Best Practice

LGBTI-Friendly Policies and Practices in Turkey

December 1 World AIDS Day Events in Turkey

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The LGBTI+ Community in Turkey marks World AIDS Day 2018 with engaging activities . Despite the restraining political environment in Turkey, LGBTI+ activism has been growing stronger and one field where it has consolidated its efforts is in raising awareness on testing for HIV and focus on the lives of HIV+ individuals. In this article, we introduce organizations working for HIV awareness and events that will mark the day this year.

 

Pozitifiz (We are Positive) is a non-governmental organization that approaches the HIV issue from a human rights perspective, seeking to increase access to better healthcare for HIV+ individuals and abolish prejudices against them and their families to provide better living conditions. Most of the founders are HIV+ individuals who have been active in the field for many years.

 

Red Ribbon Istanbul is another civil society organization which strives to expand the channels of information for HIV awareness. They aim to “communicate scientifically-grounded HIV-related information to all parts of society, using clear and easy-to-understand language.”  Red Ribbon Istanbul also works to foster collaboration of private sector, civil society and state actors in order to increase opportunities for safe and anonymous testing, diagnosis and treatment.

 

Red Ribbon Istanbul and Pozitifiz joined forces for their #hivcokdegisti campaign, which says “HIV has changed, have we?”. The campaign circulates statements aiming to rid the public sphere from prejudices about HIV+ individuals and HIV+ living, reminding all of us that “HIV is not only a matter for those who live with HIV, but also for everybody else”. You can read their joint statement for World AIDS Day 2018 on this link.

 

This year, Pozitifiz also participated in the meeting for GSK (GlaxoSmithKline)’s World AIDS Day 2018 Campaign , titled “Kendin İçin 1 Aralık” (December 1 For Yourself) which introduces the stories of HIV+ individuals through their own narratives, inviting everyone to share their own support messages with the #dokun (#touch) hashtag, in an effort to overcome the barriers of fear and prejudice. The campaign also urges everyone to get an HIV test and to learn more about AIDS.

 

Hevi LGBTI Association and Boysan’ın Evi (Boysan’s House) marks the day with a panel titled “HIV/AIDS and Isolation on the basis of gender: Women Tell Their Stories”. The panel is to take place on December 2, 17:00-19:00 at Boysan’s House with the participation of panelists Çiğdem Şimşek and Müzeyyen Araç. Hevi LGBTI has also published multilingual pamhplets and is organizing two more panels on December 1, titled “HIV through Letters” and “AIDS in Turkey- Recent Medical Methods and Studies”.

 

Dramaqueer Art Collective which has recently opened its art base in Tarlabaşı will host a talk titled “M.Paniği” (“M. Panic”) on the first known and sensationalized AIDS case in Turkey. Murteza Elgin, a successful vocalist and manager, became the target of a media circus, finding out about his own HIV+ condition through the very news that stigmatized him. Serdar Soydan will introduce M’s story and the struggle against fear and prejudice in this talk.

 

On World AIDS Day 2018 there will also be an exhibition opening at Operation Room at American Hospital, titled “Positive Space”. The exhibition invitation states that it “opens discussions about themes, directly related to HIV/AIDS, such as visibility and stigma, victimhood and guilt, pleasure and disease as well as subjective bodies recording, separating, accepting and rejecting, infecting and spreading in opposition to ideological and medical bodies. Even though the exhibition affirms ‘positivity,’ it reserves the right to see AIDS as a metaphor. The unrepressed HIV does not destroy the cell, it attacks and emaciates it, just like masculine domination or bio-power practices do. “Positive Space” looks for new contamination technologies against these practices.” Read more about it in this link.

 

To make the World AIDS Day more visible, Kaos GL and Pozitifiz Association has published ads on two dailies (Evrensel and Birgün) with Aslı Alpar’s illustrations with the title “End Stigmatization and Discrimination”.

