On behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to join you through video for this 2010 Trans Remembrance Day in Turkey.
Unfortunately, despite my personal desire, technical problems did not allow me to be in Ankara for the trans remembrance gathering. However, I want to assure you that I am with you in spirit and hope that a stronger alliance and better partnership emerges from this series of events.
During the past few years, Pink Life has played a significant role in leading the struggle for equal rights and fair treatment of our transgender brothers and sisters in Turkey. Despite limited resources, pervasive social and cultural stereotypes, and lack of legal support, Pink Life successfully championed the causes of transgender people in Turkey.
As someone who has seen and heard horror stories about the daily challenges transgender population faces in the Republic of Turkey, I applaud the heroic work Pink Life has done on behalf of the transgender community, especially in the following areas.
- Legal reform. As long as discrimination is allowed and encouraged by the law, there is little hope that all citizens will be treated equally. The government of Turkey should understand that its transgender population deserves full respect and equality, similar to other members of the society. To remedy this problem, a necessary first step is to eliminate discriminatory laws, such as the law of misdemeanor. The LGBT community also demands the introduction of protective laws that forbid discrimination and abuse based on perceived or real sexual orientation.
- Raising cultural awareness. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation about sexual orientation, especially on transgender people, in the Turkish society. As long as families disown their transgender members, and torture or even murder them to protect the so-called honor of the family, we cannot have a safe environment. There is a desperate need to educate the public, through media and public educational system about the facts of sexual orientation and the way to approach family members who have different sexual identity, and
- Economic justice. It is not possible to live with both dignity and respect as a trans person if little or no economic opportunity is available. Employment discrimination and lack of access to education and professional careers are great obstacles for transgender equality. Society should acknowledge the limited access of the trans population to a source of income; and should work with the trans community to improve this devastating situation.
Turkey is an important and ancient civilization, whose influence is felt throughout Middle East and Central Asia. In the past two decades, the country has made significant progress in promoting human rights and adhering to international standards. But when it comes to LGBT rights, there is still a long way to go. A tolerant, LGBT-friendly and open-minded Turkey would not only help its own sexual minorities, but it could also become a role model for other Turkish-speaking and Muslim countries in the region. This is why your work is so important not just at home, but in the struggle for human rights around the world.
I stand with you in solidarity.
Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission