LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey

TURKEY

 

 1. Legal Landscape

a) Constitution

Article 10 of the Turkish Constitution regulates the equality principle among citizens and contains an open-ended list of groups that must be treated equally before the law. However, as Article 10 does not explicitly refer to sexual orientation and gender identity, the list must be amended to specifically guarantee those rights. In practice, LGBTs are not protected by this law.

b) Decriminalization

In Turkish law, LGBT identities have never been outlawed.

c) Age of Consent

Age of sexual consent in Turkey is 18-19. The age of consent for homosexual acts is the same as it is for heterosexual acts. Individuals aged 17 or younger are not legally able to consent to sexual activity.

2. Equality and Non-Discrimination

a) Anti-Discrimination legislation

The law tends to ignore the existence of LGBT persons by not making any law in favor of or against LGBT persons. Also, there is no anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT persons from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although there is a draft law on the grounds of anti-discrimination that the government is still working on, it is not clear whether the law will address discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a reflection of this, in practice, LGBT persons and groups face discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity on their fundamental and basic human rights. There are many cases where LGBT persons’ human rights such as freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, employment and housing have been violated.

While laws do not explicitly discriminate against LGBT persons, often organizations present in the country state that references in the law relating to the "morals of society" and "unnatural sexual behavior" were used as the basis for abuse by police and discrimination by employers.

Since there is virtually no law on LGBT issues, to understand the situation of LGBT persons in front of the law, the court law can be applied.

Discrimination against LGBT persons is prevalent and rights such as housing, employment, family, education etc cannot be easily accessed by LGBT persons.

One clear case of legal discrimination is the one found in army regulations which do not allow gay and transgender persons to enroll because their sexual orientation and gender identity are still considered as "psychosexual disorder".

In 2015, a judge in the Aydın 3rd Penal Court of First Instance filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court, asking it to modify article 226 of the Penal Code. The judge requested that "unnatural acts" be removed from the list of pornographic materials which, together with materials featuring rape, pedophilia, zoophilia, or necrophilia, may be punished by up to four years in prison. “Unnatural acts” is commonly understood to include acts between persons of the same sex. The Constitutional Court agreed to open the case.

b) Equality Bodies

There is no equality body, ombudsman, etc in Turkey dealing with discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT groups and rights are not denied by the entire institutional framework of Turkey, especially state human rights institutions. In 2008 Zafer Uskul, president of Parliament’s Human Rights Monitoring Commission officially attended an anti-homophobia conference.

However, no state institution is in charge of defending or advocating for LGBTI rights. The government has no program or budget reserved for LGBT rights.

c) National Action Plans

Currently, no national plans have been drafted on LGBTI rights/community.

3. Surveys and Social Perceptions (homophobia and transphobia)

a) Social, economic and political situation of LGBTI people.

According to one research, in Turkey, religion plays a greater intersecting role with gender and sexuality than most Western countries, resulting in alarming levels of institutionalized discrimination. LGBT individuals have a minority status because they have been systematically oppressed as a result of their sexuality and gender identity. Their oppression is a result of the patriarchal regime that punishes same-sex relations under Islamic beliefs 

Most LGBT persons do not come out because of fear of not finding a job/or losing their jobs. There are some cases of civil servants and gay people working in private sector being fired from work because of their sexual orientation. Also, according to army regulations, gays and transgender persons are not allowed in the army because their sexual orientation and gender identity are accepted as “psychological disorder”. This regulation is also a clear example of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in law.

LGBT persons are not allowed to enter many public places. Transgender persons’ access to goods and services especially is very limited in practice.

Although the situation of LGBT persons seems negative there is a progression of LGBT rights in the last 20 years. There are thirteen legally registered organizations in Turkey. Although the government applied to the prosecutor's offices to close down the organizations claiming that they are against morality none of the organizations have been closed. There are also several informal organizations in different cities. LGBT issues have been discussed widely in the media and academically in the last 10 years especially after 2013 Gezi Park Protest. Some parliamentarians, politicians and political parties have worked on LGBT rights for the last 4-5 years.

