Turkey’s Constitutional Court rules in favor of LGBT activist in landmark hate speech case

Turkey's Constitutional Court

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled in favor of LGBT activist Efruz Kaya, declaring that a lower court’s refusal to block homophobic content targeting her was a violation of her rights.

Kaya, a civil society employee represented by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), had requested an access ban on homophobic news reports published after she appeared in a video for “Trans Day of Remembrance” week in November 2019. Her requests were denied by the Penal Court of Peace, prompting her to appeal to the top court.

The decision is the first of its kind from the Constitutional Court regarding the failure to prevent hate speech against LGBT individuals.

The ruling acknowledges that the rejection of Kaya’s request for an access ban infringed on her rights protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which ensures respect for private and family life.

The court also concluded that her right to an effective remedy was violated, meaning she was not provided with an adequate legal resolution or recourse to address the harm she suffered.

In November 2019 Kaya participated in a “Trans Day of Remembrance” video. On November 21 and 22 the Yeni Akit, Doğru Haber and İlke news outlets published articles targeting Kaya’s sexual identity. Her request for the removal of these articles was rejected, and subsequent appeals by MLSA lawyers were also dismissed.

The top court approved Kaya’s request to block access to news reports containing derogatory terms such as “LGBT pervert” and “homosexual deviant.” Additionally, the court awarded Kaya TL 10,000 ($310) in non-pecuniary damages.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread. While there are no official figures, Turkey has slid down the LGBT rights index published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). Last year, it was ranked 47th out of the 49 countries ILGA lists in its Eurasia region.

The increase in hateful rhetoric against LGBT communities in Turkey coincided with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s electoral alliances in recent years with ultranationalist and ultraconservative political factions.

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