ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that a constitutional amendment that his party will present to Turkey’s parliament will protect families from what he called “perverse trends,” appearing to take aim at global same-sex marriage laws.
Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) is preparing to submit constitutional amendments in coming days which will also ensure civil rights for women wearing headscarves.
Speaking to Islamic religious leaders, Erdogan criticised what he said was a global trend of the family unit losing its meaning.
“While the unity between woman and man based on legitimacy is scorned; perversion, immorality and crooked relationships are being encouraged intentionally,” he said.
Erdogan and AKP lawmakers have toughened their rhetoric against the LGBT community in recent years, frequently labeling members “deviants” or “perverts”.
“I view the proposal for a constitutional ammendment that we will submit to parliament in coming days as an important step in this regard,” Erdogan said.
He said he aims to “protect the family establishment from increasing threats by perverse trends”.
Kerem Dikmen, a lawyer for the LGBT rights group Kaos GL, said strengthening the constitutional rights of one part of society should not lead to loss of rights for another.
Referring to homosexual relations in a speech about families “deepens the concerns by LGBTI+ individuals, who are equal citizens of the state …in a period when hate speech against LGBTI+ individuals and hate crimes have increased,” Dikmen said.
Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, but hostility to it is widespread.
The country was once seen as a safe haven for the LGBT community in the Middle East and Istanbul was the scene of large Pride marches, with tens of thousands attending. But the marches have been effectively banned since 2015.
The AKP and their nationalist MHP allies do not have the three-fifths majority in parliament to pass constitutional amendments.
Erdogan appeared to refer to a recent vote in a state in Mexico to approve same-sex marriage, saying they would stand against such moves in Turkey.
“We are going to stand tall against these efforts (in our country) until the end and not let this Muslim society be taken over by some people,” he said.
Erdogan first brought up the amendments in response to opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who announce planned legislation to enshrine women’s right to wear headscarves. The AKP had already granted wider freedoms to women in headscarves early in its two-decade rule.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)