Gay Turks and human rights activists chanting slogans against the Turkish government’s policies at İstiklal Avenue inIstanbul.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Turkey may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Homosexual relations are legal in the Republic of Turkey, but the law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its civil rights laws and there is no legal recognition for same-sex couples currently.
Some sections of society in Turkey are socially conservative when it comes to such issues as homosexuality. There also exists widespread homophobic discrimination in Turkey, which has been reducing in modern times.
The situation in regard to LGBT rights in Turkey has been improving in the 21st century, with proposals to introduce legislation against anti-LGBT hate crimes and discrimination, as well as to constitutionally allow the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
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 Partybanned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity within the party and nominated Demet Demir, a leading voice of the community, to successfully become 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”.
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. 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.
Although Turkey is a country with Muslim majority, Turkey became the first Muslim majority country in which gay pride march is held. 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 2011 is considered as the biggest until now, with more than 10.000 participants. Politicians of the biggest opposition party, CHP and another opposition party, BDP also lent their support to the demonstration. The pride march in Istanbul does not receive any support of the municipality or the government.
In 2009, a amateur football referee came out as a Homosexual and was subsequently banned from referring football matches.
On the 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.”
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.
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, theMHP while supported by the main opposition party CHP
LGBT civil rights organizations
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, was finally overturned by the country’s Supreme Court of Appeal on 22 January 2009.
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 (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.” 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.”. Both charges were ultimately dropped.
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.
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. 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. However, in 2012 the appellate court had said video or photographic depictions of gay sex were “unnatural.”
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. 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.
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 or anal intercourse). A small number have had to undergo humiliating medical examinations.
“I believe homosexuality is a biological disorder and this disease needs treatment.”
Selma Aliye Kavaf, Ex-Minister of Women and Family Affairs, 2010
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.
The main opposition CHP proposed gay rights to the Turkish parliament on the 14th of February 2013.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are among the most vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey today.
a Turkish lesbian wedding! Only in Berlin.
Turkey does not recognise same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits. The Turkish Council of State has ruled that homosexuals should not have custody of children, but it is not a must under the law
Violence, abuse, and harassment
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. 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. On 21 May 2008 the New York based organization Human Rights Watch published a report entitled “We Need a Law for Liberation”. 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. In case of hate murders against homosexuals, courts apply the condition of “heavy provocation” and lower the sentences.
Homosexuality legal Since 1858
Equal age of consent (Age of consent is 18 in Turkey)
Right to change legal gender (Practically never banned, legalised in 1988)
Same-sex marriage(s) (Debated; supported by CHP and BDP while opposed by AKP and MHP)
Recognition of same-sex couples as registered partnerships (Publicly rejected by government members
Joint and step adoption by same-sex couples (Turkish Civil Code demands certain possessory of Turkish moral values for adoption even from single parents)
Gay men and women allowed to serve openly in the military (Gays and lesbians banned from military service and the TAF defines homosexuality as a psychosexual disorder
Anti-discrimination laws (A draft proposed by Ministry of Justice in 2010 but never came into effect)
MSMs allowed to donate blood (Turkish Red Crescent does not allow blood donations from MSM)