By Orhan Kemal Cengiz
The situation of sexual minorities - lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) - in Turkey is one of the most problematic areas with respect to their rights.
Their very existence is denied, ignored and stigmatized. They are the number one victims of hate crimes. They are discriminated against in every aspect of life in Turkey. While they suffer the most serious human rights violations, public awareness about their problems has always remained very low and shallow.
Amnesty International in London has just published a report on the situation of sexual minorities in Turkey. The report, “‘Not an illness nor a crime': Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey demand equality,” [see below] makes a reference, amongst other things, to the infamous remarks by State Minister for Women and Family Affairs Selma Aliye Kavaf, who had declared that homosexuality is an illness.
I hope the report will create some awareness about the problems of the LGBT community in Turkey. As soon as I received a copy of the report I read it quite enthusiastically and highlighted some facts and conclusions made by Amnesty International. I would like to share my highlights on the report with you:
“…not a single provision has been brought before Parliament to protect the right to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Instead, there has been a long line of discriminatory statements by government officials from which the government has failed to distance itself or issue apologies for.”
“Homophobic and trans-phobic views are common in the media.”Turkey has a very long way to go with respect of the rights of LGBT people and the report is a good reflection of the situation on the ground. I recommend everyone read the report to get a good sense of the situation of LGBT people in Turkey.
“Transgender women in particular face the greatest barriers to entering employment and are in a great many cases forced to engage in illegal sex work.”
“Nearly every transgender woman that Amnesty International spoke to in early 2011 described being subjected to extreme violence -- including sexual violence -- by police officers in police stations in previous years.”
“The issuing of fines by police officers -- using both the Misdemeanor Law and the Traffic Law -- has become the principal method of harassing transgender women.”
“Gay men are exempted from performing military service on the grounds that homosexuality amounts to a ‘psychosexual disorder.' … In order to obtain the exemption, men are required to ‘prove' their homosexuality. Such proof may consist of a forced anal examination … or photographic evidence of the individual engaged in gay sex.”
“As in other areas of law, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is not prohibited in the Law on Employment. … Discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals remains routine. Amnesty International was told that almost all people from these communities feel compelled to hide their identity for fear of losing their job, irrespective of whether they work in the public or private sector.”
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals told Amnesty International that their access to public services was frequently limited.”
“The situation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender refugees and asylum seekers is made doubly difficult as they face discriminatory behavior by public officials based on their status as foreign nationals or refugees/asylum seekers in addition to discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“LGBT rights activists told Amnesty International that their work as human rights defenders to protect the rights of others was put in jeopardy by threats that they as individuals faced due to their own sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“The most frequent method used by local authorities to suppress the work of LGBT rights associations has been through attempts by local governor's offices to open civil law closure cases on the grounds that the associations violate ‘Turkish morals and family structure'.”
“Far from isolated cases, crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have been frequently reported. No official statistics are available regarding crimes committed against lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals but in 2010 alone LGBT associations documented 16 murders of individuals believed to have been killed due to their real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“Lawyers representing the families of individuals killed in suspected hate murders due to their sexual orientation or gender identity told Amnesty International that on many occasions the police failed to share details of the ongoing investigation and did not provide documentation to lawyers working on behalf of the families.”
“In cases of violence within the family, protection mechanisms are not available for many individuals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It was frequently reported by activists that transgender women and men, gay men, but most frequently lesbian and bisexual women were subjected to various forms of violence within the family.”
'Not an illness nor a crime': Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey demand equality