Turkey accused of ignoring violence against gays

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Turkey has been accused of ignoring cases of harassment, discrimination and violence against LGBT people.

According to an Amnesty International report published today, the government has refused to back laws against discrimination and has allowed leading politicians to make explicitly homophobic statements.

Last year, the women’s minister Aliye Kavaf said: “I believe homosexual is a biological disorder, an illness, and must be treated.”

The report says that gay people in Turkey are often forced to hide their sexual orientation to avoid harassment, discrimination or violence.

While homosexuality has never been criminalised, LGBT people are frequently discriminated against in criminal and civil processes on the basis of “immoral behaviour”.

LGBT crime victims are sometimes accused of offering their attackers sexual favours, Amnesty said.

Discrimination affects LGBT people in other ways, the report claims. In 2006, all copies of a gay magazine were confiscated for being “obscene”, while a broadcaster currently faces a fine of at least 10,000 Lira for showing a gay marriage scene from Sex and the City 2.

According to the report, transgender women face particular problems in Turkey, including police harassment, sexual assault and arbitrary fines. A 2010 survey of 104 trans women found that 89 per cent had suffered violence in police custody.

Those who are unable to find employment often end up in sex work, where they can be further abused and criminalised.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, said: “The pervasive prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey and the fear of ostracism and attacks, means that many feel compelled to conceal their sexual orientation, even from their families.

“Homophobic statements by government officials have encouraged discrimination against individuals. Rather than repeat past failures, the new government must respect and protect their rights through words and actions.

“It is the responsibility of all the parties in the parliament to ensure that any new constitutional settlement in Turkey outlaws discrimination on grounds of sexuality or gender identity.

“Comprehensive legislation to counter discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is a must – and it should come as soon as possible. However, the authorities must also show the political will to combat discrimination by demonstrating that homophobic public discourse is unacceptable.”