LGBT groups and their rights are not denied by human rights organizations and human rights institutions of the state.

Parliament’s Human Rights Monitoring Commission’s President Zafer Uskul officially attended an anti-homophobia conference in 2008. Some parliamentarians have given questions to Parliament on LGBT rights in the last 8 years.

After a 2013 inquiry revealed that at least 79 LGBT prison inmates were held in de facto solitary confinement nationwide, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ proposed building a new prison for LGBT inmates only. A CHP Member of Parliament, Veli Ağbaba, warned that inmates must remain free to choose whether to declare their sexual orientation.

b) Polls and Surveys

While LGBTI visibility has increased exponentially in Turkey for several decades now, it has not resulted in an increased public tolerance toward homosexuality. A global study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013 reports that acceptance of homosexuality remains at a mere 9 percent.

In the following survey on April 2015 also by Pew Research, only 4% of respondents in Turkey rated homosexuality as morally acceptable, 12% as the not moral issue, and 78% as morally unacceptable, the highest of all European countries surveyed.

4. Freedom of Association

As Article 56 of the Turkish Civil Code forbids the establishment of associations against laws and ethics, the Directory of Associations has applied to public prosecutors in all the cities where LGBT associations have been established in order to close down them down. However, so far none of the applications have been successful and no organization was closed. 

5. Family Rights

LGBT persons do not have equal rights as heterosexuals in family issues. There is no law on same-sex partnerships. Civil code of Turkey only cover binary genders and heterosexual marriage.

LGBT couples cannot receive each other's social security benefits as they do not have access to same-sex marriage under Turkish law.

a) Cohabitation rights

Not allowed.

b) Civil Partnership

Not allowed.

c) Same-sex marriage

According to Turkish law, civil marriage is not open to same-sex couples and there is no other alternative registration scheme similar to marriage. There is no alternative registration scheme entailing fewer rights and duties than marriage and same-sex partners are not recognized by the state and the state does not provide some/limited rights and obligations.

d) Adoption (joint adoption and second parent adoption) and family planning

In Turkish law, there is no law allowing or prohibiting adoption by LGBT persons. However, adoption by same-sex couples is not recognized by law. Adoption by a single parent is allowed under some circumstances. Second parent adoption is also allowed.

e) Official surrogacy for gay couples

Assisted reproduction is allowed only for married couples and available only for married couples. Although there is no rule for access to these services by LGBT persons, it is impossible for LGBT persons to access these services because unmarried couples are not allowed to have assisted reproduction. Also, a single and/or lesbian mother cannot be assisted in reproduction due to the same reason. According to regulations, if the person is known to be in a lesbian or gay relationship (although there is no regulation on this) it seems impossible to access assisted reproduction. There is also no law for transgender persons to store their own sperm/fertile eggs for future use.

f) Legal restrictions (Constitution etc)

No legal restrictions.

6. Court Cases (If any – with significant impact on the movement) 

As the legislation on LGBT issues is almost non-existent, to understand the situation of LGBT persons in front of the law, only court law can be applied. Court cases observed show that LGBT persons can receive their rights on freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression according to court law. However, in relation to rights such as housing, employment, family, education etc. it can be claimed that it does not seem easy for LGBT persons to use their rights as equally as other citizens. Discrimination and persecution against LGBT persons prevail.

On November 26 the European Court of Human Rights decided unanimously on the case Kaos GL vs. Turkey stating that a violation of freedom of expression had taken place. The case concerned the seizure of all copies of a magazine published by Kaos GL in 2006. The court found that the ground of protecting public morals relied upon by authorities had been insufficient to justify the seizure order and confiscation of all copies of issue no. 28 of the magazine for more than 5 years.             

7. Hate crimes and hate speech

a) Legislation

Turkey has no specific law on hate speech which applies to LGBT persons. There is only Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code criminalizing hostility. The article bans provoking any social group against another social group in terms of their difference such as social class, religion, sect etc. As LGBT groups are not stated in the article it is not clear that LGBT groups can apply the article when they face hating speech or not.

