LGBT+ couple become second ever to marry in an EU prison

The couple met in the prison in Cyrus' capital and say their relationship and wish to marry has been supported by prison staff.


Kevork Tontian and Wemson Gabral Da Costa have become the second LGBT+ couple in an EU country to marry while in prison.

The couple met while serving prison sentences in a Cyprus prison in the capital Nicosia. Tontian was incarcerated for drugs charges. Da Costa, who is from Brazil, was rejected by their family because of their sexuality. When their grandmother became ill, they confided in a friend who offered to pay for his grandmother’s medical expenses. In return, they would act as a drugs mule to Cyprus. They were arrested at Cyprus Airport and sentenced to five years.

Tontian and Da Costa met in the prison during an inmates bingo game and quickly became very close. Shortly after they were granted permission to take part in Cyprus’ LGBT+ pride parade under supervision.

Tontian was released from prison two years ago. On the outside, he was met with family rejection and bleak job prospects and found himself yearning to be back in prison with Da Costa.

This drove him to break the law again just so he could rejoin Da Costa in prison. A year later he got himself incarcerated once more to be back with Da Costa.

They say the prison staff have been accommodating and supportive of their relationship: their requests to work together in the prison’s archive were approved and they successfully petitioned to share a cell.

Tontian explained that inmates who threatened the couple were transferred to other wings.

He adds that the decision to marry was spurred on by a desire “to get closer to one another”.

The couple told Down Town magazine “We are now each other’s family. This is the happiest day of our lives!”

“We are waiting for our release to be together in our own house as a proper couple entitled to happiness,” they added.

Da Costa is currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy as part of potential gender-affirming surgery.

Although Da Costa may identify as transgender, under Cyprian law, they are considered a same-sex couple.

In Cyprus, same-sex couples can enter a civil union which affords them the same rights as married couples except the right to adopt children.

“We dare, we dare, we asked. There is no shame. Love has no shame,” Tontian told The Associated Press in an interview from inside the prisons’ theatre, with Da Costa sitting beside him.

Cyrpus’ Prison Director Anna Aristotelous and her deputy Athena Demetrou helped the couple in organising the ceremony which took place last week in front of prison staff and a handful of inmates.

Ms Aristotelous said the ceremony is a reflection of the facility’s respect for human dignity, diversity and sexual orientation of all inmates.

“The anachronistic perceptions of a few stood as no obstacle for us or to the equal treatment of all,” she told the AP.

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