. Between January and September, police responded to 424 domestic violence cases–285 against women, 99 against men, and 78 against children. Of those, 172 were investigated and 86 referred to court.

Survivors of domestic violence had two shelters, each funded primarily by the government and run by the NGO Association for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. The association reported receiving an average of 125 calls per month.

Police conducted detailed educational programs for officers on the proper handling of domestic violence, including training focused on child abuse. NGOs noted, however, that police dismissed claims of domestic abuse by foreign women and children.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): While the practice was not a problem locally, the government received and occasionally granted asylum applications from migrant women subjected to FGM/C. It considered FGM/C grounds for granting refugee status. During the year it received 19 asylum applications from women who claimed they were subjected to FGM/C. Six women received refugee status and other applications were still under examination.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides a penalty of up to six months in prison and/or a 12,000 euro ($13,200) fine. The ombudsman and NGOs reported that authorities did not investigate sexual harassment complaints submitted by foreign domestic workers. The ombudsman was preparing a report on the government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints submitted by domestic workers. The ombudsman was examining the complaint of a domestic worker that she was sexually harassed by three employers and eventually deported.

Sexual harassment was reportedly a widespread problem, although victims did not report most incidents to authorities. The ombudsman’s 2014 annual report indicated that 10 percent of complaints submitted to the Equality Authority, a subsection of the ombudsman’s office, concerned sexual harassment. Between January and September, the Department of Labor received nine complaints regarding sexual harassment, three from Cypriot nationals and six from foreign, non-EU nationals. Two of the complaints submitted by Cypriots were found valid and resolved by the employer, and the third was under investigation. The Department of Labor reported the six foreigners requested permission to change employer. In the process, one dropped the complaint, another did not come forward to give a statement, two cases lacked sufficient evidence to prove sexual harassment, and two cases were still under investigation. The Department of Labor investigated 10 complaints by non-EU foreign nationals in 2015 and did not find evidence of sexual harassment in any. The office of the ombudsman, in its capacity as the Equality Authority, provided training to police, social workers, health care providers, teachers, prosecutors, labor and immigration service personnel, and to journalists.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals generally were able to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law requires equal pay for equal work or work of equal value. The government generally enforced these laws. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as hiring, career advancement, conditions of employment, and pay.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents, and there was universal registration at the time of birth.

Child Abuse: A University of Cyprus survey released in April 2015 showed that 25 percent of children experienced some form of sexual harassment or abuse. In March a ministerial committee set up in July 2015 approved a three-year national action plan to combat child abuse and sexual exploitation, and child pornography. Between January and September, police investigated 98 cases of child abuse, 37 of which were referred for prosecution.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18, but persons between the ages of 16 and 18 may marry, provided there are serious reasons justifying the marriage and their legal guardians provide written consent. A district court can also allow the marriage of persons between the ages of 16 and 18 if the parents unjustifiably refuse consent or in the absence of legal guardians.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Information provided in the women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, offering or procuring a child for prostitution, and engaging in or promoting a child in any form of sexual activity. The penalty for violations is up to 20 years in prison. Authorities enforced these laws. Possession of child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Authorities enforced these laws. The minimum age for consensual sex is 17; sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 17 is a criminal offense. The penalty for sexual intercourse with a girl between the ages of 13 and 17 is a maximum of three years’ imprisonment. The criminal penalty for sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 is up to life in prison.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 3,000 persons in the Jewish community, which consisted of a very small number of native Jewish Cypriots and a greater number of expatriate Israeli, British, and other Jews.

There were reports of verbal harassment of members of the Jewish community along with incidents of property damage.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or in the provision of other state services. The law provides persons with disabilities the right to participate effectively and fully in political and public life, including by exercising their right to vote and stand for election. The government generally enforced these provisions. While the law mandates universal accessibility for public buildings and tourist facilities built after 1999, government enforcement was ineffective. Older buildings frequently lacked access for persons with disabilities. No appropriate services or support existed for adults with mental disabilities who required long-term care.

Authorities made inadequate progress in increasing accessibility of persons with disabilities to buildings, information, and communications. The ombudsman’s authority covers discrimination based on disabilities in both the private and public sectors. Problems facing persons with disabilities included access to natural and constructed environments, transportation, information, and communications. During the year the ombudsman examined a number of complaints related to lack of accessibility to public buildings, including government offices, police stations, and schools, as well as complaints concerning discrimination in the workplace and lack of accessibility to audiovisual programs.

The state provided facilities to enable children with disabilities to attend all levels of education. The Ministry of Education has adopted a code of good practices, prepared in collaboration with the ombudsman, regarding attendance of students with disabilities in special units of public schools. Authorities provided a personal assistant for students with disabilities attending public schools but not private ones.

During the year authorities implemented a deinstitutionalization program for persons with mental disabilities. Because there were no long-term care services or support specifically for persons with mental disabilities, many resided at the Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital; they were transferred to a community home for persons with disabilities. The ombudsman noted that she did not consider their deinstitutionalization complete because authorities had not developed a plan to prepare them to live independently outside an institution.

The Paraplegics Association reported that the government did not take measures to provide access to public beaches and public transport to wheelchair users. The association reported that some older buses as well as intercity buses and those providing transport to and from the airports were not accessible, while the newer ones had only one space for wheelchair users.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance’s Service for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The minister of labor and social insurance chaired the Pancyprian Council for Persons with Disabilities, which included representatives of government services, organizations representing persons with disabilities, and employer and employee organizations. Observers did not consider fines for violating the law against employment discrimination sufficient to deter employers from discriminating against persons with disabilities (see also section 7.d.).

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Minority groups in the government-controlled area of Cyprus included Latins, Maronites, Armenians, and Roma. Although legally considered one of the two main communities of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots constitute a relatively small proportion of the population in the government-controlled areas and experienced discrimination as a result of their heritage.

There were incidents of violence against Turkish Cypriots as well as some incidents of verbal abuse or discrimination against non-Greek Cypriots. On May 15, a group of 100 to 150 soccer fans, some on motorbikes, attacked a car with three Turkish Cypriot passengers on a main Nicosia street and used abusive language against them. Police opened a criminal investigation into the matter. The Turkish Cypriot passengers reported the case to police the following day. They complained police told them there was not much that could be done, since they did not take the motorbikes’ license plates.

In March state broadcaster CyBC aired three times an interview with a popular Greek singer in which the guest used racist and offensive language against refugees fleeing to the EU, particularly Muslim refugees. In June the Radio and Television Authority ordered CyBC to pay a 26,000 euro ($29,000) fine for airing a program that incited hate.

The Task Force on School Violence–a multidisciplinary team of experts that provided immediate support and guidance to schools facing violence, youth delinquency, and incidents of racism–reported that in 2015 it provided its services responding to 185 requests from primary and secondary schools and promoted prevention programs in 30 percent of schools over the previous two years. The Ministry of Education applied a code of conduct against racism in schools that provided schools and teachers with a detailed plan on handling, preventing, and reporting racist incidents. The Ministry of Education set as one of its top three priorities for the 2015-17 school years the increase of awareness against racism and intolerance and promotion of equality and respect at all three levels of education.

The 2014 EU Roma Health Report noted that the Romani population faced difficulties in housing, education, and employment. Roma residing in the government-controlled areas lived either in abandoned Turkish Cypriot houses or in free prefabricated houses that the government provided and maintained. These accommodations had basic facilities, such as water, electricity, sewage systems, and solar heaters, but the houses were in isolated areas, primarily to satisfy the residents of local communities who treated Roma with hostility and did not wish to live close to them. The report stated that Roma faced extreme poverty, exclusion, and hostility from the host population and suspicion and intolerance from authorities. Roma had suboptimal opportunities for employment. The main barrier was language, because many Roma did not speak either Greek or English, although the government provided Greek lessons free of charge to all citizens.