The law ignores hate crimes against LGBT persons. The number of hate crimes against LGBT persons is high. The courts tend to reduce the sentences of murderers by accepting their reasons to unjust provocation. 

The parliament adopted the Democracy Reform Package in March, including the Hate Crimes Bill, which failed to extend protection against hate crimes to the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The package further limited the right to strike, to boycott, or to demonstrate. By the end of the year, the government was still discussing the Anti-Discrimination and Equality Board Bill. Sexual orientation and gender identity were deleted from earlier drafts. 

b) Reports 

Hate speech is prevalent. On 7 March 2010 the State Minister responsible for Women and Family issues, Mrs. Selma Aliye Kavaf stated on 7 March 2010 that she sees homosexuality as an illness and something that must be treated. 

In 2015 for the first time, the Constitutional Court acknowledged that referring to LGBTI people as "perverts" constituted hate speech. The court was examining a case against website habervaktim.com which had referred to Sinem Hun as a lawyer of “the association of the perverts called Kaos GL". However, the Court did not rule against the website. Ms. Hun appealed before the European Court of Human Rights. 

In 2015 one week after the Istanbul Pride was disrupted, posters referencing the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and a Hadith verse appeared in various locations in Ankara. The posters asked: "Should those who practice the foul labor and adhere to the practice of the people of Lot be killed". A group called "Young Islamic Defence" claimed responsibility. The Government did not publicly condemn the posters and no investigation was commenced by the prosecutor's office.

Every year many LGBT persons are murdered and many of those cases stay anonymous. In most of the cases filed against these murderers, the courts reduce the sentences of defendants and accept that defendants committed murder under unjust provocation. This is because the courts especially accept that being homosexual or transgender can easily provoke people in society since it is considered unacceptable. 

During 2015 and 2016 Trans women continued to be subjected to vicious attacks. Three trans women were killed (Sevda, by her partner in Gaziantep; Çingene Gül, by an unidentified murderer in Istanbul; and Çağla Joker, by two young clients she had met for sex work in Istanbul). Two others were stabbed and/or shot while meeting clients for sex work; one of them was denied legal aid by the Corum Bar Association, who claimed they “do not assign lawyers to transvestites”. At least five other trans women were shot, stabbed, or beaten. The murderer of B.Ü., a trans woman beaten to death in 2013, saw his prison sentence reduced from life to 18 years for ‘unjust provocation' because his victim was trans.

The Diyarbakir Third Criminal Court gave its judgment in the landmark case of a gay man murdered by his father and two uncles in 2012. The court found that Roşin Çiçek had indeed been killed because of his sexual orientation and that his murderers' wish to save family honor was no justification. They were given life sentences (without reduced sentencing due to unjust provocation), which is a rare occurrence. In Kocaeli, a man stabbed his friend 28 times because the latter had suggested they have sex. The police arrested the man, who admitted his crime.

Two men received death threats from their own family members, were evicted from their flat and fired from their jobs after holding a symbolic wedding in Istanbul in September a move they had hoped would help improve public opinion.

Community website LGBTI News Turkey collected information on 47 homophobic and transphobic murders which took place in 2010–2014 but estimated the overall total for this period to be significantly higher due to under-reporting.

Kaos GL Association was targeted by ISIS. A military institution, Gülhane Military Medical Academy's intelligence document that shows ISIS's threat to Kaos GL was spread on social media. Kaos GL Association made written applications to Governorship of Ankara, Provincial Police Department, Prime Ministry and General Staff of Turkish Armed Forces after the GATA document. . The Association is awaiting a response from the General Staff of Turkish Armed Forces and the Prime Ministry.

Kaos GL, LISTAG, Pink Life and SPoD published a joint report on 19 June 2016 Trans Pride March. Organisations share their observations about the March and particularly emphasize police and transphobic gang violence.

Hande Kader, a trans woman based in Istanbul, disappeared a week ago. Her friends and lover filed a missing person's announcement. Hande Kader's burned body was found in Zekeriyaköy.