 

Kaos GL’s Social Services Studies Group has published a statement on World AIDS Day 2018 drawing attention to the discrimination HIV+ individuals face. Here is the statement:

 

“We are disappointed to see that discourses on December 1 World AIDS Day solely focus on the increase in the number of individuals living with HIV. We believe that it is not possible to ignore the discrimination that people living with HIV experience in many realms of life. This discrimination not only affects the psychosocial wellbeing of people living with HIV negatively, but also prevents people living with HIV from accessing social services efficiently. People living with HIV have equal rights with everyone else, from the right to healthcare to the right to work, from the right to education to the right to accomodation.

 

As the Kaos GL Social Services Studies Group we fight for the people with HIV’s access to their rights and we will continue our fight. We are conscious of the responsibility and duty that social services experts and other professionals working in the field of psychological healthcare bear.

 

HIV can be controlled. What matters is that hatred, discrimination and pressure against people living with HIV is controlled.

 

Happy December 1 World AIDS Day!”

 

Illustration: Aslı Alpar

 

The constitutional court’s changes to Article 40 are now in effect

The Constitutional Court annulled a clause in the Turkish Civil Code’s Article 40 stating the requirement of “to be permanently deprived of the ability to reproduce” on Nov. 29, 2017. The decision is now in effect with its publication in the Official Gazette on March 20.

Source: Pembe Hayat, “AYM’nin Madde 40’taki Değişikliği Yürürlüğe Girdi”, 20 March 2018, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1681

A trans man launched a case in 2014 at the Ankara 4th Court of First Instance for a name change as well as his gender transition process. He requested that the court investigate the Turkish Civil Code Article 40’s “mandatory sterilization” as being unconstitutional, that this surgery was not successfully performed in Turkish state hospitals and successful experts charged exorbitant amounts, that there was lasting irreversible damage after the operation affecting bodily integrity.

The Constitutional Court committee examined the file and annulled the requirement “to be permanently deprived of the ability to reproduce” from the Turkish Civil Code’s Article 40 on Nov. 29, 2017.

That change has been put into effect as of March 20.

No requirement for infertility anymore

The annulment of Article 40’s Clause 1 stating “to be permanently deprived of the ability to reproduce” means sterilization will not be required in gender transition operations. However, Article 40’s Clause 2 stating “the court will rule for the necessary changes in the population registry after an official health council confirms that the gender change surgery was conducted” remains in the law after the push for its annulment was rejected on Nov. 29.

“The effect of this annulment may be joint indemnity cases.”

Attorney Sinem Hun said she finds the decision to be positive and told Pink Life:

Though we don’t yet know the reason for the annulment, it may be a reflection of European Court of Human Rights A.P., Nicot and Garcon decision. The effect of this annulment may be joint indemnity cases as we have also seen in Sweden. Injured parties and associations may consider action as this practice lasted between 2002 and 2017. Of course the legal techniques should be evaluated and I reserve comments on the issue of techniques for now.

“This article was contrary to the Constitution’s Articles 17 and 20”

Pink Life’s lawyer Emrah Sahin said this incommensurable condition will no longer be sought in gender transition and added:

We see this decision as positive because this clause was contrary to the Constitution’s Articles 17 and 20. This decision also reveals that. With the annulment of this clause, the state will no longer seek “permanently deprived of the ability to reproduce” in gender transition.

Turkish Civil Code’s Article 40

Turkish Civil Code’s Article 40 regulates the “procedure” on “gender change.” The changed article is:

A person wanting to change their gender may apply to a court in person to request the allowance of gender change. However, in order to be allowed [to do so], the person needs to have passed the age of 18 and be unmarried, and document, via an official health council report from an education and research hospital, that they are of transsexual disposition, that it’s necessary to undergo gender change for their psychological health. The court will rule for the necessary changes in the population registry if an official health council confirms that the gender change surgery was conducted in line with the goal and medical procedures dependent on the granted permission.

 

 

 

Sputnik: Turkish Constitutional Court rules sex workers cannot be fined on the Law of Misdemeanors

Upon the application of a transsexual sex worker, the Turkish Constitutional Court decided that police officers cannot issue fines against sex workers based on the Law of Misdemeanors. The high court approved the verdict with majority of votes and the decision would establish a precedent.

Source: “Constitutional Court: Sex workers can not be fined on Law of Misdemeanors” (“AYM: Seks işçilerine Kabahatlar Kanunu’ndan para cezası kesilemez”), Sputnik, 21.12.2017, https://tr.sputniknews.com/turkiye/201712211031491432-aym-seks-iscisi-para-cezasi/

According to a report by Deniz Ayas of Sözcü daily newspaper, a police squad issued a fine against a sex worker based on Law of Misdemeanors No. 5326 as she was waiting for clients in a 2014 incident. The sex worker protested the fine of 91 Turkish Liras and took it to the court. Yet the local court ruled for the law enforcers.

After the appeals procedures, the sex worker took the case to the Constitutional Court where her objection was evaluated. The detailed ruling was issued in the Official Gazette Thursday and included striking evaluations.

The verdict, which is to become a legal precedent was reached with a majority of votes and found the sex worker to be right, emphasizes that the procedure carried out based on the Law of Misdemeanors No.5326 dated March 30, 2005 cannot be valid.

The Law of Misdemeanors does not include prostitution bargaining

The reason for the ruling was stated as the noncompliance between the act of “disturbing others with the aim of prostitution” as reported on the administrative fine of the police officer and the article defined on Art. 37 of Law No. 5326; suggesting that in this incident the act “does not correspond to prostitution”.

“It cannot be fined”

 

It was stressed that the verdict was made based on the principle “No one can be fined due to an act which is not considered criminal based on the law in force at the time. No one can be sentenced to a heavier sentence than the one defined for that crime at the time the crime was committed”. As a result, it was decided that the right of the transvestite* was violated and that the 2 thousand lira cost of “judicial procedures” be paid to her. One member of Constitutional Court objected to the verdict.

Verdict sets legal precedent

The verdict sets a legal precedent for the practices that will follow. This means that the police will not be able to fine sex workers waiting for clients on the streets and avenues ‘just because they are waiting for clients’.

Translator’s Note: The original article uses the words “transsexual” and “transvestite” interchangeably. The article was translated verbatim so as to demonstrate the original wording of the reporting.

For more on the use of the Law of Misdemeanors, please see these translations.

Bianet: Sedef Çakmak is elected as the Chair of Rainbow Rose

LGBTI activist and Beşiktaş Alderwoman Sedef Çakmak is elected as Chair of the Executive Board of Rainbow Rose, the LGBTI network of Europe’s social democrat and socialist parties.

Source: “Sedef Çakmak is elected as the Chair of Rainbow Rose” (“Sedef Çakmak, Rainbow Rose Başkanı Seçildi”), bianet, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/191068-sedef-cakmak-rainbow-rose-baskani-secildi, October 30, 2017.

Rainbow Rose, a network comprised of the LGBTI platforms established within the European social democrat and socialist parties, had its general assembly in Stockholm, Sweden.

The assembly meeting was held between October 27-29, and LGBTI activists Elif Avcı of Şişli Municipality’s Equality Unit and Beşiktaş Alderwoman Sedef Çakmak participated in the assembly representing the Republican People’s Party (CHP) of Turkey.

Rainbow Rose has been fighting for LGBTI rights since 2006 as a part of PES (Party of European Socialists), of which CHP is also a member. Çakmak was elected as the Chair of the Executive Board of Rainbow Rose.

