LGBT rights in Turkey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Gay rights in Turkey)
Jump to: navigation, search
LGBT rights in Turkey
Location of  LGBT rights in Turkey  (green)in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]
Location of  LGBT rights in Turkey  (green)

in Europe  (dark grey)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1858
Gender identity/expression Legal permission to have sex reassignment surgery
Military service
  • Gays and lesbians have the right to not to be conscripted
  • Gays are not allowed to serve openly in the army
Discrimination protections Constitutional protection drafted, but the draft was cancelled (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) persons in Turkey face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT persons. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity has been legal in the Republic of Turkey since 1858, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Transsexuals have been allowed to change their legal gender since 1988. Although discrimination protections regarding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression have been legally debated, they have not yet been legislated. Although the situation regarding LGBT rights has improved in the 21st century, public opinion on homosexuality has generally been seen as socially conservative and LGBT persons have been widely reported to experience discrimination, harassment, and even violence in recent years.


In the 1990s, the LGBT movement fought against government bans on LGBT conferences. This prompted the creation of Lambda Istanbul. In 1994, the Freedom and Solidarity Party banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity within the party and nominated Demet Demir, a leading voice of the community,[1] to successfully become the first transgender 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".[2]

Gay rights groups claim that there are frequent homophobic incidents in Turkey. In 2008, a homosexual Turkish student, Ahmet Yildiz, was shot outside a cafe and later died in the hospital. Sociologists have called this Turkey's first publicized gay honor killing.[3][4] The desire of Turkey to join the European Union has put some pressure on the government to grant official recognition to LGBT rights. The report on progress in Turkey for the accession to the European Union of 14 October 2009 the European Commission for Enlargement wrote:

The legal framework is not adequately aligned with the EU acquis...
Homophobia has resulted in cases of physical and sexual violence. The killing of several transsexuals and transvestites is a worrying development. Courts have applied the principle of ‘unjust provocation’ in favour of perpetrators of crimes against transsexuals and transvestites.[5]

Turkey became the first Muslim-majority country in which a gay pride march was held.[6] In Istanbul (since 2003) and in Ankara (since 2008) gay marches are being held each year with a small but increasing participation. Gay pride march in Istanbul started with 30 people in 2003 and in 2010 the participation became 5,000. The pride March of 2011 and 2012 were attended by more than 15.000 participants. On 30 June 2013, the pride parade attracted almost 100.000 people.[7] The protesters were joined by Gezi Park protesters, making the 2013 Istanbul Pride the biggest pride ever held in Turkey.[8] On the same day, the first Izmir Pride took place with 2000 participants.[9] Another pride took place in Antalya.[10] Politicians of the biggest opposition party, CHP and another opposition party, BDP also lent their support to the demonstration.[11] The pride march in Istanbul does not receive any support of the municipality or the government.[12][13]

In 2009, an amateur football referee came out as a homosexual and was subsequently banned from referring football matches.[14]

On 21 September 2011 Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Şahin met with an LGBT organization. She said that the government will actively work together with LGBT organizations. She submitted a proposal for the acceptance of LGBT individuals in the new constitution that the parliament plans to draft in the coming year. She is calling on members of the Parliament to handle the proposal positively. She asserted that "if freedom and equality is for everybody, then sexual orientation discrimination should be eliminated and rights of these LGBT citizens should be recognized." [15]

On 9 January 2012, one of the columnists named Serdar Arseven of an Islamist newspaper called Yeni Akit wrote an article, called LGBT people as perverts. Court of Cassation penalized Yeni Akit with 4000 TL and Serdar Arseven with 2000 TL, because of the hate speech.[16]

In May 2012, the BDP requested the writers of the new Turkish constitution to include same-sex marriage in that constitution. This was rejected by the biggest party in the Turkish Parliament, the AK Party, and an opposition party, the MHP while supported by the main opposition party CHP[17] [18]

In 29 May 2013, a parliamentary research motion regarding the LGBT rights in Turkey were proposed and discussed in the parliament of Turkey. Despite support from Kurdish party BDP and abstention of Turkish nationalist party MHP, the motion was rejected by votes of the ruling party AKP. AKP MP Türkan Dağoğlu cited the scientific articles on homosexuality published in U.S. 1974, saying "Homosexuality is an abnormality. Same-sex mariages may not be allowed. It would cause social deterioration." In favor of the research motion, CHP MP Binnaz Toprak said that "In the 1970s there were scientists suggesting that black people were not as smart as white people in USA. Hence the science of today doesn't accept the findings of those times. Your sayings may not be allowed." [19]

On 12 August 2013, the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, which is drafting a new constitution of the Republic and is composed of four major parliamentary parties including The Kurds, secularists, Islamists and nationalists, agreed to provide constitutional protection against discrimination for LGBT individuals.[20] The draft was later cancelled.[21]

On 17 July 2014, Turkey's Supreme Court ruled that referring to gays as "perverted" constitutes as hate speech.[22]

LGBT civil rights organizations[edit]

Gay Turks and human rights activists chanting slogans against the Turkish government's policies at İstiklal Avenue in Istanbul.
Ankara Pride parade in 2012,Kızılay, Ankara.