The Istanbul Governor's Office banned the 14th Istanbul LGBTI Pride Parade as well. The Pride Committee took the decision of canceling the event, but of having a press statement conference in the Tunel Square, which was also banned by the Istanbul Governor's Office again

8. Trans and Intersex rights 

Most of transgender persons who are unemployed are so because of transphobic prejudice against them and because of that they are forced to make a living as sex workers.

a) Current legal and social situation

There is no law explicitly and specifically prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of gender identity. Discrimination against transgender persons can only be considered as discrimination on the grounds of sex. Thus, judicial interpretation is needed. The rights of transgender persons such as freedom of assembly and association; freedom of expression, education, social security, social care and insurance; health care, access to goods and services, housing and employment are protected as with any citizen. There is no special protection for transgender persons and there is no anti-discrimination law for them. So, as a disadvantaged group, although transgender persons are accepted as equal citizens, this does not allow for transgender persons to access their same fundamental rights as any other citizen. 

In order for transgender persons to legally change their gender/name, they are required to divorce before the gender reassignment surgery and they must be deprived of their reproduction capacity according to article 40 of the Turkish Civil Code.

After gender reassignment surgery and receiving a new citizen identity card pertaining to their preferred gender by court order, transgender persons are allowed to marry a person of the opposite sex.

Turkish legislation provides some regulations regarding the situation of transgender persons (and gay men) in the army as well as gender reassignment surgery of transgender persons.

Most transgender persons, especially male to female transgender persons are unemployed and they do not see any other way than to make a living as sex workers. Transgender persons receive fines from the police for disturbing the peace in society simply because they are in a public place and there is no other reason. These fines are given according to Law on Misdemeanours. 

Crimes against trans persons are frequent and investigations are weak. It is also reported that there are “private gangs” in Turkey who are encouraged by the police to attack transgender women. 

After gender reassignment treatment it is impossible for trans people to change names/gender specifics on diplomas.

Also, there is no law to ensure that transgender employees can keep their job in the case of a gender transition, this includes changing diplomas and certificates.

In November, MP Mahmut Tanal from the Republican People's Party (CHP, social-democratic) submitted a bill to amend legal gender recognition requirements by removing the obligation to be single and sterilized. The bill hadn't been debated by the end of the year.

Intersex people are registered as male or female after their birth according to their families’ wishes. Parents can receive medical consultancy at state hospitals on the sex of their children. But intersex people are allowed to consciously choose their gender and go through an operation. They can ask for the registration of their new gender under Articles 35 and 36 of Population Services Law Number 26153, dated 25 April 2006.

In 2015 LGBTI NGOs reported several cases of police mistreating trans women. This included a trans sex worker receiving two fines for ‘causing disturbance’ after local

residents complained of her presence on the street (two courts annulled the fines); police officers providing insincere assistance to trans women who had just been shot, and police officers tear-gassing and arresting trans women for ‘disturbing the peace'

In Turkey, trans persons are mostly not employed because of the prejudice against them. Most of them are forced into the sex industry.

Violence against trans women is worrisome and murders happen frequently for many years now. As discrimination and prejudice is widespread, trans women’s only possibility to earn a living is sex work. Regardless of whether this is a choice or the only possibility, trans women are faced with high risks of being raped, robbed or even killed.

b) Access to health and other services 

Gender confirming treatments, such as hormone therapy, permanent hair removal, genital surgery, chest/breast surgery, facial surgery and speech therapy are not covered by health insurance in the same way as other medically necessary procedures are covered. Although these treatments are available in Turkey, people have to cover the expenses themselves.

No measures have been taken to ensure that the individual's gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation are taken into consideration in order to provide effective health care services to LGBT persons.

Trans people who are seeking asylum in Turkey are not provided with specific health care such as hormone treatment and such expenses are not covered by the state. 

