Post submitted by Karim, HRC Global Engagement Intern
Turkey’s Constitutional Consensus Committee agreed last Monday to include new articles into the new draft of the constitution that would expand opportunities for women and protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. If LGBT rights are included in the revised Constitution, then Turkey would become the second Muslim majority nation, behind Albania, to include the protection of sexual minorities in its constitution.
Despite the fact that this clause is intended only to be included in the preamble of the new constitution, there has been much resistance from officials of the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), who claim that the presence of sexual orientation in the draft would make it a “homosexual constitution.” In response to the proposal to include the LGBT affirming clause in the preamble, Mustafa Şentop, the AKP’s Istanbul deputy said, “We don’t find it right to have an expression concerning gays in any part of the constitution.”
The Turkish LGBT group, Kaos GL, has fought unwaveringly for over two years for the inclusion of LGBT rights in the Turkish constitution. However, even Kaos GL is doubtful that the mention of sexual orientation will actually make it into the final draft. Many speculate that the possible inclusion of sexual orientation in the preamble of constitution is just a move that will help Turkey gain membership into the European Union. LGBT advocates, like Kaos GL, are worried that even if the LGBT clause makes it into the constitution, this inclusion will not result in any tangible change for the LGBT community. The ruling AKP, in addition to the majority of the Turkish society, are likely to hold on to traditional homophobic views.
Although the possible inclusion of sexual orientation in the constitution may simply be a superficial change, there have been other more genuine signs of progress elsewhere in the country. For example, the Hurriyet Daily News reported that Turkey may soon have its first openly gay candidate to stand for political office. Can Cavusoglu, an LGBT activist, is currently running for mayor as an independent candidate in the town of Bulancak. As mayor, he hopes to further both LGBT rights and women’s equality. Although Bulancak is just one town in a largely homophobic country, if Cavusoglu wins the mayoral campaign, it could prove to be a greater milestone for LGBT rights than any superficial changes made to the constitution.