ISTANBUL — When Turkey's family affairs minister recently described homosexuality as a curable disease, she was roundly criticized for discrimination and flouting human rights.
But for activists her remarks only underscore what they say is increasing prejudice, discrimination and violence -- even from police -- against homosexuals and transgender people in this Muslim-majority country stuck between its conservative roots and flourishing modernism.
A total of 45 gays and transgender people were killed over three years in "hate murders", said Demet Demir, a transsexual and leading activist from Istanbul-LGBTT, a civic body promoting homosexual rights.
"In February alone, five people were killed. In Antalya (southern Turkey), a transsexual friend was brutally murdered; her throat was slit.
"In Istanbul, another was stabbed to death. Three young men... killed her for money, but she only had 70 liras (46 dollars, 34 euros) and a gold chain," Demir said, adding that three gay men had also been killed in Anatolia.
The violence comes against a backdrop of clashing values in this secular democracy that is vying to join the European Union...B-b-but I thought Turkey was "modern" and "secular" and...did I mention "modern"?:
Unlike other Muslim countries, same-sex relationships have never been criminalised in Turkey. Prostitution and sex change operations are legal.Look around, Canucki gays--and while you're at it, count your blessings. In the wide and wretched world of human rights abridgement, we, the silly land of the comedy-traumatized heckling lesbian and the locked-out-of-the-ladies'-locker-room tranny, are pikers.
Several gay and transgender bars have flourished in major cities such as Istanbul, while a transsexual singer and homosexuals figure among the country's top celebrities.
There are also several associations fighting for gay and transgender rights that organize regular conferences, parades and demonstrations.
But at the same time, traditional Islamic values hold sway over large sections of this macho society, which frowns upon displays of femininity...