06/01/2005 | Writer: KAOS GL

One of Europe's largest lesbian and gay rights organisations is calling for the European Union to recognise the importance of LGBT equality when negotiating with Turkey later this year.

The International Lesbian and Gay Association, Europe (ILGA-Europe), says that while considering whether Turkey should join the union, members of the EU should ensure the country pledges to improve its treatment of sexual minorities.

Currently, Turkish legislation does not provide protection again discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, ILGA reports.

Additionally, it is the only European NATO state that still bans LGBT people from joining the army, claiming that same-sex attraction is a "psychological disorder".

Turkey is set to meet with EU member states in October this year to negotiate as to whether it will join the union, after discussions were held last month.

However, the process is a controversial one, with some questioning whether the country should join at all.

Its past stance on human rights has been highlighted by opponents, as has its large population. Conservative Christian politicians have also expressed fear over its large Islamic community - an estimated 70 million people are followers of the faith - and its impact on the traditionally Christian Europe.

However, those for it joining the EU say these factors could be beneficial to the union and other member states, helping build bridges with the Middle East and Islamic world.

ILGA-Europe's Executive Director Patricia Prendiville says she hopes the process of joining the EU will help push Turkey in the right direction of LGBT equality.

"I hope that the negotiations will stimulate the Turkish authorities to comply with the EU standards on LGBT rights and adopt necessary laws banning discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity," Ms Prendiville said in a statement.

However, she added that the EU must consider the country's current human rights record before committing itself to accession.

"I also hope the EU will pay serious attention to the human rights situation generally and to the human rights of LGBT people is particular when negotiating Turkey's accession to the EU," she said.

Original link: http://uk.gay.com/headlines/7306

Tags: human rights