Trans sex workers in Turkey

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.

Pride Committee: “We will be on the streets on Sunday to demand justice for Hande Kader and to stop hate crimes”

We feel great anger: our beloved friend Hande Kader was burned to death. The burned body of 23 years old trans woman Hande Kader was found in Zekeriyaköy almost a week ago. Hande was a person who raised her voice against hate crimes and encouraged everyone to raise their voices too.

We are constantly shouting at LGBTI+ Prides, Trans Prides and other protests that homophobic and transphobic statements are leading to hate crimes, murderers often escape unpunished, and hate crime laws are urgent. Unfortunately, our Prides have been banned in the last two years, yet we need to be seen, to be on the streets and to shout our demands in order to end hate crimes.

According to a Transgender Europe report, Turkey is the first in Europe and ninth in the world in trans murders. Trans women are forced to be sex workers and then they are labeled (as prostitutes) because of their jobs. We wish a world without homophobia, transphobia or ‘prostitute-phobia’.

Münevver, Özgecan, Wisam, Hande… We demand justice for all that lost their lives for being a woman, a trans or a gay. We are aware that the people who burned Hande to death got their strength from those who burned people alive in Maraş, Madımak, Cizre. We are repeating once again that the only way to stop hate crimes is to raise our voice together against hatred and hate crimes.

We are inviting every individual from this society to our march from Tünel to Galatasaray where we will demand justice for Hande Kader on Sunday, 21 August, 7 PM.

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee

Trans Woman Burned and Murdered in Turkey

Hande Kader, a trans woman based in Istanbul, disappeared a week ago. Her friends and lover filed a missing person’s announcement. Hande Kader’s burned body was found in Zekeriyaköy.

Source: “Trans Kadın Yakılarak Katledildi”, Pembe Hayat,  12  August 2016, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1187

Trans sex worker Hande Kader was last seen getting in her customer’s car about a week ago and has not been heard from since. Her friends and partner have reported Hande’s disappearance to the police.

hande_kader

Following the report, police initiated a search and rescue. During the operation, they found a burned trans woman’s body near Zekeriyakoy.

Hande Kader’s partner D. mentioned that Hande was wearing prosthetics which helped identify her burnt body.

In order to confirm the body’s identification, Hande’s family has been informed and the burial will be on hold until they arrive.

 

Another Transphobic Murder in Istanbul

 

On the evening of 2 December at approximately 20:30 in the Avcılar district of Istanbul, a trans woman was stabbed in the heart and killed on the street she worked.

Source: “İstanbul’da Yine Transfobik Cinayet!”, (“Another Transphobic Murder in Istanbul”), pembehayat.org, 2 December 2015, http://pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=933

The trans woman, Alev, lost her life as a result of being stabbed through the heart by a man who approached her as a customer while she was working on the street.

While Alev died at the crime seen as a result of the transphobic hate crime that occurred around 20:30 today (02.12.2015), her friends rushed to the police station. The Avcılar police department also brought in Alev’s trans woman friends for questioning about the murder, which occurred in the Haramidere neighborhood.

Alev’s friends said that the murder was carried out by a man who approached her like a customer.

While the investigation about the crime is still ongoing, the murder suspect has yet to be caught.  

In the past ten days in Istanbul there have been two back to back transphobic hate crime murders. On the afternoon of November 23rd, a woman named Nilay was stabbed in front of her own home in Maltepe and then strangled with the sash of her robe. Following this, Alev lost her life as a result of a knife attack.

Following the lynching attempts at the Meis apartment complex, which began in 2012, many trans women in Avcılar have become a target for hate crimes.

Previously, a mob gathered in front of the homes of the many trans women who live in the Meis complex hurled threats at the women with torches in hand, and shot bullets into their houses. A lawsuit filed about the Meis complex attacks on the premise that they interfered with the right to housing is still ongoing.

Transphobic discrimination from the police

The Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association, which accompanied a lawyer to the police station after the murder, criticized the police officers’ disinterested, discriminatory and transphobic attitudes through a post on their social media. Istanbul LGBTI shared that while waiting with the lawyer, they heard the police officers say “There are so many fags, friend:”

“Alev gets stabbed in the neck with a knife in the area she works. She runs to the truck lot located in the area behind it and asks for help. But because her carotid artery was severed, she collapses to the ground before an ambulance can even be called.

“The murderer is among us right now. He could be sitting next to us on public transportation. Or he could be walking right behind us when we walk home.

“The police are saying, ‘There are so many fags.’ Now, let’s sit and think about this. Is the murderer only the person who pulled the knife on Alev? Of course not! The murderer is also the police and the state who say, ‘There are so many fags’ and take no notice of our right to life, instead of finding the perpetrator!