“Alliance with other LGBTI organizations strengthens us”

Speaking to Yıldız Tar of Kaos GL Çakmak stated:

“In these days when Turkey is getting more and more authoritarian and when different voices are sought to be silenced, we recognize how strengthening it is for people living in Turkey to be in solidarity with other LGBTI organizations around the world. Aside from this, LGBTI struggles for rights do not only produce policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity but also on refugees, union rights, gender equality, rule of law, areas which have an impact on all sectors of society. In today’s world where the global flow of information has accelerated, I believe it would be lacking to make policies detached from the rest of the world.”

“Both as a Turkish citizen and a local politician who is an LGBTI activist, I hope that the fact that I was chosen as the Chair of the Executive Board of Rainbow Rose will play a part in transcending the increasing bias against our country abroad due to the malpractices of the government which undermine democracy.”

Çakmak was a CHP candidate in the 2014 local elections and has been an alderwoman in Beşiktaş Municipality since then. Çakmak is the first openly homosexual politician in Turkey.

Pink Life goes to Hamburg!

Pink Life QueerFest selection to be screened at International Queer Film Festival in Hamburg. The 28th Hamburg International Queer Film Festival (aka LSF/ Lesbisch Schwule Filmtage) will take place between October 17-22, 2017. Germany’s largest and longest-running LGBT film festival celebrates its 28th year as a volunteer-based and independent organization, with its principles of “autonomy, equality, and self determination”.  Here is the invitation to the selection of films from Ankara-based Pink Life QueerFest to be featured:

“A selection of Turkish short films from Ankara’s Pink Life QueerFest: TRANSVESTITES is a pioneering mockumentary on the highly problematic representation of trans* sex workers in the media. PRINCE CHARMING, DON’T COME IN VAIN, a collective audiovisual claim to the existence of lesbians in Turkey. Experimental and fascinating, OVER TIME tells the stories of four workers. In CHILD’S PLAY Derin hides an adult secret in the toy-box filled with her childhood memories. The documentary LGBTI IN THE HOOD reflects the LGBTI community’s perspective on their neighbourhoods. MOIRA is a tribute to three LGBTI* activists who lost their lives in a traffic accident in September 2015. And in fragments of a roundtable: pink life discusses archiving the Pink Life team gathers around a not-so-round-table and discusses the archives of the QueerFest.”

For more info please visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/315944492205182

Kaos GL: LGBTI billboards on the streets of Cyprus once more!

LGBTI awareness billboards are once more on the streets of North Cyprus after the attacks of last year!

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Source: Kaos GL, “Kıbrıs’ta bir kez daha LGBTİ billboardları sokakta!” http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=24490 September 1, 2017

The LGBTI awareness billboard campaign we launched last year in North Cyprus was attacked. Kuir Kıbrıs (Queer Cyprus) Association filled the streets once more this year with billboards for equality and freedom in spite of the attacks.

The new billboard campaign prepared within the scope of “Unspoken Project” (“Konuşulmayan Projesi”) was launched in order to call attention to the need for everyone to live as a human, without being othered or discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

The billboards bear explanations of sexual orientation and gender identities such as “lesbian”, “gay”, “heterosexual”, “transsexual” and “intersex”.

Transformation of prejudices such as homophobia, biphobia, transphobia is among the objectives of the campaign.

Attacks against last year’s campaign

Last year in November,  billboards which read “Brother Kamil, I’m lesbian” and “Auntie Mediha, I’m gay” were placed around Girne, Mağusa, Lefkoşa, İskele, Lefke ve Karpaz. However, the LGBTI awareness billboards  in the cities in North Cyprus were first attacked and then taken down by the municipality.

What’s the Unspoken/Konuşulamayan Project?

“Unspoken: Creating Dialogue on LGBTI Rights in the Turkish Cypriot Community” (“Konuşulmayan: Kıbrıs Türk Toplumunda LGBTİ Haklarıyla İlgili Diyaloğu Güçlendirmek Projesi”) aims to increase awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people in key sectors such as media, education, law and health; in order to struggle against the discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, to create social change and [improve] public opinion and to ameliorate media representation in Turkish Cypriot communities.

