UN Addresses LGBT Rights Violations in Turkey

On Oct 22, 1012 IGLHRC Reports:

UN Human Rights Committee Tackles LGBT Rights Violations with Turkish Government

(Geneva)—The United Nations Human Rights Committee completed its first periodic review of the Republic of Turkey’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in Geneva this week. A shadow report, entitled “Human Rights Violations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) People in Turkey,” was submitted to the Committee by a coalition of lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights activists including the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC),Istanbul LGBTT, Siyah Pembe Ucgen, Kaos GL,Pembe Hayat, and Social Policies, Sexual Identities, and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD).

Şevval Kılıç, a transgender activist representing Istanbul LGBTT and four other LGBT groups in Turkey, presented formal remarks to the Human Rights Committee on the condition of the LGBT community and human rights violations in her country. The government delegation of 10 representatives from various branches of government was headed by Ambassador Erdoğan İşcan from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During the interactive dialogue with the State, members of the Human Rights Committee expressed concern about reports of LGBT rights violations received from NGOs, especially on the following issues:

  • The Committee noted “the persistent unwillingness of the state party to add sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for non-discrimination in domestic law,” including the draft constitution.
  • The Committee asked questions about measures taken by the state party to protect the LGBT community from violent hate crimes, specifically mentioning the issue of the “high rate of transgender murders” and the “killings of gay men in hate crime incidents.”
  • The Committee requested answers regarding the mistreatment of gay men in the army, the classification of homosexuality as a “psycho-social disorder,” and the demand to provide “photographic evidence of their engagement in homosexual activity” in order to “receive [military] exemption on the basis of their disorder.”
  • Committee members also raised several questions regarding “the manner in which public prosecutors are invoking civil law [against LGBT individuals] with regard to violations of Turkish morals and family structure.” In particular, the community members asked questions about the police arrests of transgender activists, including the members of Pembe Hayat, an LGBT group based in Ankara.

The State responded to many but not all of the LGBT-specific questions by the Committee.

  • Regarding the military’s classification of homosexuality, the state claims that in order to protect gay people, the practice is not to have them in military service. Ambassador İşcan responded, saying LGBT people “are not appropriate for the service. This is also true for other misappropriate people (such as disabled people). This exemption is to protect them from possible dangers during the service.”
  • Regarding protection from hate crimes, Ambassador İşcan responded that his government is “working on hate crime legislation. Hate crime is a rising issue in Turkey, and we are working to provide legal protection against all vulnerable groups in Turkey, including LGBT people.”
  • Regarding the arrest of trans people and trans activists, Ambassadorİşcan told the Committee “the police invited them to the police station,” but after they refused the invitation, the police had to use force to bring them in. “During the course of the struggle, a police officer was injured and his equipment was damaged.” Subsequently the prosecutor pressed charges against them.
  • Regarding the sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination clause in the draft constitution, Ambassador İşcan responded, “the [re-writing of the draft of the constitution] process is already being launched, it is the beginning of the process, this legislation process requires social compromise.” He continued, saying, “Turkey is open to monitoring mechanisms, including from UN and EU human rights systems, and if there are violations of law, and if they find us in violations, we will take measures to rectify the issue.”

LGBT rights advocates responded to the session.

“It was a valuable experience for me to personally see how the international diplomacy works. The UN Human Rights Committee was aware of the situation of LGBT people in Turkey, and they asked very strategic questions,” said activist Şevval Kılıç, of Istanbul LGBTT. “But at the same time, it is discouraging to see how the Turkish government approaches LGBT issues by avoiding an honest and clear discussion regarding the questions. As a whole, I feel this was a wonderful opportunity for the LGBT community in Turkey to raise international awareness about our struggle, which helped the Committee to articulate questions for the Turkish delegation.” … Continued. Read the whole article.