The major LGBT community-based civil rights organization is KAOS GL, established in 1994 in Ankara. Lambdaistanbul, a member of ILGA-Europe, established in 1993 in Istanbul, was dissolved in May 2008. The prosecution argued that its name and activities were "against the law and morality." That ruling, sharply criticized by Human Rights Watch,[23] was finally overturned by the country's Supreme Court of Appeal on 22 January 2009.[24]

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 the early 2000s (decade), new organizations began to be formed in cities other than Istanbul and Ankara, like the Pink Life LGBT Association in Ankara, the Rainbow Group in Antalya and Piramid LGBT Diyarbakir Initiative in Diyarbakir.

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 Lambdaistanbul, 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.

The organizations actively participate in AIDS-HIV education programs and May Day parades.

In September 2005, the Ankara Governor’s Office accused KAOS GL of "establishing an organization that is against the laws and principles of morality."[23] It also attempted in July 2006 to close the human rights group Pink Life LGBT Association (Pembe Hayat), which works with transgender people, claiming to prosecutors that the association opposed "morality and family structure.".[23] Both charges were ultimately dropped.[23]

In 2006 Lambda Istanbul was evicted from its premises as the landlady was not happy with the fact that the organization was promoting LGBT rights. In 2008, a court case was launched to close down Lambda Istanbul, and although a lower court initially decided in favour of closing down the association, the decision was overruled by the Turkish Constitutional Court and Lambda Istanbul remains open.[25]


Penal code[edit]

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. In 2013 in a court in Istanbul, in a case of a vendor charged with unlawful sale of 125 DVDs depicting gay and group sex pornography, Judge Mahmut Erdemli ruled that gay sex is "natural", stated that an individual’s sexual orientation should be respected, and cited examples of same-sex marriages in Europe and in the Americas.[26]

Military law[edit]

In Turkey, compulsory military service applies to all male Turkish citizens between the ages of 18 and 41. However, the Turkish military openly discriminates against passive homosexuals by barring them from serving in the military. Active homosexuals and bisexuals can serve in Turkish military. At the same time, Turkey – in violation of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights – withholds any recognition of conscientious objection to military service.[27] Some objectors must instead identify themselves as "sick" – and are forced to undergo what Human Rights Watch calls "humiliating and degrading" examinations to "prove" their homosexuality.[28][29]

In October 2009 the report of the EU Commission on Enlargement stated:

The Turkish armed forces have a health regulation which defines homosexuality as a ‘psychosexual’ illness and identifies homosexuals as unfit for military service. Conscripts who declare their homosexuality have to provide photographic proof (a photograph of the person on the receiving end of anal intercourse). A small number have had to undergo humiliating medical examinations.[5]

Discrimination protections[edit]

"I believe homosexuality is a biological disorder and this disease needs treatment."

Selma Aliye Kavaf, Ex-Minister of Women and Family Affairs, 2010[30]

No laws exist yet in Turkey that protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, health care, public accommodations or credit. In October 2009 the report of the EU Commission on Enlargement stated:

There have been several cases of discrimination at the workplace, where LGBT employees have been fired because of their sexual orientation. Provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on ‘public exhibitionism’ and ‘offences against public morality’ are sometimes used to discriminate against LGBT people. The Law on Misdemeanours is often used to impose fines against transgender persons.[5]

The main opposition CHP proposed gay rights to the Turkish parliament on 14 February 2013.[31]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are among the most vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey today.[32]

In August 2013, four major political parties in the parliament including The Kurds, secularists, conservatives and nationalists, has agreed to provide constitutional protection against discrimination for LGBT.[20] The draft is later cancelled due to nonconcurrences regarding other subjects in the new constitutional draft.[21]

In February 2015, the main opposition CHP Party introduced a bill to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender indentity in both public and private sectors. The bill seeks equal recruitment, pay, promotion, dismissal in the workplace and reforms in the Turkish Armed Forces Code Of Discipline that would allow members of the military to serve openly.[33]

Family law[edit]

Turkey does not recognise same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits.

