12/03/2010 | Writer: KAOS GL

March 10, 2010
Hurriyet Daily News

Health Minister Recep Akdag, who earlier came to attention for his public disagreements with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the swine flu vaccination campaign, has clashed this time with his family affairs colleague over homosexuality.

Contradictory statements on homosexuality from two members of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, have revealed a crack in the government's attitude toward the matter.

Turkey's Health Minister Recep Akdag said Wednesday the issue should be handled within the scope of individual freedoms, suggesting a different approach than his colleague State Minister Selma Aliye Kavaf, who is responsible for women's and family affairs.

Kavaf said last week that homosexuality is a biological disorder and a disease that needs treatment. "Therefore, I do not have a positive opinion of gay marriage," she said in an interview with the daily Hürriyet in a supplement this past Sunday. Kavaf also said her ministry does not have an agenda for gay marriage and that there is no demand for such a motion.

Appearing more open on the issue, Akdag said, "The cultural and family structure of Turkey creates more difficulties for homosexuals and society should be more tolerant in handling the issue."

Akdag also highlighted the importance of appropriate sexual education for children that will help them develop their sexual identity.

Akdag again challenging colleagues

Akdag's recent opposition to Kavaf's remarks was reminiscent of an earlier outburst during the vaccination campaign for the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, in which he quarreled with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the issue.

The health minister had made insistent calls for citizens to acquire vaccinations against the swine flu in November, during which time fatalities were visibly increasing.

Although Akdag received the injection in front of cameras, Erdogan publicly chided his minister for his insistent vaccine calls, arguing that the medicine should not be optional and not compulsory.

Erdogan subsequently said he would not receive the vaccination.

Erdogan's declaration inflamed an already-heated political and medical debate as politicians and health authorities remained divided over the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Erdogan's stance also raised public concerns about the reliability of the vaccine, while opposition parties criticized the health minister for failing to persuade the prime minister to accept the vaccine.

The November exchanges signaled a change in the Akdag's public persona, who, until that point, had been known as a technocrat rather than a politician.

Akdag was again brought to the public's attention for his self-critical remarks on the plight of state hospitals after a Monday earthquake hit villages in the eastern Turkish province of Elazig, killing 41 people and destroying many stone and mud-brick buildings.

The minister said Tuesday in a televised interview that it was impossible to say whether all hospital buildings in Turkey were strong enough to sustain an earthquake.
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