Gay rights organizations in Istanbul, Turkey, expressed deep disappointment when the proposed legislation, to consider crimes against LGBT people a hate crime, failed to pass.
An employee of Istanbul’s LGBT organization expressed his dismay and the need for more understanding of hate crimes. “The definition of hate crime must immediately be broadened. The government has to guarantee our right to live,” Ebru Kiranci told Agence France-Presse.
The current law considers a hate crime on the basis of race, nationality, skin color, gender, disability, political views, beliefs or religion, and these crimes are punishable with jail time between one and three years. However, the bill submitted to Parliament on December 5 does not include sexual orientation or ethnicity as a consideration for a hate crime.
LGBT advocacy groups are up in arms about this and believe that the criminal justice code must broaden to include sexual orientation as a protected class against discrimination and violence.
Although its citizens are largely Muslim, Turkey is a secular country. Unlike many neighboring nations, it does not criminalize same-sex relationships; gender confirmation surgery and prostitution are both legal in Turkey.
In contrast, homosexuality is illegal in Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Although being gay is not officially illegal in Iraq or Egypt, it is so deeply shunned that even being perceived as homosexual could be fatal.
With that said, Turkey is not overtly accepting of the LGBT community; between 2008 and 2012 there were 36 reported murders of transgender people in Turkey, as reported by AFP. Additionally, Turkey does not include LGBT citizens under human rights protections, leaving homosexuality in a grey area to say the least.
“They [the government]turn a blind eye to murders to shore up support from their base. But we are also their support base,” explained Kiranci.
“There are people in Turkey who kill their children just because they are homosexual. This has to stop,” said foreign affairs coordinator of Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL, Murat Koylu.
Gay activists groups took part in a rally in June against the government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to draw attention to the fight for LGBT equality rights.