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Sex, Sexuality & Gender Issues

This guide was written by Francine Carrel, Assistant Editor of Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

It was written on 16 February 2017. The law and practice in Turkey change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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The scope of this guide

This guide is about sex, sexuality and gender equality in Turkey.

Introduction

Turkey is quite a traditional and conservative country, despite being progressive in some areas.

Though secular in part, Turkey is still home to a large conservative religious population, which a foreigner should keep in mind. Turkey is not a country in which to flaunt your sexuality. It's definitely unwise if you're not hetereosexual.

The age of consent in Turkey

The age of sexual consent in Turkey is 18 years old, for both heterosexual and homosexual sexual activity.

Recent rumours that the age of consent had been lowered to 12 were quickly proved false.

LGBQT issues in Turkey

The long-established legality of homosexuality in Turkey stands in contrast to the lack of protection against discrimination, lack of legal recognition of partnerships, and the worrying incidents of intolerance and hatred.

You won't find a 'gay scene' anywhere in Turkey except Istanbul - and even there it's limited. Find out about Istanbul's gay scene here.

See list of LGBTQ associations in Turkey here.

Gay rights in Turkey

Homosexuality was decriminalised in the Ottoman Empire, predecessor of Turkey, in 1858. Homosexual acts were legal from the very beginning of modern Turkey, in 1923.

Despite this, Turkey has not bolstered gay rights with anti-discrimination laws. This has lead to instances of gay people losing their job because of their sexual orientation.

The European Committee on Social Rights concluded in 2013 that:

Turkey has failed to demonstrate that persons alleging discrimination in particular on grounds of age or sexual orientation are adequately protected.

Furthermore, there is no legal recognition of homosexual partnerships (neither domestic partnerships nor civil unions), and certainly no gay marriage.

Istanbul's 2016 Pride parade was been halted by the government, who said the decision was:

...for the safety of our citizens, first and foremost the participants’, and for public order.

LGBT associations were not allowed to make press statements about the ban.

Transgender rights in Turkey

Transsexuals have been able to legally change their gender since 1988.

Public attitudes towards LGBQT people in Turkey

Many people in Turkey are prejudiced against gay and transgender people. Public displays of affection in a homosexual relationship are perhaps unwise.

Just 46% of Turks surveyed in 2015 said they wanted some form of legal recognition (be it civil union or marriage) for same sex couples.

Hate crimes against the LGBQT community in Turkey

In 2015, ccording to the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR):

Transgender Europe, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Human Rights First reported one murder. Transgender Europe reported two additional murders; four sexual assaults; 33 physical assaults, 21 of which involved the use of a weapon, eight of which were committed by a group and two in which a weapon was used. Transgender Europe also reported three threats, an arson attack, one incident of damage to property, one robbery and two incidents of thefts accompanied by threats.

Homosexuality in the Turkish military

Although Turkey has compulsory military service for men, it bars homosexual men from entering the forces. If a gay man admits his sexual orientation, he will be labelled 'unfit' for service. This can be risky in itself, as there have been cases of information leaks.

Women's rights in Turkey

Turkey is a traditional and patriarchal society in many respects, but women in Turkey enjoy some solid legal rights.

Women in Turkey gained full universal suffrage in 1934 - earlier than in most countries.

In 2004, Article 10 of the Turkish Consitution was amended to specify that:

Men and women have equal rights. The state shall have the obligation to ensure that this equality exists in practice

Marital rape was criminalised in Turkey in 2005.

Women in politics in Turkey

Turkey has 82 female MPs - 14.9% of the total.

There has been one female Turkish Prime Minister: Tansu Çiller, of the DYP. She served as Prime Minister from 1993-1996.

There has never been a female Turkish president.

Honour killings lightbulb image in Turkey

The Council of Europe estimated that over 200 women were killed in honor killings in Turkey in 2007.

Honour killings have become a bigger problem in cities since people from rural, conservative parts of Turkey started migrating to urban areas en masse.

Expats' Tips

Email office@guides.global with your experiences of sex and gender issues in Turkey.

Conclusion

Turkey can be a difficult place to live if you're openly gay or transgender.

Attitudes towards women will change depending on the region or the social group.

Other guides of interest

 Description Link 
Turkey Country Guide
Essential facts and figures about Turkey
Click to see this guide
Cultural Differences in Turkey
What to expect from people and businesses.
Click to see this guide

You may also want to read:

 Description Link 
Hate Crime in Turkey
Country overview from ODIHR
Hate Crime in Turkey
LGBT Organisations in Turkey
Directory of support groups and associations
LGBT Organisations in Turkey

Readers' Comments

 

Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Francine Carrel

16 February 2017


 

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