Discrimination will be banned, draft law says
ANKARA - Milliyet | 3/17/2010 12:00:00 AM |
A draft law has been proposed by the Interior Ministry to prevent discrimination in Turkey based on gender, race, language, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity among others.
A board to prevent discrimination is going to be founded according to a draft law that the Interior Ministry completed recently under the government’s move for democratization, the daily Milliyet reported Wednesday.
The draft law identifies nine different types of discrimination which are a person’s gender, race, language, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity, social status, marital status, political views, health situation, age and disability status. The draft law prescribes fines charging between minimum of 1,500 Turkish Liras and maximum of 500,000 liras.
If the board had already been founded, State Minister Selma Aliye Kavaf, who is responsible for women and family affairs, would have been punished for her words saying that being a gay was a disease, the daily wrote.
The draft law provides for victims to apply to the board through a free telephone line as the person reporting would not be held accountable to prove the claim. On the other hand, the person who is reported against would have to prove that he or she is not responsible for the discriminatory act. The board will be able to offer monetary reparations to the victim and would advise the person or institution to correct the discriminatory act. If the order is not followed the board will have the power to impose a fine.
The jurisdiction of the board will be effective over for instance in the case landlords do not rent out their available property because the potential tenant is a transvestite, a Kurdish individual or a widow. Recently, it was disclosed that Ahmet Türk, the former head of the disbanded pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, could not find a home to rent.
The anti-discrimination law will cover all legal personalities as well as the legislative, judiciary and executive powers of the country. For instance when the Alevi community’s demands to have their worship space referred to as “cemevis” failed to be officially recognized by a local administrative court, the case could have been brought up to the board.
Officials who do not eliminate discrimination immediately will be considered as perpetrating misconduct in office, according to the law. At the same time, it is not certain in the draft how the judiciary would intervene in discriminatory acts, the daily Milliyet wrote.
[HH] Exceptions in discrimination
The draft law also includes some exceptions as well. Acts to provide the necessary professional standards in conducting an occupation, having a legitimate aim in different gender treatment and different age groups, accepting only members of certain religious groups in institutions serving only to that special group would be beyond the scope of the ban. However, it is not certain yet what is included in that “legitimate aim” the daily wrote.
The 15-member board would be elected for a period of six years and would only be elected once. The Cabinet would choose seven members, while the Parliament would choose three and the president two. The rest would be elected by members of non-governmental organizations.
[HH] Protests against minister
Meanwhile, a gay-rights group on Tuesday asked a prosecutor to put on trial a Cabinet minister who said that homosexuality was a disease that should be treated.
The complaint by the LAMBDA association, a copy of which was obtained by Agence France-Presse, accused Kavaf, who is in charge of women's and children's affairs, of insult, incitement to crime and incitement to enmity and hate – crimes which are punishable by up to two, five and three years in jail respectively.
"[Kavaf] should apologize to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals in this country for her discriminatory statements that turn homosexuals into a target," Rüzgar Gökçe, a LAMBDA member, told reporters outside the Istanbul courthouse where the association filed the petition.
Some 60 activists denounced Kavaf and called for her resignation in a demonstration roughly 200 meters from the courthouse, chanting, "We are homosexuals, homophobia is a disease," and "Love, Freedom, No Room for Hate."
Fırat Soyle, a lawyer for LAMBDA, said the complaint was only symbolic since the minister enjoys parliamentary immunity and would not face prosecution.
Kavaf, from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, said in a newspaper interview last weekend that she believed homosexuality was a "biological disorder, a disease."
"I think it should be treated," she told the mass-circulation Hürriyet daily.
Her remarks caused an outcry among the homosexual community, were generally criticized by the media and disowned by several figures from the ruling AKP, including Health Minister Recep Akdağ.
Same-sex relationships have never been criminalized in EU-hopeful Turkey as in other Muslim countries, but there are no laws protecting homosexual rights and prejudice against gays and lesbians remains strong in daily life.
Police are notoriously harsh against transsexual prostitutes. Several of them have been killed in "hate murders" in recent years.
[HH] Being gay is not a disease, deputy says
Mehmet Sevigen, deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, criticized State Minister Selma Aliye Kavaf for saying that being gay is a disease, while members of a gay association thanked Sevigen for his support to gay people during a visit, Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday.
“Being gay is not a disease. There are expert reports in both Turkey and the world. But the minister’s emphasis on the issue hurts all segments of society,” said Sevigen.
Members of gay organizations Pembe Hayat and KAOS-GL visited Sevigen in his office in Parliament in Ankara. Kemal Ördek from Pembe Hayat association said they made a complaint against Kavaf and also applied to the parliamentary commission on human rights. Ördek also said they asked for an appointment with the minister but did not receive a response.
“If a murder is committed [against a gay person] can Mrs. Kavaf hold the responsibility of this? Who is going to pay for this? Turkey is not a well-educated country. This is a reality of Turkey. We have to live with this. I do not see homosexuality as a disease and society does not see either. Those who consider homosexuality as a disease have sick minds,” Sevigen said.