In March 2015 the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities issued its opinion based on findings from a December 2014 visit to the country. The committee noted incidents of racial prejudice against Romani and migrant children in schools and of Greek Cypriot parents removing their children from certain schools where there were a large number of non-Greek Cypriot students. Romani children continued to face problems, such as irregular school attendance, early dropouts, overall low academic achievement, and small number of children continuing to secondary education. The committee tied academic underachievement to weak command of the Greek language and noted that more targeted assistance was necessary to strengthen their Greek language skills. It also noted that, while two Turkish-speaking teachers were teaching Turkish language and history in the Ayios Antonios elementary school where the majority of students were Roma, no specific education material for Romani students was provided, an omission that hindered the education experience.

The Ministry of Education reported that it has continued its systematic efforts to locate and enroll Romani children in the schools nearest to their homes but had limited success in ensuring their continued school attendance due to their families’ frequent movement to and from Turkish Cypriot-administered areas. The majority of Romani children were enrolled in the Ayios Antonios Primary School in Limassol, which continued to be in a priority educational zone. Since January the school has been included in an EU-funded project to provide a variety of learning opportunities for pupils and teachers. The ministry provided bilingual Turkish/Greek-speaking teachers to facilitate communication between teachers, students, and parents; provided support to students from state psychologists and the social welfare services, organized seminars for parents and legal guardians to help them integrate into the local communities; and adjusted the educational program of Romani pupils to meet their needs. It also introduced projects and activities in cooperation with NGOs to promote diversity and to engage both students and parents. The Ministry of Education’s adult education centers continued to provide free lessons on the language, history, and cultural heritage of the Romani community.

Some Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area reportedly faced difficulties obtaining identification cards and other government documents, particularly if they were born after 1974.

During the year the ombudsman received a complaint by a Turkish Cypriot that police subjected him to discriminatory treatment at one of the crossing points while he was crossing from the government-controlled to the Turkish Cypriot-controlled area.

The ombudsman received and examined a complaint against the state scholarship foundation that papers announcing scholarships and application forms were available only in Greek. The foundation took action to ensure scholarship documents were available in all three official languages.

The ombudsman continued to receive complaints that the government delayed approval of citizenship to children of Turkish Cypriots married to Turkish citizens who resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Instead of granting citizenship automatically to such children, the Ministry of Interior routinely sought approval from the Council of Ministers before confirming their citizenship. From January to October, the Council of Ministers did not issue any decisions granting citizenship in such cases. The Ombudsman’s Office had no authority to examine the complaints because the Council of Ministers’ decision to apply different criteria for granting citizenship to children born to one Turkish parent was political. It examined the cause of the delay, however, and concluded that it stemmed from delays in the Civil Registry Department’s processing of applications and by the department’s failure to inform the applicants about the status of their applications. Authorities automatically granted citizenship to children of Turkish Cypriots who married Turkish citizens while living outside the country.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Antidiscrimination laws exist and prohibit direct or indirect discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Antidiscrimination laws cover employment and the following activities in the public and private domain: social protection, social insurance, social benefits, health care, education, participation in unions and professional organizations, and access to goods and services. While the law provides for same-sex civil unions, LGBTI rights activists noted that the law does not prohibit “normalizing” surgeries on intersex infants, grant legal recognition to transgender individuals, or give same-sex couples the right to adopt children. NGOs dealing with LGBTI matters claimed that housing benefits favored “traditional” families. Hate crime legislation criminalizes incitement to hatred or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Despite legal protections, LGBTI individuals faced significant societal discrimination. LGBTI persons were not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, nor did they report homophobic violence or discrimination. There were reports of employment discrimination against LGBTI applicants (see section 7.d.).

The Ministry of Education developed a code of conduct against racism and a guide for managing and recording racist incidents, which was implemented in 73 schools during the 2015-16 school year. The code addresses homophobia and transphobia.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

In 2015 the president of the HIV-Positive Persons Support Center stated that HIV-positive persons faced prejudice from society and their own families, largely due to lack of public awareness. She also claimed that raising public awareness on this problem was low in the government’s priorities.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

Government-approved textbooks used at primary and secondary schools included language that was biased against Turkish Cypriots and Turks or refrained from mentioning the Turkish Cypriot community altogether. In addition, there were anecdotal reports of teachers using handouts or leading classroom discussions that included inflammatory language against Turkish Cypriots and Turks.

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