A gynecologist in Istanbul denied prescribing medicines after a patient's gender reassignment surgery, telling her that she "didn't condone" the treatment. Following the encounter, the gynecologist lodged a complaint against the patient, claiming she had insulted her. The patient filed her own complaint against the doctor.

In February 2015 an Istanbul court fined a popular bathhouse for refusing to admit a trans woman in 2013.

c) Access to gender reassignment procedures

Gender reassignment surgeries are regulated in law. This can be accepted as a positive attitude towards transgender persons and it is the only regulation on transgender rights. But there are limitations to pass through gender reassignment surgery. Many psychologists and psychiatrists accept homosexuality and transsexuality as an illness and try to cure LGBT persons. There are no sanctions to such treatment. 

Gender reassignment surgery is stated in Article 40 of the Turkish Civil Code.52 Reassignment surgery is allowed only under these conditions;

  • The person may demand gender change from the court by applying personally;
  • It is necessary that the applicant is at least 18 years old;
  • The person should not be married;
  • The person has to have a natural tendency to transsexuality;
  • The person has to certify that gender reassignment is a necessity for his/her mental health;
  • And most importantly, the person should prove his/her infertility.

9. Employment

a) Legislation

There is no law on the rights of LGBT persons in the employment area. 

According to Article 125 of Civil Servants Code, civil servants whose behaviour is against the dignity of their profession or whose behavior in the work place is immoral shall receive disciplinary punishment. Since LGBT persons' sexual orientation or gender identity are often accepted as "immoral or against dignity", there is the pressure of such disciplinary punishment on LGBT workers.

Also according to Article 17 of the appendix of Turkish Army Forces Health Capability

Regulations Number 19291, dated 24 January 1986, gays are not allowed to enter the army. The Turkish military still uses DSM-II (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) dating from 1968 whereas the medical community currently uses DSM IV-2000. According to DSM-II homosexuality is a psychosexual disorder and those who have this "pathology" are considered "unfit to serve" in the Turkish Armed Forces.

b) Surveys and data 

Most LGBT persons do not come out because of fear of not finding a job or losing their jobs. There are recorded cases of LGBT civil servants being fired from work because of their sexual orientation.

Most transgender persons who are unemployed are so because of transphobic prejudice. As a result, many of them are forced to earn their living as sex workers.

While many gays and lesbians apply to NGOs for legal advice when losing their jobs because of their sexual orientation, many of them do not apply to courts for fear of coming out.

According to a study by Mustafa Bilgihan Ozturk, most LGB people interviewed confirmed that they hide their sexual orientation from their families and workplace due to fear of abuse or violence. Individuals, who did come out expressed experiencing severe discrimination, often resulting in termination of their jobs. Other individual cases of discrimination have also been reported in the news media, such as for instance the case of a police officer who was dismissed from his duties because of his sexual orientation. Meanwhile, low tolerance towards gender expression leads to a lack of employment opportunities for many transgender women who as a consequence are living below the poverty line. 

In July 2015, the Council of State ruled that the firing of a gay teacher was against the law, stating that consensual homosexual relations in private life were not a disciplinary matter. The decision struck down the administrative court’s previous judgment in the case. In a letter to judges, the Interior Ministry defended its previous decision to sack a police officer due to his homosexuality. The policeman's house was raided in 2009 when ‘evidence' of his homosexuality led to an internal   investigation and his eventual dismissal. The man sued the ministry before the 8th Administrative Court and the Council of State, which ruled that the dismissal had been unjustified, but refused to cancel it. In a letter to the Council of State, the Ministry described the policeman’s actions as “disgraceful and shameful”, and argued hiring him again would erode public trust in the force. 

10. Education 

a) Legislation 

Turkey has no protection from discrimination in the education system. Laws and policies do not provide any adequate protection for students, staff, and teachers of different sexual orientation and gender identities. 

There are cases of gay teachers who are fired from work because of their sexual orientation.