Kuir Kıbrıs Association is a civil society movement conducting work struggling against discrimination agaınst sexuality, sexual expression, sexual orientation and gender identity. Kuir Kıbrıs actively works to support LGBTI rights in various fields such as law, education and psychology.

Evrensel: Gender and LGBTIs in Alevism*

Source: Ali Kenanoğlu, “Alevilikte Cinisyet ve LGBTI’ler,” Evrensel, 21 July, 2017 https://www.evrensel.net/yazi/79533/alevilikte-cinsiyet-ve-lgbtiler

In prevalent faiths or religions with holy books, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the attitude towards individuals with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) sexual identity is very rigid.

Every year the biggest threats against the LGBTIs who want to organize a Pride March come from the “nationalist Muslims.” As a matter of fact, in Turkey, nationalism, i.e. Turkism, and Islam are not thought of as separate things. Nationalism in Turkey receives acceptance as long as it is united with Sunni Islam. So much so that Turkmen Alevis were not accepted as Turks before the 1980s, and Christian Gagauz Turks were deported in the early years of the republic.

Despite some different approaches to LGBTIs by certain Muslims, such as the Anticapitalist Muslims going against Semawi religions’ approach, the general perception and definition is “pervert, perverted.” Considering these definitions, every mistreatment and attack against LGBTIs and even massacres are seen acceptable and in fact considered as “they deserve it.”

It’s not possible for LGBTI members of the Semawi community to worship without hiding their identity. Because, based on past experience, we all know that they have no safety in the mosque they’ll enter.

In Alevism, however, there is no gender discrimination. In the Alevi mass worship ritual, cem [pronounced as jam — Trans.], everyone is referred to as “Can [or jaan, meaning “life” or “the essence which gives one life” but also used as a name with the extended meaning “dear” –Trans.], Cem Saints” which are gender-free descriptions. There is no gender discrimination in Alevism, however, individuals who fail to comprehend Alevism, make gender discrimination and LGBTI discrimination as they do in other faiths.

Despite many examples, there are still those who couldn’t grasp, understand, comprehend Alevism, those even arguing that women cannot take a “post” [a seat reserved for a high ranking leader in Alevi hierarchy –Trans.] and lead the cem.

A couple of days ago, Alevis Union Federation in Germany made one of the most important statements of recent years and presented Alevis’ approach to jaans with LGBTI sexual identity which was not declared to public until now probably because there was no occasion.

The statement with the title “the ka’bah of our belief is human, its pilgrim is jaan” included the following sentences; “Our association, not only disregards all the common prejudices against LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex) individuals but also does not consider the unwarranted statements based on these prejudices worth discussing. We refuse all the approaches, advocated by conservative fractions starting with the AKP, which make representation of homosexuals in public space difficult. As an association, we do not only fight against the marginalization of the Alevi community. Our belief that brings forth the concept of “Jaan,” instead of the concept of congregation that exists in panislamist societies, rejects every kind of discrimination. The Alevi community whose ka’bah is human, sees everything as a reflection of Haq [Allah, the fair and noble one — Trans.]. Our teaching does not discriminate based on language, religion, nationality, color, gender. Humanity is the most sacred value.

We defend a social order that delivers all the rights extorted from all individuals starting from women, far from male-dominant understanding and rest on the ideal of equality amongst genders.

In addition, we demand the impunity and guarantee of private lives, and an end to social grudge and hatred. At this point, our ground is respecting human rights including all the members of society.”

The approach in Alevism towards gender identities is best summed up by the Sovereign Haji Bektash Veli’s following words:
“In the language of friendly conversation, one does not ask about male-female,
Everything Haq created is in its proper place,
In our view there is no female-male difference,
Flaw and lack is in your view.”

With love…

*Alevism is a mystical branch of Islam whose adherents follow the teachings of Caliph Ali.