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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 30, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 39
Turkish official in first-time meeting with LGBT group
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Turkish official in first-time meeting with LGBT group

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Turkey's Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatima Sahin met with community organizations on September 21, including the Pembe Hayat (Pink Life) Association - Turkey's largest LGBT organization.

According to Today's Zaman, a Turkish English-language newspaper, it was the first time an LGBT organization was invited to a government-sponsored meeting.

The meeting was one in a series of consultations by government officials preparing to introduce a new constitution when Parliament reconvenes next year.

According to LGBT Asylum News, pro-LGBT Turkish Parliament member Aylin Nazliaka asked for LGBT groups to be represented in the consultations.

Pembe Hayat spokesperson Belgin Celik told reporters following the meeting that she had submitted a proposal for the acceptance of LGBT individuals in the new constitution.

Sahin was reportedly receptive to the suggestion.

'We would like to actively work with you, and your participation and suggestions will help us learn and acknowledge the problems you face,' she told Pembe Hayat.

Sahin also called on Parliament to include LGBT rights in the new constitution.

'If freedom and equality is for everybody, then sexual orientation discrimination should be eliminated and rights of these [LGBT] citizens should be recognized,' the minister said.

While the ruling Justice and Development Party is a moderate Islamist party, it has promised that the new constitution will make Turkey more democratic.

However, Sahin's meeting with Pembe Hayat came against a background of ongoing discrimination, including censorship of LGBT websites.

According to the LGBT Asylum News website, access to the websites of a number of LGBT organizations is blocked, even for members of Parliament, and they can be unblocked only after a written request has been submitted to the government.

According to a representative of the LGBT organization Lambda Istanbul, even the words 'Gay' or 'Lesbian' are blocked from Turkish websites.

'BTK (The Information Technologies and Communication Authority) has determined some banned words from domain names. 'Gay' and 'Lesbian' are on this list,' Lambda Istanbul said.

'Pembe Hayat (Pink Life) Association, an LGBT organization in Ankara, has been warned by their web hosting company saying their website might be shut down. There is no pornographic content whatsoever on Pembe Hayat's website but they have been warned just because they use those words.'

In June Amnesty International published Not an Illness Nor a Crime: LGBT People in Turkey Demand Equality.

According to Amnesty International's report, 'Not a single provision has been brought before Parliament to protect the right to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Instead, there has been a long line of discriminatory statements by government officials from which the government has failed to distance itself or issue apologies for.'

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