The current law is threatening to LGBT teachers. According to one article, teachers, whose behaviors are accepted as impure on two conditions, shall be unseated. In the first condition, if the teacher's behaviors are accepted as impure against the students in the school, s/he shall be unseated. In the second condition, if the teacher's behavior is accepted as impure and cannot fit the teaching profession outside the school (in relation to anyone) he/she shall be unseated. In other terms, impure behavior by the teacher at any time - even in private - can result in his/her dismissal. Since LGBT persons' sexual orientation or gender identity is easily accepted as "immoral" or "impure", there is a pressure of such discipline punishment on LGBT teachers.

b) LGBT education in schools (current findings and resources)

The Government does not undertake programs of education and awareness to promote and enhance the full enjoyment of all human rights by all persons, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In Turkey, sexual and reproductive health education is not included in the current education curriculum. Research shows that young people in Turkey mainly get information about sexual and reproductive health from their friends, magazines and the internet. In the last few years, sexual and reproductive health peer education programs and web-based distance learning tools have become one of the main resources for young people as well. However, the Ministry of National Education does not allow peer education interventions on sexual and reproductive health at schools.

In recent years, the Turkish government has introduced trial programs for sexuality education. One, in particular, the Puberty Project (2010), has now been extended nationwide. The program provides sexuality education in the last three years of the eight-year primary school cycle. During the program, students are provided a textbook on sexual health and receive instruction from trained sexual health experts.

The school curriculum does not include sexual education or life skills lessons. SOGI are still not taught in many universities. However, discussions on these topics have started in some universities especially in Women’s studies, physiology, sociology and human rights departments. 

11. Health

a) Legislation 

There is no law which provides explicit and specific protection to LGBT persons against discrimination on the basis of SOGI.

LGBT persons hardly benefit from health care when it comes to the medical needs of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

b) Research

c) Access to health services 

LGBT persons hardly benefit from health care when it comes to their needs based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT persons have reported to organizations after having been diagnosed as sick because of their sexual orientation and the physiological therapy treatment prescribed to them. Some psychologists talk in the media about homosexuality and transsexuality as being illnesses that have to be treated.

Same sex partners are not recognized as next of kin – thereby they are not allowed to receive information about the patient’s health if no contradicting interests of the patient can be identified.

In 2015 the mayor of the Istanbul Şişli district announced his municipality would provide free healthcare services to LGBTI individuals, residents or not, including free and anonymous testing for sexually transmitted  diseases.

d) Social perceptions 

e) HIV/AIDS and MSM

An LGBT project on combating HIV/AIDS was implemented in 2006-2007. The name of the project was the Rainbow Project and was financed by the Global Fund.

There is no legislation on HIV/AIDS. There is no word like HIV/AIDS in legislation as if it does not exist. There is only the restriction in blood donation where AIDS is mentioned. If one wants to donate blood, s/he has to fill out a form. In the form, it is asked that if the donor has a suspicion that s/he has AIDS or has a suspicion of having had sexual intercourse with a person with AIDS. The form is the same form mentioned above and is available online in the original language.

f) Blood and tissue donation

In 2015 the chairman of the Turkish Red Crescent explained they didn't accept the blood donation from homosexuals, explaining that "the AIDS virus is commonly found among homosexuals".

g) Access to IVF for lesbian women

12. Housing

a) Statistics and research

There is no law on the right to housing for LGBT persons. Although the legal system ensures equal rights to land and home ownership without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT couples do not have the right to each other’s inheritance.

Also, there is no law applicable to landlords upon eviction of LGBT persons. There is also no restriction in the law against the resettlement of same-sex couples. There is no special arrangement in the law for people belonging to different social groups. There is no difference between citizens. When it comes to evictions every citizen has the same rights. 

Housing is a big problem especially for transgender persons. They can only rent houses in certain areas of big cities. Since these areas are publicly known, transgender persons are continuously attacked by the people living around them and are forced to move to other places.

b) LGBT Shelters (if available)

Currently there are no public shelters for LGBT persons.

