Human Rights Violations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People in Turkey: A Shadow Report

This report is a joint submission by the Social Policies Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD), Kaos GL Association, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (“the Committee”) on the occasion of its consideration of the first periodic report of the Government of Turkey on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“the Covenant”). The purpose of this report is to highlight the widespread and systematic human rights violations experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; in Turkey despite the country’s international obligations under the Covenant. In particular, SPoD, KaosGL, and IGLHRC draw the attention of the Committee to the following human rights violation:

  • In the Republic of Turkey, LGBT people do not enjoy legal protection from discrimination and abuse. During the recent drafting of Turkey’s new Constitution, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which currently controls the government and is a member of the Constitutional Committee, defied calls by other political parties & NGO’s and refuses to make any references to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in the Constitution.
  • Not only does the State fail to promote the rights of LGBT persons but there has been a number of high-profile State actors speaking out directly against the LGBT community in recent years in their official capacity. In March 2010, the State Minister responsible for Woman and Family issues, Mrs. Selma Aliye Kavaf, stated that homosexuality is a “biological disorder” and a “sickness.” Despite international condemnation, Mrs. Aliye Kavaf refused to retract her comments.
  • In December of 2011, Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin described homosexualtiy as a contributing factor to “an environment in which there are all kinds of dishonor, immorality, and inhuman situations.”
  • Turkey not only lacks specific hate crime legislation to protect the LGBT community, but the State’s skewed interpretation of the penal code has practically allowed legal justification of hate crimes against LGBT victims. Under Article 29 of the Turkish Penal Code, sentences for offences committed “with affect of anger or asperity” caused by an “unjust act” are reduced from life imprisonment to 12 to 18 years.
  • Many LGBT asylum seekers and refugees entered Turkey from Iran due to the torture and maltreatment they suffered as a result of their sexual orientation and gender identity. These asylum seekers were resettled in the satellite cities. Many of these refugees report physical and psychological harassment, violence and discrimination by police officers and citizens because of the fact that they were LGBT.
  • The government of Turkey limits the freedom of expression for LGBT-related materials - including artwork, novels, and magazines - by arguing that gay relationships are “obscene and against the morality”. The government is able to limit publications that discuss sexual orientation and gender identity because Turkey does not have a clear definition of “public morality” in the national law.
  • Turkey has made legality of LGBT association conditional on not “encouraging lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual behaviour with the aim of spreading such sexual orientations.” This, along with Article 56 of the civil code, quoted above (on the formation of association, which says groups can’t engage in activities that violates morality), is a constant threat against LGBT group’s activities and outreach.