Living conditions[edit]

Between January 2010 and November 2014, 47 individuals have been killed due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT persons in Turkey may face discrimination, harassment and even violence from their relatives, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, employees, teachers, and even members of the Turkish police. Homosexuality is widely a taboo subject in Turkey and the culture of "honour killings" can be observed in Turkish society families murdering members (usually female) who engage in sexual/moral behaviours regarded as inappropriate. The death of Ahmet Yildiz, 26, may be the first known example of an honour killing with gay male victim.[34][35] Studies for the years 2007–2009 that the German Democratic Turkey Forum prepared show 13 killings in 2007, 5 in 2008 and at least 4 killings in 2009 related to the sexual identity of the victims.[36] On 21 May 2008 the New York based organization Human Rights Watch published a report entitled "We Need a Law for Liberation".[37] The report documents how gay men and transgender people face beatings, robberies, police harassment, and the threat of murder. Human Rights Watch found that, in most cases, the response by the authorities is inadequate if not nonexistent.[37] In case of hate murders against homosexuals, courts apply the condition of "heavy provocation" and lower the sentences.[38]

==Summary table==
Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1858)
Equal age of consent Yes (since 1858)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No (proposed)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No (proposed)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No [39] (proposed)
Right to change legal gender Yes (since 1988)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No(Turkish Red Crescent does not allow blood donations from MSM[40])

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martin, Susan Taylor (17 January 2003). "Floridian: A city comes out". St. Petersburg Times (in Turkish). Retrieved 20 August 2008. 
  2. ^ See report of Kaos GL: Turkey's LGBT History: The 1990s. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  3. ^ Bilefsky, Dan (26 November 2009). "Soul-Searching in Turkey After a Gay Man Is Killed". New York Times. pp. A16. Retrieved 26 November 2009. 
  4. ^ Nicholas Birch (19 July 2008). "Was Ahmet Yildiz the victim of Turkey's first gay honor killing?". The Independent (London). Retrieved 27 September 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c The report can be found at
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Gay Pride in Istanbul groot succes | Tv |
  8. ^ Taksim'deki Onur Yürüyüşü'ne BBC yorumu: Bugüne kadar... - Milliyet Haber
  9. ^ İzmir’de İlk Onur Yürüyüşünde Sokaklar Doldu Taştı | Kaos GL Gey Lezbiyen Biseksüel Trans Eşcinsel Haber Portalı
  10. ^ Antalya ve İzmir, Onur Haftası’nı Yürüyüşle Selamlayacak | Siyah Pembe Üçgen İzmir
  11. ^ 2014 Türkiye Cumhurbaşkanlığı Seçimi
  12. ^ ARTS-CULTURE - Istanbul becoming proud of Pride Week
  13. ^ Gay rights in Turkey face uphill battle
  14. ^ Turkey shows gay referee the red card, AFP
  15. ^ LGBT gains recognition from government for first time
  16. ^ "Biz Üskül’ü Eleştirdik Davayı Kaos GL Açtı!" | Kaos GL Gey Lezbiyen Biseksüel Trans Eşcinsel Haber Portalı
  17. ^ Haber 10 - BDP'nin eşcinsel evlilik isteği tartışılıyor
  18. ^ BDP'nin eşcinsel evlilik isteği tartışılıyor | Timetürk Haber
  19. ^ "Tension in Parliament over LGBT Rights" (in Turkish). Ntvmsnbc. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "LGBT hakları, 'eşitlik' maddesinin gerekçesinde yer alacak". t24 (in Turkish). 12 August 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Hopes fade for a new Turkish constitution". Reuters. 18 Nov 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  23. ^ a b c d Turkey: Court Shows Bias, Dissolves Lambda Istanbul, Human Rights Watch, 2 June 2008
  24. ^ "Appeals court says gay rights unit is OK". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  25. ^ "Lambdaistanbul Lezbiyen Gey Biseksüel Travesti Transseksüel Dayanışma Derneği". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  26. ^ Turkish Court says gay sex is ‘natural’ in ruling against pornography vendor – LGBTQ Nation
  27. ^ "TURKEY: Conscientious objector Mehmet Bal beaten in prison | War Resisters' International". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  28. ^ "Turkey: Homophobic Violence Points to Rights Crisis | Human Rights Watch". 21 May 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  29. ^ "Proving you're gay to the Turkish army". BBC News. 26 March 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  30. ^ "Selma Aliye Kavaf's quote on homosexuality". 
  31. ^ Gay rights proposed to Turkish Parliament - POLITICS
  32. ^ Unsafe Haven: The Security Challenges Facing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Turkey, a joint publication of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Turkey and ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration, June 2009
  33. ^ Turkey’s main opposition proposed labor bill for LGBT people
  34. ^ Birch, Nicholas (19 July 2008). "Was Ahmet Yildiz the victim of Turkey's first gay honour killing?". Independent (London). Retrieved 20 August 2008. 
  35. ^ The German Democratic Turkey Forum (DTF) has prepared a report with details on the killing and the subsequent court case; accessed on 31 March 2011.
  36. ^ The series can be found under the headline of "Hate Crimes in Turkey"; accessed on 31 March 2011.
  37. ^ a b The report can be accessed at this site of HRW; accessed on 31 March 2011.
  38. ^ Report of the Human Rights Observation and Law Commission on LGBTT Individuals within Kaos GL, dated 27 October 2007. A summarized translation was done by the DTF on this site; accessed on 31 March 2011
  39. ^
  40. ^ "'Have you had MSM?'" (in Turkish). 

External links[edit]