13. Freedom of Assembly - Public Events

Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly of every citizen. However, there is no statement guaranteeing the freedom of assembly of LGBT persons. As a results, freedom of assembly of LGBT persons can be easily violated.

a) Prides

Istanbul Pride has taken place with success since 2003. Around 30 people joined the first pride and about 5000 people in 2010. By 2011 more than 10,000 people joined the pride making it the biggest march of its kind in the Muslim World. The 2012 and 2013 pride marches, attracted approximately 30,000 people each. While in 2014 the march attracted more than 100,000 people. The pride was praised by progressives and international community. 

However, the scenario changed dramatically in June 2015. The 5th annual Trans Pride march took place on June 22 without incident, opening the Pride Week festival in Istanbul. The entire week remained incident-free, and culminated in a march of several thousand on a central avenue, in June. However, marchers were barred from ending the demonstration at the central Taksim square. Turkish police used water cannons to disperse the gay pride parade.

The situation deteriorated further in 2016 when the local government of Istanbul banned the pride. While LGBTI organisations were not allowed to make press statements the governate made the following declaration: "Within Law No: 5442, this request has not been approved due to the terror attacks that have taken place in our country and the area; because provocative acts and events may take place when the sensitivities that have emerged in society are taken into account; and because it may cause a disruption in public order and the people’s - including the participants of the event - tranquility, security, and welfare."

It became thus evident that the government of Turkey does not support the Istanbul Pride and is organized without permission from the municipality.

                  The IDAHOT celebrations in Ankara banned by the Ankara Governor in May 2016

b) Other visible public events (bike ride, festivals with high impact)

14. Political Participation and Representation

In the last years, some parliamentarians have presented questions to the Parliament on LGBT rights.

Local elections in March 2015 saw four LGBTI-friendly candidates become district mayors. Three candidates from CHP were elected in Istanbul districts, and a candidate from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP, Kurdish minority/centre-left, now called People’s Democratic Party, HDP) was elected in the Akdeniz district of Mersin. They were among 40 candidates who signed the LGBTI-Friendly Municipality Protocol, which advocated against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, and for partnering with LGBTI NGOs. Two LGBTI activists were also hired as mayoral advisers in the Beşiktaş and Şişli districts in Istanbul; the Beşiktaş municipality pledged to train its staff on LGBTI issues.

Two candidates in the August presidential election made remarks on sexual orientation and gender identity. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu (independent) said homophobia “[was]n’t a universal issue”, and that one had to respect “society’s sensitivities”. Selahattin Demirtaş (HDP) condemned current levels of discrimination and violence, and called for “sexual freedom in society”.

Many politicians, especially from current opposition parties such as HDP and CHP have joined the pride.

Such progress with several political parties has been misused by other more conservative parties such as the one currently in power in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP). On the occasion of opposition parties including LGBTI people or topic in their work as well as on other occasions concerning LGBTI issues, many representatives of the party have openly discriminated against LGBTI people. For instance, Ismet Ucma MP stated in 2015 that there are “ways and means” of preventing homosexuality. In a column, Yeni Safak, a pro-AKP Islamist stated that Muslims can't tolerate gay people and that taking a stand against immoral behavior was the duty of Muslims. During the electoral campaign, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the HDP's choice of candidates and their sexual orientation, saying: "We did not nominate a fake mufti in Diyarbakir or an ay candidate in Eskisehir. We do not have such issues". Efkan Ala (AKP) former interior minister, when speaking in an interview about marriage equality said that “…this is the destruction of humanity”.

15. Freedom of Expression and Media

Article 26 of the Turkish Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression of every citizen. However, there is no specific statement to guarantee the right of LGBT persons to express themselves freely in terms of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Therefore, publications on LGBT persons can be easily considered “immoral” or “obscene” and are often censored.

Books on LGBT issues are confiscated and censored so that LGBT persons cannot use their right to freedom of expression equally. Internet access to LGBT websites is often censored by filter programs used in internet cafes and some universities.

The media's attitude to LGBT person changes in a positive way day by day but still homophobia and transphobia remain TV channels showing LGBT movies receive fines. In the last 10+ years, LGBT issues have begun to be discussed widely in the media.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains. Also, no measures have been implemented in order to ensure the compliance of the media with the prohibition against discrimination on basis of SOGI.

