Turkey breaks company with EU in gay vote

Ankara – In an atmosphere where Turkey is being criticized for the slow pace of its EU reforms, the country refuses to sign a declaration calling all states to take steps to stop the criminalization of homosexuality, contradicting its commitments to the EU in promoting human rights

Turkey breaks company with EU in gay vote Turkey refused to sign a European Union-led declaration presented last week at the United Nations calling all states to take steps to stop the criminalization of homosexuality. The move contradicted Turkey’s commitments to the EU to promote human rights for all without any discrimination.

“It’s very frustrating for Turks who wish the state to become a member of the EU. Turkey’s position with regard to this issue is more important than Cyprus to us,” an EU ambassador told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review after it became clear that Ankara declined to join the 27 EU countries who endorsed the groundbreaking initiative.

Co-sponsored by France and the Netherlands, the declaration urged all states “to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.”

The appeal is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in Article One: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Out of 192, 66 countries signed the document, saying they “are disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The signatories “condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur,” especially “the use of the death penalty on this ground,” as well as their “arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.”

Alongside the Vatican, the initiative was strongly criticized by many Arab countries, which issued a joint counterstatement accusing of signatories of giving special prominence to gays and lesbians. Signed by 60 countries, the counterstatement suggested that protecting sexual orientation could lead to “the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts” such as pedophilia and incest.

New standards
“We note with concern the attempts to create ‘new rights’ or ‘new standards,’ by misinterpreting the Universal Declaration and international treaties to include such notions that were never articulated nor agreed by the general membership,” it said. Turkey did not sign the counterstatement either.

Recalling that the statement was turned down by the Vatican and Arab countries on the basis of religious sensitivities, an EU ambassador said Turkey’s preference in not joining the EU countries does in fact contradict with its secular order as well. “Is Turkey with Vatican or the rest of Europe?” the ambassador asked. Turkish officials were not available to comment when this report was being prepared.

The two statements remained open for further signatures, the diplomats said. According to the EU’ s progress report on Turkey, homosexual relationships between consenting adults in private are permitted in Turkey. “However, the law does not duly mention all the grounds of discrimination, such as sexual orientation, and provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on ’public exhibitionism’ and ’offences against public morality’ are sometimes used to discriminate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community,” the report read.NGOs call Turkey to sign declaration
The leading gay association in Turkey has called on the state to sign the declaration to take a step in protecting their rights.

“Turkey is the only country among the candidate members of the EU that refused to sign the declaration,” said Baris Sulu, head of Ankara-based Pembe Hayat, one of the leading Turkish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, association. “We want the government to protect and encourage everyone to protect human rights for everyone without discriminating the sexual identity or sexual tendencies,” Sulu added.

Homosexuality is not a crime according to Turkish laws. However, “we are not defined in the Turkish constitution’s prohibition of discrimination or the social and civil rights,” said Ozan Gezmis, an activist from the MorEl Eskisehir LGBT group. “We are ignored and ignorance is the utmost violence,” Gezmis said.

“Turkey should vote for human rights on this issue, if it regards itself as a European country. But, we all know this is Turkey’s contradiction, where it tries to be European while on the other hand, acting parallel to Islam countries,” Pelin Kalkan said, speaking on behalf of Ankara-based Kaos GL, another leading Turkish LGBT organization.

by Serkan Demirtas
Source – Hurriyet Daily News