“Trans murders are political!”

The attack will be protested in Ankara

Following the transphobic murders that have occurred recently, the Ankara LGBTI organizations Pink Life, High School LGBTI, and Kaos GL have sprung into action. On 3 December at 18:30 there will be a press release to protest these hate crimes in front of the Yüksel Human Rights Monument.

 

Trans Support Line Set Up; Victims of Violence Will Not be Left Alone

The project carried out by the Istanbul LGBTTI Solidarity Association and supported by the Open Society Foundation aims to provide legal assistance to trans individuals and protect victims of violence. Work for the Istanbul LGBTTI Trans* Rights project began on 10 November 2015. 

Source: “Trans Destek Hattı kuruldu; şiddete maruz kalanlar yalnız bırakılmayacak” (“Trans Support Line set up; victims of violence will not be left alone”) Pembe Hayat, 30 November 2015, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=928

The project aims to prevent rights violations.

In tandem with the initiated  project, trans individuals in need of a lawyer will be able to use this help line in the event that they are victims of acts such as robbery, bodily injury, police violence, home invasions, or attempted murder. As this project is to be carried out in Istanbul, there will be a lawyer reachable 24/7 on both the European and the Asian sides of the city.

The General Secretary of the Istanbul LGBTTI Solidarity Association, Kıvılcım Arat, states that the aim of this project is to have the unrecorded trans-targeted violence, which therefore have no legal proceedings initiated, reported and brought to justice. Arat further noted, “We would like to bring the physical attacks to justice at the end of the year by reporting and recording them. Accordingly, we want to put pressure with lawyers in order to eradicate impunity in cases of violence targeting trans individuals.”

Arat, expressing that violence has become a mundane part of the lives of trans women sex workers, further stated, “Trans individuals put on their make-ups and continue working, right after being victims of violence, and they keep living as if it is an ordinary matter. The violence they suffer is not prosecuted even if they go to hospitals or to the police. We want to put an end to the cooperation of the police, the judicial system, and the state against trans individuals. Nothing is recorded when trans women who have undergone violence go to the police. We will prevent this violation of rights.”

*The word “trans” is used as an umbrella term. Anyone who defines themselves as a trans woman or man, transgender, transvestite, drag queen, or cross-dresser can ask for assistance in the event that they find themselves in a similar situation.

The phone number that trans individuals may call in the event they need a lawyer is 0538 560 32 22

 

Kemal Ördek: ’Dying By The Sword,’ Rape, and A Question for Minister Islam

Every sex worker and transsexual who was kidnapped and raped has ended up in deep loneliness. This has never changed. Don’t be fooled by the few strong voices that reacted to the attack I suffered.

Source: Kemal Ördek, “Su Testisi Tecavüz ve Bakan İslam’a Bir Soru” (“’Dying By The Sword,’ Rape, and A Question for Minister İslam”), bianet.org, 17 July 2015, http://m.bianet.org/bianet/toplumsal-cinsiyet/166083-su-testisi-tecavuz-ve-bakan-islam-a-bir-soru

I’m writing as a rape victim.

I’m writing as a theft, threat, and insult victim.

I’m writing as a trans and as a sex worker.

I’m writing as a rights activist.

I’m writing as someone who now thinks twice before going out.

I break out in a cold sweat; I tense up. I can’t do a thing without someone by me. For the last twelve days, it is as if I’ve been under house arrest. Just yesterday, I saw one of my attackers when I was out with my friends; I simply ran back home. It is as if they are everywhere. I try to stay away from people, but they are out and about. This is what they call justice.

Özgecan comes to my mind. Everyone cried for her and mourned her loss. They took Özgecan away from us, just like with all the other women they took away from us. An otherwise silent Turkey stood up for her, took to the streets, ached, trembled. We trembled.

With Özgecan, we relived a familiar story. We remembered all the sex workers and trans people who have been raped and killed for all these years.

Just yesterday, the entire country was startled when Münevver Karabulut was murdered by decapitation. Only a week later, when a trans sex worker was found in a trash can with her head cut off, everyone who had stood up for Münevver disappeared. Trans women and sex workers were left alone in a country of murders by decapitation.

Every sex worker and transsexual who was kidnapped and raped has ended up in deep loneliness. This has never changed. Don’t be fooled by the few strong voices that reacted to the attack I suffered. In all likelihood, there would not be any reaction if I weren’t a well-known rights activist.

