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SD (military service – sexual identity) Turkey CG [2013] UKUT 612 (IAC)

SD (military service – sexual identity) Turkey CG [2013] UKUT 612 (IAC)

Official headnote:

(1) All Turkish males are required to undergo military service but exemption can be granted on the grounds of physical or mental disability which includes “sexual identity disorder”.

(2) Homosexuality is regarded by the Turkish army as a sexual identity disorder but the perception of homosexuality in Turkey is not reduced to a person’s sexual preference but is informed by an assessment of his whole personality including his outward appearance and behaviour. It is associated with the passive role which is seen as unmanly whereas taking the active role does not attract the same disapproval and is not considered to undermine the essence of manliness.

(3) The exemption process for determining whether a recruit is entitled to exemption generally includes intrusive requirements which do not properly respect the human dignity of someone whose sexual identity would qualify him for exemption such that it can properly be categorised as degrading and involving a real risk of a breach of article 3.

(4) If during his military service a recruit (whether he has not sought exemption or has been refused) is discovered or is perceived to be homosexual as understood in Turkey, there is a reasonable degree of likelihood of ill-treatment of sufficient severity to amount to persecution on the basis of his sexual identity and there is no sufficiency of protection. The risk of such discovery or perception arising during his service will require a fact sensitive analysis of an individual’s particular circumstances including his appearance and mannerisms, the way in which he describes his sexual identity, the extent to which he fits the stereotype of a homosexual as understood within Turkish society and the extent to which he will conceal his sexual identity for reasons not arising from a fear of persecution.

(5) Any such risk likely to arise during service is not negated by the fact that there is an exemption process as that process itself carries a real risk of a breach of article 3.

(6) MS (Risk- Homosexual) Turkey CG [2002] UKIAT is no longer to be regarded as providing country guidance.

Interesting example of the tribunal getting stuck into anthropological issues in order to determine risk. However, I doubt I’m alone in feeling rather unhappy about the requirement the Upper Tribunal here imposes for asylum judges to assess “an individual’s particular circumstances including his appearance and mannerisms, the way in which he describes his sexual identity, the extent to which he fits the stereotype of a homosexual as understood within Turkish society and the extent to which he will conceal his sexual identity for reasons not arising from a fear of persecution.” It sounds pretty intrusive and demeaning and there is considerable potential for lawyers and judges to humiliate the individuals concerned, whether by accident or otherwise. It is also almost an invitation to dismiss cases because the individual concerned is the wrong sort of gay.

Colin Yeo
Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder and editor of the Free Movement immigration law website.

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