18/02/2005 | Writer: KAOS GL

Turkey's gay community has called on the European Union to offer it more support, as the debate over whether the country should be included in the next batch of new member states gears up.

Representatives of the LGBT population say that while the EU has flagged up queries over Turkey's human rights record the issue of sexual diversity is often overlooked.

"When it concerns homosexuals, the issues are passed over in silence, maybe because there is no penalty for homosexuality in Turkish law," Ali Erol of KAOS GL told a conference earlier this week, according to AFP news agency.

He says that the government's decision to drop laws protecting lesbians and gay men from discrimination was not picked up on by Brussels officials, who are currently considering whether the country should join the Union.

"While everything is being questioned in the EU, no one bothered to ask where the (article on) sexual orientation vaporized," Erol said.

This is not the first time the issue of sexual diversity has been raised in the debate on Turkey, which is set to be formally considered later this year.

The International Lesbian and Gay Association has previously called for more work to be done in the country to ensure it promotes tolerance and equality among communities.

Although the country does not criminalize homosexuality, despite its strong Muslim faith, ILGA says it must face its problems with sexual diversity if it is to join the EU.

Currently, Turkish legislation does not provide protection from 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."

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," 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 in particular when negotiating Turkey's accession to the EU," she said.

After holding discussions last year, Turkish officials will meet with EU representatives in October this year to discuss signing on to the union.

Original link: http://uk.gay.com/headlines/7527

Tags: human rights