Turkish politicians have long ignored discrimination and abuse faced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBT). However, the issue came onto the agenda of Parliament's General Assembly for the first time on May 29. AFP photo
As many countries discuss granting gay marriages, the Turkish Parliament tackled for the first time May 29 the discrimination faced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBT), a sensitive issue long ignored by politicians. The initiative came from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which submitted an inquiry proposal regarding the problems of the LGBT community in Turkey that was signed by 59 deputies.
The general assembly debates were once again heated as one ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy accused the signatory MPs of “defending immorality” while Binnaz Toprak, the sponsor of the initiative for the CHP, stressed that homosexuality was neither “a choice, nor a disease.”
“LGBT individuals face serious prejudices. Politicians have not done what was needed to this date. They are harassed by the police. Their families ostracize them. They are forced to commit suicide. Courts reduce the sentences of the murderers. They can’t find work, or are subjected to mobbing in their professional lives,” Toprak said, emphasizing that all these problems affected every aspect of the basic daily lives of any lesbian or gay individual.
LGBT people are oppressed in political, economic, social and psychological terms, she said. “This picture is unacceptable. As the Parliament, we have to change it. We cannot ignore these rights in a country that we claim is an advanced democracy,” she added.
Toprak, who recently won the “Outspoken Award” from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in the United States, demanded legal guarantees for sexual orientation and identity.‘Hate speech exists’
Aykan Erdemir, also from the CHP, criticized the negligence in terms of legislation on hate speech and hate crimes, especially when directed toward LGBT individuals. “We say that you cannot move forward with anger and hate. We demand a legal arrangement [on hate speech],” Erdemir said, while recalling that the former Women and Families Minister Aliye Kavaf’s description of homosexuality as a “disease” had sparked huge criticism three years ago.
“Isn’t there a place in Turkey for LGBT’s?” Erdemir asked. He later wrote via Twitter that a deputy from the AKP had interrupted him, accusing him of “defending immorality.” “I responded ‘no, I am
defending rights’,” he wrote.Homosexuality ‘abnormal behavior,’ AKP insists
Meanwhile, the AKP rejected the opposition’s initiative, arguing that it would encourage “behavior that people do not approve of.”
“As a doctor, I consider the condition defined as LGBT as an abnormal behavior,” the AKP’s Türkan Dağoğlu said, adding that western countries could not be seen as a role model on the issue. “Marriage of a woman with a woman and of a man with a man is not a right; on the contrary it is a practice that paves the way for a social subversion by showing as an accomplishment the reversal of sexual orientation,” she said.
Dağoğlu denied that the AKP was lenient on attacks and abuses on LGBT individuals. Instead of new legislation, she proposed a joint work with non-governmental organizations to introduce “preemptive measures” that would prevent “arbitrary” decisions in the courts.
LGBT rights remain a sensitive topic in Turkey, as lesbians, gays and transsexuals routinely suffer abuses such as discrimination, harassment, mobbing and stigmatization. During many years, LGBT associations were under constant threat of being banned and frequently prosecuted for pursuing activities “against morality.” However, associations such as Kaos GL helped raise awareness, especially among human rights activists.
One of the current debates centers around the protection of sexual orientation and sexual identity under the new Constitution being drafted by the Turkish Parliament. The AKP has recently declined a proposal demanding the inclusion of the term “sexual orientation and sexual identity” in the Constitution Conciliation Committee, which was backed by the CHP
and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).