The Social Policy, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation Studies Association
SPoD was founded in 2011 in order to provide information concerning the problems of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) individuals in relation to their human rights with a special focus on their social and economic rights within the aim of contributing to policy-making processes related to their issue. The Association has wide range of activities covering the following areas: access to justice, political representation, prevention of discrimination, knowledge and data production, and social and economic rights.
SPoD is full member of the European section of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) since 2012. Among the founders of SPoD are Sedef Çakmak, Erdal Demirdağ, Osman Cihan Hüroğlu, Mehmet Tarhan, Özlem Çolak, Murat Çekiç, Cenk Soyer, Volkan Yılmaz, who were already well-known human rights and LGBTI rights activists as well as academics working on LGBTI rights issues. SPoD’s advisory board consists of Ayşe Buğra (B.Ü.), Ayşen Candaş (B.Ü.), Melek Göregenli (E.Ü.), Sevgi Usta Sayıta (İ.Ü.), Deniz Yükseker (K.Ü.), Hülya Gülbahar (Lawyer-Women Platform for the Constitution), İpek İlkkaracan (İTÜ), İbrahim Betil (TOG), Sema Kılıçer (European Commission), Ayşegüll Altınay (SÜ), Yasemin İnceoğlu (GSÜ), Banu Güven (Journalist), Nurhan Yentürk (BİLGİ), Serra Müderrisoğlu (BÜ), Habibe Yılmaz Kayar (Lawyer-KAHDEM), Ayşe Dilek Ertükel (NDI), İdil Işıl Gül (BİLGİ), Koray Başer (Psychiatrist) and Yasemin Ağırdır (KONDA).
SPoD’s impact on the LGBTI rights agenda in Turkey has been substantial. Most critical contribution of SPoD has been its successful campaigning on the recognition of LGBTI individuals as equal citizens of Republic of Turkey in the new Constitution Making process. In doing so, SPoD was the first LGBTI organization that published its comprehensive views on the constitution making process as well as the content of the new Constitution. The Parliamentary Commission on the New Constitution officially invited SPoD members to express their views on the new Constitution in the Parliament. Despite the governing party’s insisted denial of LGBTI demands so far, SPoD has succeeded in bringing LGBTI equality into the mainstream public discussions on the new Constitution. In addition to the political support of MPs from the Peace and Democracy Party, SPoD also worked hard to start cooperation with MPs from the Republican People’s Party and it succeeded to extend the political ally base of the LGBTI rights movement.
Secondly, SPoD has carried out a comprehensive project that aimed at empowering LGBTI individuals to access to justice. As a part of this project, SPoD trained 75 lawyers from all around Turkey on LGBTI rights. In addition to this, SPoD established a network of lawyers that voluntarily started to provide legal services for LGBTI individuals. SPoD’s voluntary lawyers have been quite active in several critical incidents (i.e. attacks on trans sex workers women in Avcılar). As a part of the project SPoD’s voluntary lawyers have been following 10 exemplary court cases. Meanwhile, SPoD succeeded in becoming intervener to the court case of a hate murder of a young gay man in Diyarbakır.
Third significant contribution of SPoD to the LGBTI rights movement in Turkey had been its activities for the empowerment of LGBTI individuals in the political sphere. With this objective, SPoD organized the first School of Politics for LGBTIs. In this school, well-known experts including Fuat Keyman, Pınar Selek, Ümit Şahin, Ercan Karakaş and Melda Onur delivered lectures to the LGBTI community in İstanbul. Following this initiative, SPoD determined the need of political discussion in the LGBTI movement and the occasion of the local elections in 2014 provided an important opportunity to launch the project entitled “Bringing LGBTI rights perspective into local politics in Turkey”. Within the scope of this project, SPoD’s School of Politics brought together LGBTI activists and organization representatives from Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Eskişehir, Adana, Mersin, Antep, Dersim and Diyarbakir. The overall aim of this school was to inform participants on LGBTI’s political representation and participation mechanisms and to encourage them to become candidate for municipal council membership. 5 participants out of 20 from the School became candidate for municipal council membership from different parties with their open gay, lesbian and transgender identities. SPoD has also prepared the “Protocol for LGBTI-friendly Municipality” to remind the municipalities their responsibilities for instituting LGBTI equality. The Protocol has been signed by 40 mayor candidates from different parties such as People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Peace and Democracy Party (BDP); Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey Communist Party (TKP) and Democratic Left Party (DSP). There were 5 metropolitan mayor candidates among them. After the local elections of 2014, SPoD has continued the monitoring activities in Istanbul, as well as in Izmir, Mersin, Adana and Diyarbakır.
In addition to above working fields, SPoD has done monthly group therapy meetings for transgender individuals, as well as the trainings of LGBTI issues for mental health workers. As a result of these trainings, a network of voluntary therapists for LGBTI clients has been created, which is a pioneer work for LGBTI individuals’ access to mental health.
SPoD’s activities on LGBTI prisoners and LGBTIs with disabilities which have recently started also aim to fill a very important gap in the LGBTI movement.