Kadıköy City Council’s LGBTI+ Assembly met with trans sex workers: “We are complaining about the police to the police. There are so many penalties,which one can you object to?”
Source: “March 3rd at Kadıköy: Trans Sex Workers, the City’s Residents and Owners” (“Kadıköy’de 3 Mart: Trans Seks İşçileri Kentin Sakini ve Sahibi”), Cem Öztürk, KaosGL, March 4, 2020, https://www.kaosgl.org/haber/kadikoy-de-3-mart-trans-seks-iscileri-kentin-sakini-ve-sahibi
Kadıköy City Council’s LGBTI+ Assembly came together with trans sex workers on March 3, International Sex Workers Day at Kadıköy.
While taking into consideration the subject’s visbility and freedom of speech, the panel discussed trans sex workers’ rights violations, their demands regarding the city and, as the city’s residents and owners, the ways in which living spaces could be made more safe and free.
Aiming to ensure that the trans community can effectively participate in local politics, the participants discussed what could be done around common agendas.
Law of Misdemeanors
The event started with the moderator explaining the structure of Kadıköy City Council LGBTI + Assembly and the work they do. Regarding the violations of rights, the participants stated that even though there is no prohibition on sex work in criminal law, the police still penalize trans women, citing the Law of Misdemeanors, and claim that trans sex workers looking for customers on the street “disturb the environment” and are “complained about”. They stated that this unlawful practice has become a systematic violation of the rights of trans women.
One of the participants said, “I get fined almost every night. There are times when they fine me more than once on the same day. Recently, when doing identity checks, they take criminal action against us without any explanation. The police report our identity information to the police station and take action. We find out about this much later. So much so that without being aware, I had accumulated 15 different fines, which is equivalent to about 2-3 thousand liras. It is not possible for me to pay this. I cannot file a complaint since no petitions have been given. Because I haven’t paid, I keep getting notices sent to my home. Sometimes, just to not get a fine, I refuse to give my identity card. But then, they forcefully take me to the police station.”
“ Once your identification information is taken, you become blacklisted”
“The number of those who work on the streets has decreased due to police bullying. Many trans women now find customers online. But the police still follow us. That’s why we let each other know who the police are in the online dating applications and only accept customers by reference” added one participant. Another participant said “Even if we are not working and go out after 12 a.m., we still get a fine. One night after returning home from a walk with my boyfriend and dog, I was injured by a police officer in front of my door and broke a bone. The attacker was acquitted at court. Actually, it doesn’t have to be night time. Once I went out to the bakery during the day. A police officer stopped me in front of the bakery. Even though he saw the two loaves of bread in my hand, he still gave me a fine. He knows me because once your identification information is taken, you become blacklisted.”
“We complain about the police to the police”
Taking the floor, another participant said, “We call 155 to complain about the police who infringe on our rights. Ironically, we complain about the police to the police. There are so many penalties, which one can you object to? If I object to every single unjust penalty, that would mean I would be spending my life at the courthouse. Which one can I catch up with? I neither have the time nor the energy.”
Regarding their demands concerning the city, the participants expressed that they were generally happy and comfortable living in Kadıköy. One participant said “I have been living in Kadikoy for almost 20 years. I feel like I’m from Kadikoy. I don’t go to the municipality, so I don’t know about the kinds of work they do.” “The municipality doesn’t recognize trans people. In other districts, municipalities have started employing trans people. Why not in Kadikoy?” asked another participant.
What can be done?
Evaluating the meeting, Kadıköy City Council’s LGBTİ+ Assembly representative said “We organized this meeting to engage with trans sexs workers, make them visible, provide space for their voices to be heard, identify their ongoing problems and make our demands a part of the local government’s agenda. We ensured the safety of the event by extending invitations to the participants via closed social media groups. I’m very pleased with the participation. This was a great meeting and actually a great start. We want to establish Kadıköy City Council LGBTI + Assembly’s trans policies with trans subjects. We attach great importance to ensuring that transgender people are not excluded from city agendas, decision-making processes and active participation in local politics.”
The event reporter said “One of the most striking finds for me was: Trans sex workers are not aware of the services provided by LGBTI+ non-governmental organizations such as psychosocial support and legal advising services. This is because they use the experiences and coping methods they have developed over the years to fight against the violations of their rights that they are subjected to. More work needs to be done on how the services offered by LGBTI + non-governmental organizations can be made more accessible for trans sex workers. Another important demand was about the provision of voluntary lawyers who can be reached at the time of the incident during violations experienced at night.”
“The topic of what we can do together at the local level was particularly productive. To fight against violations of rights, a proposal for legal self-defense workshops was brought forth. Despite all the negativity, we have agreed on how valuable it is to continue fighting and organizing. We have seen again how much the cooperation between local government, civil society and urban citizens is missing when it comes to trans sex workers. As the Kadıköy City Council LGBTI + Assembly, we are aware of our responsibility in this area. Because trans sex workers are also the inhabitants and therefore the owners of this city” said the reporter.