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Transgender Sex Worker in Turkey Sets Precedent in Courts

Kemalita Ördek, the executive director of the Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association, a transgender sex worker and human rights activist, was violently attacked by 3 criminals in her house in Ankara in July 2015. All 3 attackers were found guilty and sentenced.

The first attacker was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for qualified sexual assault, preventing one's liberty, verbal assault, and threatening and was immediately sent to prison after sentencing. The second attacker was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment (theft, threatening, verbal assault). The third attacker was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment (physical attack, threatening, verbal assault).

Evaluating the sentence, attorney Deniz Aksoy said “because the victim’s identity as a sex worker was taken as a basis, this penalty imposed on the ground of sexual assault will be seen as a precedent.”

In addition to the violence from perpetrators, Kemalita stated she was also mistreated by the police officers who responded to her call for help. During the police intervention the attackers continued to threaten Kemalita, and the police did not stop the abusive behavior of the perpetrators.

“I believe the perpetrators got a just judgement. The court team increased the level of sentences for the perpetrators compared to the demand of the prosecutor. The prosecutor demanded very low sentences. This was a surprise for me,”- said Kemalita, who was interviewed by NSWP’s Regional Correspondent in Europe.  

Turkey has very high rates of violence against transgender sex workers. Between January 2008 and April 2016, 43 transgender people were murdered in Turkey compared to 34 in Italy, 8 in the UK and Spain and 5 in France.

Sex work is legal in Turkey for Turkish citizen who are cisgendered woman and unmarried. Therefore, transgender sex workers are forced to work illegally in an unsafe environment.

“We carried out a powerful campaign which influenced the court team. The ministries got many letters, the prosecutor's office got many letters and they had to react to people from human rights organisations. I just want to thank to every person and organisation who supported me in this process,” concluded Kemalita.

Source: NSWP