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Society

Greek Valentine’s Day Candy Ads Showing Gay Couples Raises Hackles

February 15, 2019

ATHENS – A Valentine’s Day advertisement in Greece featuring gay and interracial couples has caused a stir in the conservative country where the Greek Orthodox Church doesn’t want such portrayals and where same-sex couples can’t marry or adopt children.

With Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras backing away from his pledge to extend those rights, gays are still offensive to some Greeks despite an annual Gay Pride parade and general social acceptance, apart from hate groups.

Photographer Chloe Kritharas Devienne was asked to photograph 28 couples kissing and cuddling in Greece while holding a bar of Lacta chocolate but said she didn’t expect to be an online target of angry trolls, she said of the flap.

“People were tweeting pictures of my face, saying, ‘This is the photographer who did this’,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that critics also posted links to her work documenting refugees to portray her as excessively liberal.

“Personally I love both men and women. I thought that nothing would make me happier than to have these pictures all over Athens so that all these homophobic people are forced to look at them … It’s been the number one subject in Greece,” she said.

Homophobic attacks by far-right gangs are not uncommon in Greece, where civil partnerships were legalized in 2015 amid protests from the Communist party, right-wingers and the church, the news agency noted.

Kritharas Devienne saw working for Lacta – made by the world’s No. 2 confectioner Mondelez International – as a chance to change minds in the Mediterranean country where depictions of same-sex love are still taboo.

“In Greece people are very, very homophobic,” she said. “The church has made it very clear it considers homosexuality a sin,” she said.

Setting aside a recommendation for acquittal from a prosecutor, Greek Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta was found guilty of incitement to hatred and abuse of ecclesiastical office by a three-member misdemeanor court in the Peloponnesian town of Aigio, for advising followers to “spit” on gay people.

He was given a seven-month suspended jail sentence and won’t be imprisoned for three years unless he breaks terms of the decision.

Commenting in 2015 on a parliamentary debate to extend cohabitation agreements to same-sex couples, Amvrosios wrote online: “Do not go near them! Do not listen to them! Do not trust them! They are the damned members of society! They are not human beings, they are rejects of nature.”

While Lacta urged Facebook users to “embrace all tastes of love”, the hundreds of comments it received included, “You must be ashamed of yourself” and “Little children will see this! What standards will you pass to them I would like to know”.

In Greece, Lacta did not use Kritharas Devienne’s images in its outdoor billboards, which only show straight couples. “I know it has been all over the internet, but not everyone will have the Internet,” she said with disappointment. “My goal was to see these couples all over Athens.”

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