For the first time, hate speech on the basis of sexual orientation has been officially recognized by a court in Turkey.
Turkey’s Supreme Court recently acknowledged that calling gays ‘perverts’ is hate speech, according to the LGBTI News Turkey website that translated a Turkish-language article published on July 16 by local LGBT rights group KAOS GL.
The case was brought by attorney Sinem Hun against a local news website Habervaktim.com for publishing an article in which she was called ‘the lawyer of the association of the perverts called Kaos GL.’
The Supreme Court ruled that the website could not be penalised as the attack had been committed against the organisation and therefore did not breach the rights of the individual attorney. However it acknowledged that the text constituted hate speech.
The Court supported its decision by claiming that ‘Unless there is a call for violence or hate speech that might damage pluralistic democracy and might even destroy it, punishment which limits individuals’ freedom should be avoided.’
The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office asserted that the hate speech on the website is aimed at Kaos GL Association and not at the attorney, Sinem Hun.
It acknowledged that the expression ‘perverts’ association’ is pointed directly at the association and a ‘specific category’ of people.
The report notes for the first time it has been legally confirmed that referring to LGBTI people as ‘perverts’ is hate speech and makes them a target.
The ruling has been hailed as a step forwards for Turkey’s LGBT community.
Attorney Hayriye Kara, of the Kaos GL Association, said: ‘This court decision is the first time the Supreme Court regards hate speech as a crime and therefore for the first time hate speech has been regarded as a judicial issue.
‘This is certainly a significant decision. It is also clarified in the resolution that hate speech should have penal sanction. Moreover the judgment also shows the Court’s stance regarding hate speech. It is very important that the Court stands against hate speeches against different sexual orientations.’
While same-sex relations are not illegal in secular Turkey, homosexuality is not well accepted as its population is overwhelmingly Muslim. The capital city of Istanbul hosts the largest LGBT pride celebrations in the Muslim world.