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The human rights of LGBT people in Turkey is one of the more controversial human rights issues in Turkey. As Turkey is a secular republic currently in accession talks with the European Union, homosexuality is not illegal. But despite the widespread veneration received by famous and well-respected gay and transgender artists like Zeki Müren and Bülent Ersoy over the years, an open expression of homosexuality by ordinary people remains somehow a taboo topic in public opinion. Starting from the 1990s, recent years saw the active efforts of several civil rights groups, which ask for better recognition and anti-discrimination laws.
Turkish LGBT rights activists created the Radical Democrat Green Party to campaign for on a left-wing Green platform that included support for LGBT human rights. Several of its members participated in a hunger strike in 1987 to protest the police harassment of LGBT citizens.
In 1988 the civil code was amended to allow for transgender people to have a sex change operation, under medical approval. In the 1990s the LGBT movement fought against government bans on LGBT conferences, which prompted the creation of Lambda Istanbul, and in 1994 the newly created Freedom and Solidarity Party banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity within its party, and Demet Demir, nominated by this party, became the first transgendered candidate for the local council elections in Istanbul.
In 1996 The Supreme Court overturned a lower court's ruling and removed a child from her lesbian parent, on the grounds that homosexuality is immoral. While bias motivated violence against gay and transgender people intensified as did efforts at government censorship, the desire of Turkey to join the European Union has forced the government to grant official recognition to LGBT rights organizations, respect a greater degree of the freedom of speech and the press and to entertain gay rights legislation. Gay themed conferences and gatherings now regularly take place, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara. Several universities have LGBT associations.
LGBT civil rights organizations Edit
The two major LGBT community-based civil rights organizations are Lambda Istanbul, a member of ILGA-Europe which was established in 1993 in Istanbul, and KAOS GL, established in 1994 in Ankara. During the early 1990s, the organizations' proposals for cooperation were refused by the Government Human Rights Commission. April 1997, when members of Lambda Istanbul were invited to the National Congress on AIDS, marked the first time a Turkish LGBT organization was represented at the government level. During early 2000s, new organizations began to be formed in cities other than Istanbul and Ankara, like the Pink Triangle Group in İzmir and the Rainbow Group in Antalya.
In 1996, another LGBT organization, LEGATO, was founded as an organization of Turkish university students, graduates and academicians, with its first office in Middle East Technical University in Ankara. The organization continued to grow with other branches in numerous other universities and a reported 2000 members. In March 2007 LGBT students organized for the first time as a student club (gökkuşağı - in English: rainbow) and Club Gökkuşağı is officially approved by Bilgi University.
During June 2003, the first public LGBT pride march in Turkey's history, organized by Lambda Istanbul, was held on the Istiklal Avenue. In July 2005, KAOS GL applied to the Ministry of Interior Affairs and gained legal recognition, becoming the first LGBT organization of the country with legal status. During the September of the same year, a lawsuit by the Governor of Ankara was filed to cancel this legal status, but the demand was rejected by the prosecutor. In August 2006, the gay march in Bursa organized by the Rainbow Group, officially approved by the Governor's Office, was cancelled due to large scale public protests by an organized group of citizens.
Gay sexual conduct between consenting adults in private is not a crime in Turkey. The age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual sex is 18. The criminal code also has vaguely worded prohibitions on "public exhibitionism,” and “offenses against public morality" that are used to harass gay and transgender people.
Turkish towns and cities are given some leeway to enact various "public morality" laws. For example, It was once reported that in Adana males were prohibited from kissing in public, on the cheek. However, there has been no evidence of enforcement of this regulation. Men kissing as a form of greeting is common in Turkey. Istanbul has a very open gay scene with around 20 bars and clubs plus various other venues such as cinemas and Turkish baths. Gay bars have been used to shoot pop videos and celebrities can often be spotted there. Turkish artists tend to have sympathies with gays, particularly in recent years.
Article 428 prohibits "obscene" and "indecent" books, songs, literature, etc. . Although the extent that these conditions apply to homosexual themes in the media has been liberalized in recent years. The film Brokeback Mountain was permitted to be shown in select theaters, but the Turkish Culture Ministry ruled that no one under the age of eighteen could be in the audience . It should be noted that age limits applied to Brokeback Mountain in many countries. Several books with gay themes have been published recently including 'Volkan's story' - about a gay policeman. Bestsellers often include gay characters. In 1997, Hamam: The Turkish Bath was released. The film depicted a gay romance between a married man from Italy and a Turkish teenager. The film was successful internationally and was even broadcast on state TV. Gay characters have started to appear on television series, although often in stereotypical or very restricted roles. The popular gay themed TV series Will & Grace and Queer as Folk have both been broadcast in Turkey by Digiturk (also Six Feet Under and Angels in America by CNBC-E). Istanbul Film Festival (held every year by İKSV) contains some selected LGBT themed movies. The !F Independent Film Festival, held every year in Istanbul and with a smaller selection of films in Ankara, has an LGBT section.
Military law Edit
In Turkey, compulsory military service applies to all male Turkish citizens between the ages of 20 and 41. However, Turkish military law bans homosexuals from military service as a mental illness, and those people later discovered to be gay in the armed forces will be discharged immediately.
In reality however, the military has made it so difficult to prove homosexuality that most gay men do compulsory service. To prove that someone is homosexual, the suspect must undergo anal examination and the military must also see visual "evidence" prior to discharging an alleged homosexual.
Anti-discrimination law Edit
No laws exist in Turkey that protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, health care, public accommodations or credit.
Family law Edit
- Turkey LGBT History, on KAOS GL's website.
- Istanbul: Asia meets Europe and ancient meets modern, a gay.com travelogue of Istanbul, including a comprehensive review of gay clubs and tips
- A city comes out, a recent article on St. Petersburg Times about the situation of LGBT people in Turkey.
- KAOS GL, official site of KAOS GL
- turkgayclub, official site of Turk gay club
- turk lgbt forum , lgbt forum
- Lambda Istanbul, official site of Lambda Istanbul
- TRGI, TR Gay International, a bilingual guide to the LGBTQ Life in Turkey.
- lgbti.org LGBTI Union in Turkey