A presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş of the People’s Democracy Party, has this week launched his party’s ‘Call for a New Life’, a political manifesto calling for equality and freedom in all of Turkish society.
Talking at a press conference in Istanbul Demirtaş discussed his party’s vision for sexual freedom in Turkey. “The existence of LGBTI is perceived as a crime” he told those gathered “Homophobia and transphobia are being fed. The ‘call for a new life’ is for sexual freedom in society.”
Demirtaş spoke critically of the current climate of repression towards LGBTI individuals while stating a need for ‘radical democracy’ to address the problem. Issues mentioned in the press conference also included the murders of women and the oppression of trans and LGB people in Turkey.
The People’s Democracy Party is a minority party within Turkey with just 28 seats in Turkish parliament. As a party known for their pro-minority and feminist ideals the party remains one of the only political voices in Turkey to openly support the country’s LGBTI population.
Views expressed by Demirtaş and his party stand in stark contrast to the mainstream political consensus. Ekmelettin İhsanoğlu, one of the main presidential candidates, earlier this year claimed that homophobia was not a universal issue – while members of the current government have continued to claim that homosexuality was a sickness and perversion.
Although Turkey is a secular government its society is largely conservative and religious and homophobia and transphobia are common. Turkey however remains one of the most progressive countries in the Caucasus as well as one of the most LGBT friendly in the Muslim world. The People’s Democracy Party’s new openly friendly stance on LGBTI issues signals a change in the political views of mainstream society that perhaps indicates a move towards tolerance and acceptance in Turkey.