Turkey: where being gay or transgender can get you killed

A new report we’ve launched today reveals that hate crimes in Turkey towards gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, including violent attacks and murders, are prevalent but largely ignored by the authorities. Transgender women are at particular risk of such attacks. People are often compelled to conceal their sexuality from employers, officials and their own families due to fear of violence and prejudice.

Why? People’s attitudes, for sure. But also the failure of the law to offer protection. With much talk of constitutional change following Turkey’s recent presidential election, we’re calling for anti-discrimination to be a big part of any new constitutional settlement.

Transgender women suffer more than most. Denied work because of discrimination, many are forced into the sex “industry”, where they are exposed even more to violence and abuse.

A 2010 survey of transgender people in Turkey found that 89% of those questioned said they’d been assaulted by police while in pre-charge detention. Amnesty’s research backs up these findings. We also found that transgender women have had fines issued against them by the police without any apparent reason.

Eylül is a 24-year-old transgender sex worker, featured in the report. In February this year at around 9.30pm, she received a call from a man claiming to be a client. When he arrived at her house, though, she recognised him as the man who had been allegedly involved in assaults and thefts against other transgender women and gay men.

She asked him to leave but the man refused and after many threats of violence, Eylül was raped. She made a criminal complaint and was referred to a forensic medicine department for a physical and psychological assessment. On 17 February, she told Amnesty that another transgender woman sex worker had been assaulted by the same man and had needed six stitches on her stomach after being attacked with a knife.  

Such violent attacks sadly aren’t isolated occurrences. Last year, LGBT organisations in Turkey reported 16 murders of people reportedly due to their sexuality or gender identity:  nine gay men and seven transgender women. Frequently the alleged killer said, as justification, that the victim had requested or initiated sex. This is a common defence: courts have given criminals reduced sentences when they claimed to have been provoked by the victim making homosexual advances towards them. Does this really justify murdering another human being?

Check out this moving five-minute film on Vimeo.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey deserve to be protected by the police and the courts just as everyone else. Discriminating against people because of their sexuality or gender identity should be against the law. Violence against LGBT people is never acceptable. People who commit these “hate crimes’” should be brought to justice: they are criminals, and shouldn’t be treated differently because their victims are gay or transgender.

Please support the Amnesty petition to outlaw LGBT discrimination in Turkey. Meanwhile look out for Amnesty at the Pride season again this year. Check back here for latest news and updates.

 

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