Legal recognition of transgender people in Turkey: will the court seize the historic opportunity?
| By Sinem Hun
A couple of months ago, a local court judge in Edirne filed a plea to the Court of Constitution of Turkey to revoke the compulsory sterilization requirement for the recognition of transgender people.
The judge argued that in Edirne the compulsory sterilization requirement stated in the article 40 of the Turkish Civil Code regulating legal recognition of transgender people constitutes a human rights violation and therefore should be cancelled. The news quickly spread over the LGBTI community and NGOs that have been working for years to fight against this horrendous and unfair requirement and ultimately, they all rejoiced with the news when on June 14, the Court of Constitution decided to review the plea.
This constituted a late but nonetheless huge victory!
For long, precisely since 2002, the transgender community in Turkey has been subjected to unlawful limitations over their bodies and sexual reproductive rights which actually fall under the guarantee of the articles 17 and 20 of the Turkish Constitution and the article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that was signed in 1954 and ratified in 1990 by the Turkish State.
The famous article 40 of the Turkish Civil Code, titled ‘change of gender’ reads as follows:
‘Any person who wants to alter his or her sex, he or she may request to be given permission for alteration of gender by applying to the court in person. But the applicant must have completed the age of eighteen years, be unmarried, being transsexual by nature and must document indispensability of gender alteration in respect to his or her mental health and his or her permanent infertility through a report of a board of health provided from a medical education and research hospital. In case of confirmation through an official board of health report that a gender reassignment surgery has been undertaken, in conformity with the medical purpose and procedure and in parallel with given permission, the change of gender may be decided to be done as a required correction in civil status registers by the court’Compulsory sterilization was entered into force as a legal requirement under theDSP (Democratic Left Party) –MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) coalition government. It was the proposition of the infamous minister of justice at that time, Hikmet Sami Türk who comes to mind as the mastermind behind the ‘Hayata Dönüş operasyonu’ (operation for revival): when police raided prisons in order to forcefully end political hunger strikes in 2000. Many were killed as a result of the operation.