United Nations

Universal Periodic Review Statement to the European Union

Statement delivered by Kaos GL’s Ezgi Kocak on December 3, 2014 in Geneva to Permanent Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations on behalf of Kaos GL, LGBTI News Turkey, IGLHRC, and ILGA World. 

Dear colleagues and representatives of the European Union,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be part of this meeting and to present the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans individuals in Turkey. We represent the coalition of organisations (Kaos GL, LGBTI News Turkey, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Human Rights Commission).

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At the first-cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, Turkey accepted recommendations by Norway and the Netherlands for non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, Turkey accepted the Czech Republic’s recommendation to review national legislation on non-discrimination with regard to women and gender identity. However, Turkey has failed to implement these recommendations and have instead moved in the opposite direction.

Despite the Turkish government’s commitments made during the first UPR and in spite of the collective efforts of the Turkish and international civil society organisations over the past four years, no anti-discrimination legislation – in line with the UN and the CoE norms and standards- has yet been put into the legislative process. Particularly, the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were not included in the 6th Democratization Package of February 2014 that includes the Anti-Discrimination Bill and regulations on the basis of Hate Crimes. Furthermore, no reference to sexual orientation and gender identity were included in the Article on Equality of the New Constitution’s draft.

Article 90 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey stipulates that international agreements duly put into effect have the force of law. The non-discrimination article of the Istanbul Convention, which Turkey ratified in November 2011, includes the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. This means that Turkey must fulfil its international obligation to bring its domestic laws in line with this convention to ensure the protection of LGBT individuals, something that the government in Ankara has so far refused to undertake.

Finally, Turkey’s 2014 Progress Report complements our UPR submission and highlights equality and non-discrimination, right to life and security of the person, administration of justice, including impunity and the rule of law issues where the Turkish government fails to address in order to improve the human rights situation in Turkey for all citizens including LGBT individuals.

Recommendations

We respectfully request that the issue of protection of all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity is raised during the upcoming UPR session and that the following recommendations are made to the government of Turkey:

  • Include the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in constitutional clauses on equality and non-discrimination, as well as in hate crimes legislation.
  • Conduct full and independent investigations into all allegations of harassment, violence, or abuse of LGBT individuals, and prosecute perpetrators.
  • Monitor, aggregate, and publish data on the number of complaints of violence against members of the LGBT community.
  • Provide legal protection and equal treatment for LGBT people who have faced discrimination and abuse due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • Take all administrative measures, both on national and local levels, to prohibit and prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to provide effective protection of LGBT persons in Turkey.
  • Provide mandatory trainings on the international standards of non-discrimination to government officials, police, military, prison/detention staff and to the judiciary with specific emphasis on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Ensure that an individual’s mere existence as an LGBT individual is never considered “unjust provocation” of a criminal act, nor “contrary to law and ethics”.
  • Cease to categorise homosexuality and transsexuality as illnesses of any sort.
  • Guarantee the freedom of speech and association for LGBT community members and their allies.
  • Provide mandatory training for all personnel working with refugees, asylum-seekers, and temporary guests on UNHCR guidelines regarding LGBT individuals.

Universal Periodic Review Pre-Session Statement

Statement delivered by LGBTI News Turkey’s Zeynep Bilginsoy on December 3, 2014 in Geneva to Permanent Missions to the United Nations on behalf of Kaos GL, LGBTI News Turkey, IGLHRC, and ILGA World at Pre-Session event hosted by UPR Info. 

Dear colleagues and representatives of the Permanent Missions,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be part of this session and to present the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans individuals in Turkey. This statement is delivered on behalf of a coalition of Turkish and international LGBT rights groups that have been engaged in the UPR process with the submission of a report entitled “Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey”.

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Although the National Report of Turkey states that a consultation meeting took place on 27 February 2014, none of the eight officially registered LGBT associations were invited to this meeting.

We believe that recommendations during the UPR review of Turkey can specifically help the LGBT community in Turkey in areas such as (1) right to life, non-discrimination, and administration of justice and (2) refugees and asylum-seekers.

(1) Right to life, non-discrimination, and administration of justice

“LGBT is a behaviour that is outside the bounds of normality” Türkan Dağoğlu, Istanbul MP and Deputy President of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Family, Labor, and Social Affairs, 2013

Between 2010 and June 2014, 41 individuals have been killed due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, several incidents of gun and physical-assault-related injuries, fatal lynchings and rape cases have also been reported throughout this period of time.

Due to the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are not recognised as categories protected under anti-hate crime legislations, there is a lack of official data on instances of hate crimes. As a result, the number of deaths is estimated to be far higher. Besides, the fear of humiliation and undignified treatment that LGBT persons face throughout the legal process, along with concerns about revealing the survivor’s sexual orientation and gender identity to the public, are among the factors that prevent many LGBT individuals from seeking justice through the court.

