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LGBTI News Turkey - 13 April 2014

Source: Damla Yur, “Eşcinsellere Ayrı Cezaevi Yolda” (“Towards Homosexual-Only Prisons”), Milliyet, 13 April 2014, http://gundem.milliyet.com.tr/escinsellere-ayri-cezaevi-yolda/gundem/detay/1866198/default.htm

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ declared that there is an initiation to establish a special prison to hold prisoners and detainees with alternative sexual orientations. The prison plan received negative reactions for the reason that it would alienate LGBT individuals from social life…

The Ministry of Justice has begun the initiation for the establishment of a special LGBT prison for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual inmates who are, at the time, held in “pink wards.” Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ declared that the project has begun to build a prison to hold prisoners and detainees with alternative sexual orientations. This project, which has no precedent anywhere in the world, was met with criticism for reasons that it would “alienate LGBT individuals from socializing environments.”

First came the pink wards

Until recently, there were no specific practices to segregate prisoners or detainees with different sexual orientations. When transvestites or homosexuals committed a crime and were sent to prison, the prison administration would consult with the Ministry of Justice to inquire about the section to place these inmates through the method of “telephone diplomacy.” Due to some problems, the Ministry performed various changes in prison regulations and paved the way for the establishment of “pink wards” for inmates with different sexual orientations. A clause was added to the regulations stating that “prisoners with alternate sexual orientations would be placed in separate cells or wards.” This brought about a permanent solution in relation to the situation of prisoners and detainees with different sexual orientations in Turkey.

The problems of prisoners and detainees with different sexual orientations were then addressed through a parliamentary question. CHP (Republican People’s Party) deputy for Malatya Veli Ağbaba requested from Minister Bozdağ to reply to his parliamentary question which included the following: “It is a known fact that LGBT inmates are segregated from other prisoners for their own safety. Is the Ministry planning to work towards resolving this problem or will the Ministry turn a blind eye to the de facto isolation of LGBT individuals in prison?”

“The purpose is to ensure safety”

The Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ replied to the parliamentary question asserting that this practice was aimed at protecting individuals with different sexual orientations and at ensuring their safety. Minister Bozdağ said, “The current planning in penal institutions is geared towards making sure that prisoners and detainees with different sexual orientations do not mix with other prisoners and detainees in shared spaces and during social activities. Also, there is an ongoing project to build a separate penal institution for prisoners and detainees with different sexual orientations.” There is no precedent for an LGBT-only prison anywhere in the world.

There are currently 81 LGBT prisoners or detainees

Sources indicate that, as of the end of 2013, there are 81 individuals who have alternate sexual orientations in various prisons. Their crimes are varied: “22 are in for homicide, 30 for looting, 14 for theft, 6 for drugs, 3 for sexual assault, 2 for trespassing, 2 for credit card fraud, 1 for damaging public property and 1 for bodily harm.”

“The segregation would be a breach of human rights”

When the Ministry of Justice declared that there was a project to build a separate prison for LGBT persons, this reignited public conversation about “discrimination.” Representatives from organizations dedicated to protect the rights of LGBTI persons have expressed negative reactions. Mustafa Eren, project coordinator for the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (Ceza İnfaz Sisteminde Sivil Toplum Derneği – CISST) stated: “Wards are segregated at the moment. The justification for this is “safety.” The envisioned project aims to completely separate penal institutions. The only justification, once again, is “safety.” To separate these prisoners and detainees would only exacerbate the wrong and would result in completely isolating them from social life. This project would result in stigmatizing both the LGBTI prisoners and their visitors. In our opinion, this project is unacceptable.”

Fırat Söyle, lawyer for the NGO SPoD (Social Policy, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association) declared: “The attempt to build a ‘homosexuals-only’ prison is akin to segregating Muslims and Christians in the prison system. It would be a discriminatory practice. Such a project would entirely defy universal human rights. This practice would result in transferring some individuals to the new prison. One must take into consideration if these people are out in their homes or social circles. Perhaps the new implementation would not be too problematic for those who are out. But it would work towards exposing the other ones. Also, how is one to decide on the criteria for being placed in this new institution? Are they going to ask prisoners or detainees about their sexual orientation before they send them to prison? LGBTI persons are already being mistreated in prisons. With this new project, they may be vulnerable to suffer even worse. Building an LGBTI-only prison would not resolve the problems of LGBTI inmates.”

Project coordinator for CISST and sociologist Mustafa Eren said: “A separated prison would result in stigma and discrimination. It would alienate LGBT individuals from social life.”

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