Are you dreaming of the beautiful cliffs of the Anatalya coast or the hustle and bustle of the Grand Bazaar? Then you’re probably looking forward to a tip to Turkey, plush with cultural and culinary delights. But you may also be wondering about LGBTQ rights in Turkey. Is Turkey safe for gay and lesbian travelers? In reality, the situation is complicated. Homosexuality and changes in gender identity are legal, while gay marriage and gay adoption in Turkey are not. There are no protections against discrimination, and the population is largely hostile and unaccepting towards the LGBTQ community.
By maintaining the legalization of homosexuality itself, Turkey sets itself apart from its ultra-conservative Middle Eastern neighbors to the south, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Qatar. Yet the lack of gay marriage and rampant discriminatory attitudes among Turkish people show that gay rights in Turkey are lacking in comparison to most other European nations, including Spain or Belgium.
LGBTQ people in Turkey are subjected to frequent discrimination and harassment, from the family to the workplace and beyond. According to ILGA-Europe, Turkey has a rating of 5% in terms of overall LGBTQ rights, placing it in position 48 among 49 European countries. Additionally a lack of anti-descrimination laws means LGBTQ people can also be subject to descrimination in the housing and employment sectors.
The Ottoman Empire, Turkey’s imperial precursor, legalized homosexuality in 1858. This law remained in place after the formation of the modern Turkish state in 1923. In 1988, trans people also won the right to officially change their gender. Since then, however, little progress has been made, and the lack of anti-discrimination laws has seen an increase in violence against LGBTQ people.
But you’re still likely asking, “is Turkey safe for LGBTQ travelers?” And what about the big cities? Is Istanbul safe for gay and lesbian travelers? In reality, it is. Visitors should be cautious when demonstrating affection during the day, but the city is nonetheless safe. For bars and clubs, head to the gay area in Istanbul, which is around Taksim. And how about the capital? Is Ankara safe for gay and lesbian travelers? While the city made headlines for banning all LGBTQ events in 2017, you should still be able to enjoy your visit without any issues. There is no gay area in Ankara, but there is a gay club and several LGBTQ organizations that support the local community, and attempt to build LGBTQ awareness locally.
Istanbul’s pride parade began in 2003, with only a few dozen participants. In the following years, it grew into a huge event attracting tens of thousands of people every summer. In 2013, over 100,000 people attended. Since then, however, the government has begun banning the parade, citing safety concerns. In 2019, a small group of demonstrators attempted to hold the parade anyway, and they met persecution and repression via tear gas and plastic bullets. This harrowing tale may make you wonder, "is Turkey safe for LGBTQ travelers?" If you avoid such demonstrations and take precautions, it should be.
The rampant discrimination is a serious concern regarding LGBTQ rights in Turkey, but you can still enjoy a trip to this gorgeous country. Is Turkey safe for gay and lesbian travelers? Yes, it is, and by booking with misterb&b you ensure safe and reliable accommodations. So whether you find yourself strolling through the charming Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, or you’re looking to explore the hidden gems of Ankara, Turkey will certainly leave a lasting impression when it comes to unique and fascinating countries to visit in Europe. Just exercise a little common sense, and you too will be able to enjoy all this country has on offer safely.