Although Turkish legal codes do not explicitly discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the applications of existing laws by Turkey’s Judiciary is often discriminatory against LGBT individuals. Even worse, the perpetrators of anti-LGBT hate crimes can benefit from penalty reductions stipulated as part of “unjust provocation” regulations. Given the absence of any legal protection for individuals subjected to hate crimes based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and considering the biased application of the laws to the advantage of perpetrators of crimes against LGBT individuals, it is of utmost importance for the Republic of Turkey to consider offering comprehensive legal protection for LGBT individuals a top priority.

Follow-up to the First Review

At the first-cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Turkey in 2010, several states raised concerns and put recommendations to the Government relating to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Turkish government accepted recommendations by Norway, Canada and the Netherlands (100.33, 102.11, 102.12) and therefore committed to take steps to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Paradoxically, the government rejected similar non-discrimination recommendations by the Czech Republic and Ireland but accepted amendments to combat discrimination against women with the removal of the term sexual orientation in the case of the Czech Republic (102.10) and the removal of the terms sexual orientation and gender identity in the case of Ireland (102.13). The government also noted the Czech Republic’s recommendation (102.32) on human rights education and training for state personnel with a focus that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

New Developments since the Review

Despite the Turkish government’s commitments made during the first UPR and in spite of the collective efforts of the Turkish and international civil society organisations over the past four years, no anti-discrimination legislation – in line with the UN and the CoE norms and standards- has yet been put into the legislative process. Particularly, the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were not included in the 6th Democratization Package of February 2014 that includes the Anti-Discrimination Bill and regulations on the basis of Hate Crimes. Furthermore, no reference to sexual orientation and gender identity were included in the Article on Equality of the New Constitution’s draft.

Article 90 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey stipulates that international agreements duly put into effect have the force of law. The non-discrimination article of the Istanbul Convention, which Turkey ratified in November 2011, includes the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. This means that Turkey must fulfil its international obligation to bring its domestic laws in line with this convention to ensure the protection of LGBT individuals, something that the government in Ankara has so far refused to undertake.

Recommendations

We respectfully request that the issue of protection of all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity is raised during the upcoming UPR session and that the following recommendations are made to the government of Turkey:

  • Include the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in constitutional clauses on equality and non-discrimination, as well as in hate crimes legislation.
  • Conduct full and independent investigations into all allegations of harassment, violence, or abuse of LGBT individuals, and prosecute perpetrators.
  • Monitor, aggregate, and publish data on the number of complaints of violence against members of the LGBT community.
  • Provide legal protection and equal treatment for LGBT people who have faced discrimination and abuse due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender
identity.
  • Take all administrative measures, both on national and local levels, to prohibit and prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to provide effective protection of LGBT persons in Turkey.
  • Provide mandatory trainings on the international standards of non-discrimination to government officials, police, military, prison/detention staff and to the judiciary with specific emphasis on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Ensure that an individual’s mere existence as an LGBT individual is never considered “unjust provocation” of a criminal act, nor “contrary to law and ethics”.
  • Cease to categorise homosexuality and transsexuality as illnesses of any sort.
  • Guarantee the freedom of speech and association for LGBT community members and their allies.

(2) Refugees and asylum-seekers

Turkey has long served as a stepping-stone for thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Based on the Turkish government’s regulations, LGBT refugees arriving in Turkey are required to resettle in conservative satellite towns in the interior of Turkey, where they face discriminatory acts by public officials and law-enforcement agencies and violence from their neighbors. Their UNHCR processing times can take years, while they are unable to work both due to their refugee status and their sexual orientation or gender identity. Because of the lack of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, the existence of LGBT asylum-seekers and refugees as a category is not legally recognised. This issue is even more complicated for Syrians who have been given temporary protection in Turkish territory and who are considered “guests” rather than refugees.

Recommendations

We therefore request the distinguished delegations to consider making the following recommendations to the government of Turkey:

  • Provide mandatory training for all personnel working with refugees, asylum-seekers, and temporary guests on UNHCR guidelines regarding LGBT individuals.

UPR Submission: “Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey”

“The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.”

The UPR Pre-Session of Turkey will take place on 3 December 2014. This session will allow civil society organisations engaged in the UPR to give their recommendations to Member States. We will be taking the floor to present our joint submission (Kaos GL, LGBTI News Turkey, IGLHRC, ILGA) and to put forth the following recommendations:

  1. Include the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in constitutional clauses on equality and non-discrimination, as well as in hate crimes legislation.
  2. Take all administrative measures, both on the national and local levels, to prohibit and prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to provide effective protection of LGBT individuals in Turkey.
  3. Conduct full and independent investigations into all allegations of harassment, violence, or abuse of LGBT individuals, and prosecute perpetrators.
  4. Monitor, aggregate, and publish data on the number of complaints of violence against members of the LGBT community.
  5. Provide mandatory trainings on the international standards of non-discrimination to government officials, police, military, prison/detention staff and to the judiciary with specific emphasis on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  6. Provide a comprehensive framework for public school education on sexuality that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
  7. Cease to categorize homosexuality and transsexuality as illnesses of any sort.
  8. Ensure that an individual’s mere existence as an LGBT individual is never considered “unjust provocation” of a criminal act, nor “contrary to law and ethics”.
  9. Provide legal protection and equal treatment for LGBT people who have faced discrimination and abuse due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  10. Guarantee the freedom of speech and assembly for LGBT community members and their allies.
  11. Provide mandatory training for all personnel working with refugees, asylum-seekers, and temporary guests on UNHCR guidelines regarding LGBT individuals.

