Trans rights abuses in Turkey

November 29, 2008

Turkish flagTwo separate but related news items from Turkey.

First, the Legal Aid Bureau Against Sexual Harassment And Rape In Detention has announced that, between January and November 2008, 35 women made formal representations to the Bureau.

Via Bianet:

…five of the applicants were the transvestite and transsexuals


Harassment was done by touching using one’s hand or other objects, threat of rape and verbally about woman’s sexuality.

The Medical Examiner’s Office continue to be a problem

Although it was not applied before 2008, article 227/8 of the Penal Code that says the person who is engaged in prostitution will be subjected to treatment and therapy was applied to the transvestites and transsexuals. In one case, the Criminal Court of First Instance of Beyoğlu, Istanbul demanded that the transvestites and transsexuals sent to the psychological therapy, but it was reversed when the lawyers objected to it.

A depressingly familiar tale: if you are trans, and a prostitute, and are unlucky enough to be caught, the state can, and will, send you for undefined “treatment and therapy”. Note that cis women prostitutes do not appear to be subjected to this potentially severely damaging – and in the case of therapy, ineffective – punishment.

Small wonder, then, that (according to EurActiv), the European Parliament’s annual report on Turkey’s progress towards EU membership is warning of a slowdown in reforms for the third consecutive year.

The draft report [link to PDF file], by MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP-ED, Netherlands), contrasts with a recent Commission report [link to PDF file], which presented a mixed picture of Turkey’s advances but recognised for the first time that it had reached “market economy” status (EurActiv 06/11/08).

Almost half of the paragraphs in the nine-page report, to be discussed and voted in the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee next Tuesday, start with the words “regrets” or “is concerned”.


The report is critical of human rights in fields such as the freedom of expression, the freedom of press, freedom and respect of different religious communities, as well as the need to find a lasting settlement of the Kurdish issue. Also, the report voices concern over “continuing hostility and violence against minorities”. Forced marriages and so-called “honour killings” are condemned in a separate paragraph.

In addition, Hurriyet reported:

The president of the European Parliament’s human rights sub-committee asked a Turkish deputy if the rights of homosexuals and transsexuals would be safeguarded in the constitution.

Helene Flautre held talks Thursday with Zafer Üskül, head of Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Commission. In response, Üskül said time and patience was needed for improvement on the issue. “I cannot say they are not experiencing any problems – but some positive developments have been seen.”

Mr Üskül, I see nothing remotely positive in the way that your Parliament condones the inhuman treatment of my trans siblings. Your vague assurances are as meaningless as your obvious complacency is unacceptable. The time is now and our patience has run out.

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