Istanbul Gay Pride Parade, 2008 (source)
Amnesty International has called on Turkish authorities to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from widespread discrimination.
The organisation published a new report this week, titled ‘Not an illness nor a crime: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey demand equality’.
It highlights the discrimination LGBT people face from officials in health services, education, housing and the workplace in a country, says Amnesty, where there are no provisions to prevent it.
“The pervasive prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey and the fear of ostracism and attacks, means that many feel compelled to conceal their sexual orientation, even from their families,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.
“Homophobic statements by government officials have encouraged discrimination against individuals. Rather than repeat past failures, the new government must respect and protect their rights through words and actions.”
The country’s Minister for Women and Family Affairs, Selma Aliye Kavaf, has previously stated that “homosexuality is a biological disorder, a disease. It needs to be treated”.
The courts offer little recourse
While homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, there are no laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
In a survey conducted by the LGBT group Lambda Istanbul in 2010, of the 104 transgender women who took part, more than 89 per cent said that they had previously been victims of physical violence in police detention.
In 2010 alone LGBT associations documented 16 murders of individuals believed to have been killed due to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Amnesty said that many hate crimes are not reported and even when they are, such acts are not often registered as crimes and the motivation for the crime is routinely not investigated.
According to the report, LGBT people are also discriminated against when they are the victims of violent crimes as numerous laws, while not being explicitly discriminatory, are applied by the judiciary in a way that leads to discrimination.
Local LGBT rights group have also faced civil law cases brought by the authorities aimed at their closure as well as other discriminatory attacks on their rights to freedom of expression and association.