Treatment of homosexuals [GRC42070.E]

In August 2002, the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and the Minority-Rights Group-Greece (MRG-G) argued that a combination of provisions in the Greek constitution provide sexual freedom as a constitutional right (26 Aug. 2002). However, although laws criminalizing homosexuality were repealed in 1950 (GHM and MRG-G 26 Aug. 2002), Greece remains among a minority of European countries that maintain discriminatory criminal laws against homosexuals (ILGA-Europe 31 July 2003). Article 347 of the Greek criminal code criminalizes "indecent acts between males for financial gain," and, if found guilty, penalizes them with between 3 months' to five years' imprisonment (ILGA-Europe Newsletter June 2003, 18; AI 12 Oct. 2001). Charges under Article 347 have been laid in two recent cases (ibid.; ILGA-Europe Newsletter June 2003, 18). Numerous organizations have referred to this law as discriminatory against homosexuals because restrictions on homosexual acts for financial gain are not in place for women and heterosexual prostitution is not criminalized when it fulfilled the legal requirements (ibid.; Act Up-Greece et al. 14 Apr. 2003; IOM Jan. 2003, 12; AI 12 Oct. 2001). Furthermore, at 17 years, the age of consent for homosexual males is higher than the 15 years of age required for heterosexual sex (Act Up-Greece et al. 14 Apr. 2003; AI 12 Oct. 2001), a difference that advocates agree is discriminatory. (ibid.; ILGA-Europe Newsletter June 2003, 18; Act Up-Greece et al. 14 Apr. 2003).

With respect to Greek society's response to homosexuality, the Greek islands of Lesvos and Mykonos are popular destinations for homosexual tourists and provide a relatively gay-friendly social environment (Athens News 31 Aug. 2001a; ibid. 31 Aug. 2001b). An Athens News report of lesbian tourism to the island of Lesvos noted that while there is some tension between island residents and tourists as well as suggestions that local authorities have intimidated owners of gay-friendly establishments, "most locals do not seem to mind" the lesbian tourists (ibid.). However, a report written by Kalliopi Lykovardi, a lawyer and investigator for the Greek Ombudsman's Office, and published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) concluded that, generally,

because of the social disapproval, ... discrimination and exclusion that homosexuals face in many fields of their life, most ... prefer to hide their personal preferences from their social, working or even familial environment, staying in silence. Despite some evident improvement, ... homosexuality continues to be a taboo and homosexuals continue to stay in [the] margin. As a result, homosexuality is ... connected with a forced tolerance [of] the particularity of homosexuals, rather than to the recognition of a freedom in their sexual orientation (IOM Jan. 2003, 12-13).

According to Lykovardi, Greek society reacts "rather negatively to homosexual orientations," and the dominant perception of homosexuality in Greece tends to be that they are abnormal, diseased and/or sinful (ibid., 11). Similarly, the European Network Male Prostitution (ENMP) described Greece as not accepting homosexuality and as a place where the orientation is "strongly deplored or condemned" (n.d.). One example of such a perception was a commentary published in a Greek newspaper and written by the spokesperson for the Archbishop of Athens that inspired a 2002 letter of protest co-signed by Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group-Greece (GHM and MRG-G 26 Aug. 2002). The article in question denounced homosexuals and called them "'tasteless fruit from abroad,' the 'condition contrary to nature,' the 'third sex,' the 'family and life contrary to nature,' the 'deviation from normal life,' and the 'reprehensible, abject and undisguised state of perversion'"(ibid.). The investigator for the Greek Ombudsman's Office noted that "negative or misleading perceptions concerning homosexuality are nourished by [the] media" and cited the spokesperson's comment specifically as an example of the Greek Orthodox Church's strong opinion on the matter (IOM Jan. 2003, 12).

Lykovardi also refers to homosexual advocates' complaints of public and private discrimination in, for example, employment and freedom of expression (ibid., 11). He noted that Greek police tended to stereotype homosexuals as abnormal and likely criminal (ibid., 12). According to ILGA-Europe, a 21 February 2003 raid on a gay nightclub in Athens exemplify these stereotyping behaviours by police (ILGA-Europe Newsletter June 2003, 18). Reportedly an investigation into pedophilia and child pornography at the club (Kathimerini 24 Feb. 2003), the police took the opportunity to arrest three individuals for male prostitution under Article 347 (ILGA-Europe Newsletter June 2003, 18). The three were allegedly performing sexual acts in front of an audience at the time of the police raid (Kathimerini 24 Feb. 2003). In April 2003, a dozen non-governmental organizations, including GHM and Greek homosexual advocacy groups such as Act Up-Greece and the Athens Lesbian Group, co-signed a statement of protest that claimed homosexuals in Greece were the target of a "sweeping attack against ... sexual freedom" perpetrated by "narrow-minded, provincial, bigoted police officers, journalists and priests" (Act Up-Greece et al. 14 Apr. 2003). The groups also protested what they considered a "vulgar attack on all homosexuals" in subsequent media reporting of the incident (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Act Up-Greece et al. 14 April 2003. "Gays and Lesbians in Greece Speak Up." Press Release. (Greek Helsinki Monitor, Balkan Human Rights Web) [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

Amnesty International (AI). 12 October 2001. "Greece: Continuing Discrimination Against Homosexual Men." (AI Index: EUR 25/007/2001 News Service. No. 80) [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

Athens News. 31 August 2001a. Kathy Tzilivakis. "Thousands of Gay Tourists Are 'Best Customers' on Mykonos Island." [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

_____. 31 August 2001b. Kathy Tzilivakis. "Should Sappho Go?" [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

European Network Male Prostitution (ENMP). n.d. "Greece: Social Situation." [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and Minority-Rights Group-Greece (MRG-G). 26 August 2002. "Topic: Church Racism Against Homosexuals with Alleged Encouragement from Justice Minister." Press Release. [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

ILGA-Europe Newsletter [Brussels]. June 2003. Vol. 3, No. 2. International Gay and Lesbian Association-Europe. "Greece: Discrimination Continues." [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

International Gay and Lesbian Association-Europe (ILGA-Europe). 31 July 2003. "Europe Free of Laws Banning Same-Sex Relationships for the First Time in 1,500 Years." Press Release. [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

International Organization for Migration (IOM). January 2003. Awareness Raising and Legal Training on Discrimination Practices Project. Kalliopi Lykovardi. "General Overview of Discrimination in Greece." The Handbook. [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

Kathimerini [Athens]. 24 February 2003. "Child Porn Ring Linked to Gay Club." [Accessed 29 Oct. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted


Internet sites, including:

Balkan Human Rights List


Gay Law News

Greek (Homosexual/Transsexual) Support Groups and NGOs

Greek Ombudsman

Human Rights Watch


International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

World News Connection

Associated documents