Now, Tontian, 34, and Da Costa, 30, have become the second same-sex couple to marry in a correctional facility in a member country of the European Union.
Same-sex couples in Cyprus may enter into a civil union that grants them the same rights and privileges as a married couple, except that they are not allowed to adopt children.
“We dare, we dare, we ask. There is no shame. Love is not ashamed, “Tontian told The Associated Press in an interview from inside the prison theater, with Da Costa sitting next to him.
A drug-related offense took Tontian to prison in 2015. He fought against his incorporation and overcame it, saying he has been drug free five years ago.
Da Costa’s trip to Cyprus was a complicated matter, Tontian said. Also rejected by his family because of his sexual orientation, Da Costa lived on the streets and prostituted himself to make ends meet, Tontian said.
It was an appeal of his sick grandmother for money for medical treatment that led Da Costa to his imprisonment. Da Costa entrusted his problem to a friend, who offered to pay his grandmother’s medical expenses if he acted as a “mule” and trafficked drugs to Cyprus. His arrest at the Larnaca airport in Cyprus resulted in a five-year prison sentence.
Tontian and Da Costa began their relationship when they met during the inmate’s bingo game. Their bond was strengthened after they were granted permission to participate in the Cyprus gay pride parade under supervision.
His requests to participate jointly in the activities of the prison, including joint work in the facility’s archive, culminated in a successful request to share a cell.
Throughout their courtship, prison authorities were supportive, even when all was not easy, Tontian said. The prisoners who verbally approached the couple were transferred to other wings.
His decision to formalize his bond through a civil union was a product of his desire to “get closer to each other,” Tontian said,
Tontian said that the prison director of Cyprus, Anna Aristotelous, and her deputy, Athena Demetrou, helped to do part of the preliminary work to gather the appropriate documents for the civil union ceremony. And despite some delays attributed to the country’s bureaucracy, the ceremony, packed with a wedding cake, took place last week in front of prison staff and a handful of prisoners who are friends of the couple.
Aristotelous said the ceremony is a reflection of the facilities’ respect for human dignity, diversity and sexual orientation of all inmates.
“The anachronistic perceptions of a few were not an obstacle for us or for the equal treatment of all,” he told the AP.
Da Costa is currently in hormone therapy at the general hospital of the Cypriot capital as part of a possible sex change.
Tontian and Da Costa will be released at the same time in June and say they will continue their lives together in Cyprus, since, as the wife of a Cypriot citizen, Da Costa has the right to stay. But the couple plans many trips abroad, including long visits to Brazil, where they expect Da Costa’s family to embrace them.
Tontian’s message to other inmates who wish to formalize their relationship is simple: “dare.”
“The parents will not be with us all our lives, at some point the parents will leave,” Tontian said. “They should do it, they should dare. If they lose their family, so be it. At some point the family will regret it. “
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