As a result, TV channels can be fined for airing an LGBT movie or showing a same-sex kiss many times. There is also widely reported hate speech in many media and from many journalists and public personalities.

Access to LGBT websites is also prohibited in some internet cafes and universities by filter programs.

In 2015 Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority (TİB) blocked dating website www.gay.com in October, making it inaccessible nationwide.

16. LGBTI rights movement

a) Short history of movement

Although now there are thirteen legally registered LGBT organizations, the right to freedom of association of LGBT groups were violated many times and the current conservative government has tried to close down all LGBT organizations. But in none of the cases did the courts close down the organizations

17. Emigration

a) LGBTI people seeking asylum in the country

Turkey currently accepts only European refugees and gives them asylum status. All non-European refugees must be resettled in a third country. They can stay in Turkey temporarily but Turkey does not give them asylum status. During their stay, they are dependent on UNHCR's assistance of help from NGO's such as Kaos GL. Asylum seekers coming from near eastern countries should give the name of the third country in which they want to resettle and until they can resettle they must stay in one of the satellite cities as chosen by the government.  Turkey’s UNHCR office accepts LGB partners as partners and their files are combined and evaluated together by UNHCR. The protection against discrimination is supported by NGOs. The Turkish government does not give the necessary precautions or legal support to ensure their protection against discrimination or harassment from other asylum seekers.

LGBT refugees have no protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. They face harassment both from society and the police.

LGBT individuals are among the most vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey today. Having escaped persecution in their countries of origin, they arrive in Turkey to confront significant new challenges to their safety, security, and protection. Required to live in small towns in Turkey's interior, they wait a year or more to be recognized as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and then to be "resettled" in third countries. During the wait, they often fear to leave their homes due to targeted violence from local communities. They enjoy very limited access to social support, employment, and medical care. Conspicuous gaps exist in the level of response by local police to their complaints of violence and harassment. Moreover, staff at the UNHCR and the Turkish Ministry of Interior, the two institutions charged with adjudicating their refugee status, have sometimes conducted themselves inappropriately or counter-productively during the refugee adjudication process.

18. Role of the European Union

a) Enlargement

Turkey formally applied to join the European Union in 1987, and negotiations have been on-going since 2005. In its annual report on progress towards EU accession, the European Commission regretted a negative social climate against LGBTI people and the continued absence of "protective legislation regarding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity". The Commission added that although Pride events took place unhindered in major cities [note this report was finalized before the banning of Istanbul Pride in June 2015 and June 2016], authorities had abusively used concepts of "general morality", "Turkish family structure" or "public order" to limit freedom of association. It also considered the situation for trans women and sex workers alarming.

 

Turkey has not transposed any EU legislation prohibiting direct/indirect discrimination against LGBT persons yet. Draft regulation regarding ethical principles which have to be followed by inspectors in public institutions is the first piece of legislation referring to sexual orientation explicitly. However, so far the draft is neither finalized nor adopted. 

19. Turkey internationally

a) International agreements, declarations and resolutions 

According to Article 90 of the Constitution, in the case of a conflict between international treaties in the area of fundamental rights and freedoms duly put into effect and the domestic laws due to differences in provisions on the same matter, the provisions of international treaties shall prevail. According to this article, international human rights treaties ratified by the Turkish Government are more powerful than Turkish law (such as the European Convention on Human Rights).

b) Cooperation with international partners (CoE, UN on LGBTI rights etc)

A Recent analysis of Turkey shows that while the country holds strong economic position among many countries, including those of the west, the situation of sexual minorities lags behind international standards. 

c) International Rankings 

The ILGA-Europe Rainbow Index ranks Turkey 46th out of 49 countries with a total level of legal and policy progress at 9%. The map and index reflect national legal and policy human rights situation of LGBTI people in Europe and does not reflect social and cultural realities of the community in the country. 

Notes: 

Last update: 8 March 2017

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