Turkey has ratified the following documents:
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
  • International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • International Covenant Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The following documents further define the obligations of Turkey:
  • Beijing +5: Further Actions and Initiatives to Implement the Beijing Platform for Action
  • Beijing Platform for Action
  • Cairo Programme of Action
  • UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) Declaration of Commitment
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The documents listed above require Turkey to protect and promote the following rights:

Right to development
Right to education
Right to equal protection of the law
Right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment
Right to highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
Right to housing
Right to just and favorable work conditions
Right to liberty and security of the person
Right to life and survival
Right to marry and found a family
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of age
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of disability (i.e. HIV positive)
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of marital status
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of race and ethnicity
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of sex and gender
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation
Right to private and family life
Right to receive and impart information
Right to the benefits of scientific progress

Constitutional Protection of Rights

The Constitution of Turkey can be viewed at http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/tu00000_.html

The Constitution of Turkey is an important tool for the protection and promotion of human rights. It expressly requires Turkey to respect human rights principles.

The Constitution enables Turkey to translate international agreements into domestic law, and obliges all branches of government to respect and ensure the rights it enunciates.

The Constitution provides for the protection of the following rights, among others. This empowers individuals in making reproductive health decisions, and helps create the economic and social conditions conducive to good sexual and reproductive health.

Right to education (art. 42)
Right to the equal protection of the laws (art. 10)
Right to freedom of association (art. 33)
Right to freedom of expression (art. 26)
Right to freedom of movement (art. 23)
Right to freedom from torture and "ill-treatment" (art. 17)
Right to freely establish enterprises (art. 48)
Right to health (art. 56)
Right to a healthy environment (art. 56)
Right to housing (art. 57)
Right to inherit (art. 35)
Right to liberty and security (art. 19)
Right to just and favorable work conditions (art. 50)
Right to life (art. 17)
Right to non discrimination on grounds of race (art. 10)
Right to non discrimination on grounds of sex (art. 10)
Right to participate in the political life of the country (art. 67(1)
Right to own private property (art. 35)
Right to private and family life (art. 20)
Right to receive and impart information (art. 26)
Right to seek and obtain redress for the violation of rights (art. 40)
Right to social security (art. 60)
Right to work (art. 49)

The Constitution includes other provisions that promote and protect rights relevant for good sexual and reproductive health.

The Constitution obliges Turkey to:

  • protect mothers and children, and ensure the welfare of the family (art. 41)
  • provide education in family planning (art. 41(2))
  • protect the disabled and ensure their integration in family life (art. 61(2))
    What does that entail? Whether this provision could apply to protect persons living with or affected by HIV/AIDS requires more research. For additional research and information, please contact the Human Rights Working Group.
  • "regulate central planning and functioning of health services," in order to ensure that everyone enjoys mental and physical health, and to ensure "cooperation in terms of human and material resources through economy and increased productivity" (art. 56(3)).
  • utilize and monitor health and social assistance institutions for the regulation of central planning and functioning of health services (art. 56(3))
  • aim to ensure the welfare of the individual and society, and to provide the conditions necessary for the development of the individual (art. 5)
  • seek to remove political, social and economical obstacles that restrict human rights (art. 5)
    What does that entail? This provides a particularly useful argument for the modification of policies that pose barriers to access to health care.

In addition the Constitution authorizes Turkey to introduce general health insurance in order to "establish widespread health services" (art. 56(4)).

The Constitution provides for the accountability of public officials in case of violations of rights (art. 40(2)).

Why is that important? It is the value added of human rights to public health to make public authorities accountable for failing to ensure rights. Accountability is also a mechanism to ensure implementation of policies and laws, including those adopted to further individual rights. For additional information or research please contact the Human Rights Working Group.

However, the Constitution allows restrictions to rights in certain cases.

The Constitution authorizes Turkey to restrict rights if the restrictions do not conflict with its spirit and letter (art. 13). Under its Constitution, Turkey may restrict rights in order to protect public health, particularly:

  • the right to physical integrity in case of medical necessity (art. 17(2))
  • the right to liberty and security in the case of drug addicts or "a person spreading contagious diseases," in order to provide them with treatment, education or correction in institutions (art. 19(2))
    What do restrictions entail? By authorizing restrictions, it is acknowledged that Turkey may be confronted with situations that will entail an infringement on rights. In such situations, Turkey may take measures to address a public health problem without violating its own constitution.

    Restrictions are authorized under international law if all of the following conditions are met:

    1. the restriction is provided for and carried out in accordance with the law
    2. the restriction is in the interest of a legitimate objective of general interest (e.g., the protection of public health)
    3. the restriction is strictly necessary in a democratic society to achieve the objective
    4. there are no less restrictive means available to reach the same objective
    5. the restriction is not drafted or imposed arbitrarily, i.e. in an unreasonable or otherwise discriminatory manner