Links to our full report:

Turkish: EPI-LGBT

English: UPR-LGBT

UPR Submission by Turkey’s LGBT Organizations

We are excited to be sharing our Universal Periodic Review submission of “Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey” to the United Nations. 

The Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review “has great potential to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world.” – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.

The UPR was created through the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council itself. It is a cooperative process which, by October 2011, has reviewed the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. Currently, no other universal mechanism of this kind exists. The UPR is one of the key elements of the Council which reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur.

The Universal Periodic Review of Turkey

The second-cycle review of Turkey will take place in January-February 2015. While Turkey submits its own State report, Turkey’s civil society organisations is providing their reports on Turkey’s human rights situation. The joint report by the Human Rights Joint Platform highlights Turkey’s failure in applying the accepted recommendations in the first-cycle and human rights violations since 2010. The joint LGBT submission highlights human rights violations of LGBT individuals in Turkey since 2010.

Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey

This report is a joint submission by Kaos GL Association, LGBTI News Turkey, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) (ECOSOC accredited NGO), to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the occasion of the 21st Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. This submission presents human rights violations in Turkey on account of actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity. These violations consist of acts of violence against LGBT individuals, discriminatory domestic laws, arbitrary administrative measures, and hostile approach of State officials towards the LGBT community.

In preparing this submission, we relied on documentation and data from the following sources: LGBT organizations and allies in Turkey; reports by national and international human rights NGOs; the European Commission’s Annual Progress Report; Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee’s review of Turkey’s compliance with the ICCPR; recommendations from Turkey’s first-cycle UPR; Turkey’s Constitution and recent legislation; and media reports of violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals.

Please see the full report here: UPR: Human Rights Violations of LGBT Individuals in Turkey

CHP Parliamentarian Melda Onur’s Comments in Meeting with US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power

Source: LGBTI NEWS TURKEY,  simultaneous translation at event, 10 December 2013.

Melda Onur:

First of all we would like to thank you for this opportunity on this very important day, on human rights day. I am representing the main opposition party from Turkey, which is the Republican People’s Party.

Even though there is an ocean between Turkey and the US it is almost like we are neighbors. Both countries visit each other quite often and the president of the Republican People’s Party was just here. So I think everyone is following each other quite well. We are also sure that you have been following the rights violations in Turkey. These happen in various fields but the most important are the problems in the judiciary, in the freedom of expression, long detainment periods of parliamentarians as well as journalists.

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LGBTI NEWS TURKEY’s Summary of Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Turkey

LGBTI NEWS TURKEY submitted this document at the Core Group Luncheon Hosted by the European Union for LGBTI activists in New York on 9 December 2013. The same document has been serviced to the United Nations Press Office for International Human Rights Day.

Human Rights Violations in Turkey and LGBTI People

  • Violations of human rights in Turkey are well documented: During the 2013 Gezi demonstrations, 5 protestors were killed, more than 8,000 people were injured. Unofficial detentions and arbitrary arrests were recorded.
  • Turkey has one of the world’s worst records in press freedom: Data from October 2013 puts the number of imprisoned journalists at 65 for allegedly aiding terrorism and coup attempts. The trial of Hrant Dink’s murder is pending since 2007. Gag orders are widespread and media highly biased.
  • Though a wide-range of individuals and groups have faced rights violations, LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex) people in Turkey have long been one of the most obvious targets due to deep-seated social and political prejudices that almost naturalize and render invisible some blatant forms of discrimination.
  • These violations occur in almost total disregard of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is binding for Turkey under international law. ECHR also takes priority over domestic law, put in motion by Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution.

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UN, Give Us Condoms!

Source: Meltem Özgenç, “BM bize prevervatif dağıt,” (“UN, Give Us Condoms!”) Hürriyet, 30 November 2013, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/25242745.asp

After the Ministry of Health terminated the distribution of free condoms, Turkey’s sex workers applied to the United Nations: Our Ministry does not give condoms, you should.

Prior to World AIDS Day on 1 December, some sex workers and non-governmental organizations applied to the United Nations with an interesting request. Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association submitted the application. Association president Buse Kılıçkaya stated that Turkey received a 3.9 million USD grant in 2006 from the Global Fund and distributed some of this money among relevant associations. Kılıçkaya says, “During that time we also received a lot of condoms. These were distributed to associations. At that time, many sex workers under the risk of contracting HIV felt more at ease.

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