ISTANBUL - Gay rights groups in Turkey voiced dismay Friday that proposed legislation fails to make it a hate crime to target people because of their sexual orientation.
"The definition of hate crime must immediately be broadened. The government has to guarantee our right to live," Ebru Kiranci, an official from Istanbul's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) association, told AFP.
Reforms contained in a so-called "democratisation package" call for jail terms of between one and three years for crimes based on race, nationality, skin colour, gender, disability, political views, beliefs or religion.
But the legislation submitted to parliament on Thursday notably excludes crimes based on ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Gay rights groups want changes in the criminal code to designate hate and prejudice as an aggravation cause for crimes related to sexual oriantation.
Unlike other Muslim countries, same-sex relationships have never been criminalised in Turkey, where prostitution and sex change operations are legal.
But traditional Islamic values hold sway over large sections of society in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim though secular country.
Kiranci said 36 transgender people, including six sex workers, were killed in Turkey between 2008 and 2012.
"They (the government) turn a blind eye to murders to shore up support from their base. But we are also their support base," Kiranci said.