NICOSIA - Thousands of people marched in Cyprus' first gay pride parade on Saturday, calling for equal rights in a country where homosexuality is still vehemently opposed by an influential Orthodox Church.

Waving rainbow flags, more than 3,500 people of all ages marched peacefully through the streets of the Cypriot capital where earlier a much smaller, anti-gay group clashed with police.

Cyprus decriminalized homosexuality in 1998, five years after a lone activist won a damning judgement against the country from the European Court of Human Rights.

Sixteen years on, activists say Cyprus still lags far behind its European Union peers in terms of rights for gay people, and has been slow in pursuing legislation on civil partnerships.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger