The Turkish military has relaxed a policy that until now had humiliated gay men seeking to avoid military conscription by forcing them to undergo medical examinations and even take photos of themselves having sex with men before they were believed.
Turkey has compulsory military service for all male citizens between the ages of 20 and 41 and those drafted must serve for between six and twelve months depending on their level of education.
The only people exempt from service are the disabled, people with a medical condition and homosexuals and until now the Turkish armed forces have forced gay men to ‘prove’ their identity before exempting them from the draft.
Turkey’s Armed Forces Physical Capabilities Regulation code categorizes homosexuality as a ‘psychosexual disorder’ and states that those whose ‘sexual manners and behavior cause or are expected to cause problems of adaptation and functionality in a military environment’ should be excluded from service.
In future those claiming an exemption on the grounds of their homosexuality will still need to be observed by a doctor who will hear their declaration of their sexual orientation and then make a decision based on that declaration alone.
If a gay conscript does wish to serve in the military all they have to do is not disclose their sexual orientation but if it is discovered or disclosed at a later time they still risk expulsion.
However, while the process of obtaining an exemption from military service has been simplified, getting an exemption also means having your sexual orientation listed on your official record which could lead to future discrimination.
A 27-year-old gay man, ‘Ahmet,’ told Al-Monitor that being of draft age was a big concern for young gay Turkish men.
‘The medical examination [to determine fitness] for military service is perhaps the first challenge in your life that forces you to make a choice between your gay identity and social realities,’ Ahmet said.
‘In that examination, we can get an “unfit report,” which we call the “pink certificate.” But getting this report means that you disclose and document your gay identity. And in your life afterward, this means social exclusion, loss of job opportunities, no chance of becoming a public employee, increasing snubs and pressure from your social environment or, in short, you ruin your life.’