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12-05-2022 16:09

Address by the Minister of Justice and Public Order, Ms Stephie Dracos, at the IDAHOT+ Forum 2022

Allow me to start by welcoming everyone to Cyprus. I would like to thank particularly the participants from all countries attending both physically and virtually this event. It is indeed a great pleasure and honour to be here with you today in IDAHOT 2022 forum, co-hosted by the Republic of Cyprus and the United Kingdom. It has been a long-awaited reunion following a virtual event in 2021 and we are glad to meet each other in person this time in such an important day for the LGBTI+ community.

The attention of the world is focused on the challenges set by the invasion of Russia in Ukraine and the new humanitarian and refugee crisis. The war has severely affected the enjoyment of virtually all human rights of people in Ukraine. Let me express my sympathy and profound solidarity with Ukrainian people.

This tragic situation reminds us that human rights, even the most fundamental ones, are in constant threat and that states shall be vigilant and prepared to take action to protect their citizens, and especially those who are in a vulnerable position.

This is why, we are all gathered here today. To pay tribute to the importance of respect and promotion of human rights of everyone, and particularly of the human rights of the LGBTI+ community.

We are here today to promote human diversity and to emphasize the right of every human being to be proud of whom they are and define their own identity.

We are here to join forces with international organizations, civil society, academics and human rights advocates to promote the rights of LGBTI+ people.

I am convinced that the forum will discuss topical issues concerning the LGBTI+ people and present valuable conclusions and recommendations for moving forward.

I would like to mention especially the two issues discussed in today’s plenaries, namely the refugee crisis and the inclusion of LGBTI+ people in the business life.

During this forum, we will examine how and to what extent the Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has affected the LGBTI+ rights. The greatest refugee crisis of the recent history has led to new challenges and additional dangers for LGBTI+ people who face marginalization, discrimination and violence.

We will also examine the importance of implementing measures of inclusion for the LGBTI+ people in business life. The benefits of embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace are many and I am sure that they will be highlighted during the discussion.

Allow me now to say a few words about the work of the Ministry of Justice and Public Order during the last year, towards safeguarding the rights of LGBTI+ people. In 2021, the first National Strategy prepared by the Ministry of Justice for the protection of human rights, was approved by the Council of Ministers.

The National Strategy is aligned with the European Strategy on the equality of LGBTI rights 2020-2025 and aims to improve the life of LGBTI+ people in all fields including education, employment, healthcare, culture and sports.

Moreover, last February I signed on behalf of Cyprus Republic the Memorandum of Understanding with the United Kingdom on the protection and promotion of the rights of LGBTI+ people. The Memorandum deals with a wide array of matters including actions to promote the benefits of diversity and equality in the workplace as well as raising awareness actions aiming to build a more inclusive and respectful society.

With reference to the very topical issue of legal gender recognition, a bill has been drafted by the Ministry of Justice and Public Order upon wide consultation with all involved actors. Very recently, the bill was finalized and was submitted to the Attorney General of the Republic for legal vetting.

As soon as the vetting is completed, the bill will be submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval and then to the Parliament for further discussion, and hopefully for its adoption and enactment into legislation.

The bill is based on the main principles set by the Council of Europe, namely self-determination, no medical intervention as a prerequisite, and an easily accessible, quick and transparent process for all persons.

However, we are not stopping here. Regardless of the positive steps taken in the last few years, we acknowledge that there is more work to be done in order to put an end to any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I strongly believe that the long-lasting fight against prejudice and discriminations is not just a matter of laws but a matter of culture. It is a long-term project, which will also have to make space for educational and awareness-raising activities to nurture the culture of acceptance, inclusion and a spirit of equality.

Only then, we can say that people will really feel that they live in an equal, just and inclusive European environment.

As far as Cyprus is concerned, we shall continue to work closely with our European family to create a Union where gender identity and sexual orientation will not be an obstacle to anyone’s daily life.

Allow me to express my gratitude to the Government of UK and the High Commissioner in Cyprus with its team, for our cooperation to organize this forum and to the Council of Europe’s SOGI unit for their support. I want also to thank all the distinguished speakers, guests and participants for their important contribution. But let me thank my team in Cyprus who worked hard to make this year's forum a reality and especially Costas Gavriilidis for his valuable contribution to the event organization.

I extend my best wishes to everyone for a very successful and fruitful conference. I am looking forward to the conclusions of this forum which will provide a rich source of information and knowledge for all participants.  

Let’s continue our collective journey towards a society that ensures justice and protection for all.

Thank you.