Editor’s Note: Homosexuality is criminalized in over 70 countries around the globe. In at least eight countries, being LGBT is punishable by death. As long as homosexuality is criminalized, LGBT people will continue to face violence, harassment and discrimination. These laws also prevent LGBT people from fully participating in the community or accessing public services. As part of our ongoing #DecriminalizeLGBT campaign we are featured stories from LGBT people impacted by these laws and by anti-LGBT governments. Join the #DecriminalizeLGBT campaign here.
Turkey is a country in which homosexuality is not illegal “on the books,” but in real life that’s not exactly how things play out. As Murat Renay — founder of Turkey’s biggest gay culture magazine, GZone, and an author and activist — tells Hornet, for LGBT people in Turkey, the country is a problematic home. The government, controlled by a radically conservative party, oversteps its bounds in criminalizing LGBT people.
Here is what Murat Renay has to say about life for LGBT people in Turkey:
It’s not a crime for two men to have sex in Turkey, or to crossdress, or to be transgender, or to be gay. But — and this is a big but — despite the lack of laws criminalizing these acts and identities, being LGBT in Turkey is problematic nonetheless.
In Turkey, LGBT people can always be detained under the questionable “immoral behaviour act,” particularly as the country is in a declared state of emergency since the coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
The government seems to abuse the absolute power it has during this state of emergency, and it has used that power to ban LGBT Pride parades since 2016, as well as LGBT events like movie screenings and more informal events in cities like Ankara and Istanbul.
The Turkish Republic’s constitution does not contain any protections for LGBT people, nor does it contain any laws that mention homosexuality or gay sex as a crime. But the implementation of Turkish laws in society shows otherwise.
They try to discredit us.
Criminalizing LGBT people is not done only through laws but by discrediting LGBT individuals through ungrounded speculation (relating them to terrorists) or by insulting them in the radical conservative partisan media. After pressure from the ruling party became intense three years ago, discrediting LGBT people through a variety of methods has become commonplace.
We must change our ways!
LGBT individuals in Turkey live under the pressure of the conservative ruling party, which seems to get stronger every year. But we believe there’s always hope in our movement. We must learn to change our attitude and our ways of resisting this suppression. We must shift our ways to gain more acceptance. That path will be a rocky one, but we believe one day the majority of our country will learn to respect our rights. Because we do exist!
LGBT people in Turkey need more support!
Our European and American brothers and sisters must raise their voices concerning suppression and cruelty against LGBT people in Eastern and Middle Eastern countries. The LGBT communities in these countries may not always have the power to change laws or change the social paradigm, so our allies must revolt on behalf of us. Please don’t hesitate to put a good word in for us and offer assistance in every way you can.
Support Hornet’s #DecriminalizeLGBT campaign. More info here.
All photos by Ömer Tevfik Erten