Former heroin addict Kevork Tontian, 34, and Brazilian drug-smuggling Wemson Gabral da Costa, 30, met during a game of bingo in a Cyprus prison.
They fell in love and the relationship between them got so serious that Tontian, who has been free from drugs for the last five years, had to break the law twice to be reunited with Da Costa after being released from prison two years ago.
Da Costa, rejected from his family after coming out, lived on the streets of Brazil and prostituted himself to make ends meet. He states that it was an appeal by his ailing grandmother to get expensive medical treatment for her that lead to his decision to act as a ‘mule’ that resulted in him smuggling drugs to Cyprus.
Caught at Larnaca airport, he was sentenced to five years in jail.
Now, Tontian and Da Costa live together in the same cell, work together in the prison’s archives and were even granted leave to attend the Cyprus’ gay pride parade last year.
Asked about their relationship during a press conference from prison, they said: “We dare, we dare, we asked. There is no shame. Love has no shame.”
“Parents won’t be with us our whole 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.”
The Associated Press reports that the pair have become the second same-sex couple to marry inside a correctional facility within an EU member country. However, what makes the case unique is that Da Costa — who is undergoing hormone therapy at a Cyprus hospital and considering a gender-confirmation procedure — may identify as transgender making the marriage the first LGBTQ union inside a prison.
Cyprus does not recognise marriage equality, but civil unions have been legal in Cyprus since 2015.