Trans people, sex workers, the other women, the anonymous women whose lives are tested by violence, rape, and murder are also raped by silence. In the back streets, in invisible streets, in those “deserved” lives, rape occur every night. Because those women live the lives they “deserve.” Because those who “live by the sword, die by the sword.” Because they deserve rape and death is written in their fate.

We have a Minister of Family and Social Policies, whose faint voice we hear after every case of rape and death. She is someone who disappears, becomes quiet, and shrugs when the issue is trans women and sex workers. She is someone who is complicit in the silence that rapes us…

I have a question for Minister İslam:

Dear Minister: I’m a trans and a sex worker, and I was raped. I was robbed, threatened, and insulted. I was mistreated when I called the police for protection from the violence that I suffered. One of your officers told me, “but you weren’t raped.” Another one lamented that, “this Tribe of Lot isn’t extinct yet.”

I am thankful that I am alive. What I do can’t be called living, but still. My friends advise me to look on the bright side and be thankful that I am alive.

Dear Minister: you are everybody’s minister, is that right? This “everybody” includes trans people and sex workers too, right? If your answer is yes, I ask, why are you silent about what happened to me? The investigations are ongoing and you’re still silent. If a lawsuit begins, are you going to stand by me? Are you going to get involved in it? Are you going to stand by a trans, sex worker, rights activist who was raped and brutalized?

Or am I, are we, going to be considered as people who “deserve” what happens to them? When one of us is killed tomorrow, will there be only 2-3 people to say a final goodbye? Are we, the members of the Tribe of Lot as some of you say, going to continue to be “disciplined” by violence, rape, and murder?

Dear Minister, is your silence fair? We may not be women in your eyes; we may be “immoral.” But are we not human either? Are your “conservatism” and your “religious and human values” silent in the face of violence?

I, your citizen, a trans, a sex worker, a rights activist, a victim… When were we made to be so lonely?

Dear Minister, I invite you, your Ministry, and your government to stand by me. I keep hoping for the faint possibility. If you take a step, it will send a message to rapists.

Before we die again…

Three perps get 27 years each in prison for raping trans sex worker in Turkey

3 suspects get 27 years and 6 months each for allegedly forcing a trans worker into their car in Izmir and raping her in a forest.

Source: Kaos GL, “Trans seks işçisine tecavüze 27’şer yıl hapis”, (“Three perps get 27 years each in prison for raping trans sex worker”), kaosGL.org, 11 July 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=19822

On 22 September 2014, trans sex worker M.T. agreed [on a sex work deal] with Cengiz K. who approached her by car. When Cengiz K. also pick up his friends Çağlar Ş. and Erol K., M.T. wanted to leave.

The two people who got in the car later allegedly shut M.T.’s mouth and took her to a forest in Yamanlar. The three people raped M.T. and ran off with her jewellery after forcing her with a knife. Police quickly caught the three suspects through the car’s license plate. Çağlar Ş., Cengiz K., and Erol K. were arrested after being sent to the prosecutor.

The three defendants and lawyers attended the last hearing in Izmir 7th Heavy Penal Court. In the previous hearing M.T. had testified saying, “They threatened me and said, “If you don’t want to die here, do as you are told, we have a knife in the car, we’ll cut you.” They forcibly undressed me. They raped me taking turns without my consent. I’m bringing a complaint against the defendants.”

Defendant Çağlar Ş. said, “We did not forcibly do anything to this person. The person was already under the influence of alcohol when the person got in the car. We couldn’t agree on the money. Once the deed was done, they [1] demanded a high amount of money. When we told them that we won’t pay what they were demanding, they screamed and shouted and threw the money at our face. They are complaining about us because they found the money too low.”

Erol K. argued that they have been detained for a long time and are therefore victims and said, “The complainant isn’t even coming to the hearings. We have families, kids, and regular jobs. Our only fault is to have had a [sexual] relation with their consent. I defer this first to God and then to you.”

Cengiz K. stated, “Do you think a person who willingly hurts themselves and hurts without pity would pity others? I believe you’ll act justly. I defer this first to almighty God and then to you.”

The prosecutor gave the opinion to acquit the defendants for the crime of plunder but to punish them for the other crimes. After a short recess, the court president gave 27 years and 6 months of prison sentence to each of the defendants for “sexual assault” and “depriving the person of their freedom”. The defendants and their relatives reacted to the decision and the defendants were taken back to prison.

[1] The Turkish language does not have gendered pronouns and it is unclear how the defendants’ approached M.T.’s gender identity. The choice of “they” by the translator is to keep the quotes gender-neutral like Turkish- but it does not mean that the defendants’ respected M.T.’s gender identity.