Separate Prison for the LGBTI, Collective Isolation

Source: “LGBTİ’lere Ayrı Cezaevi, Toplu Tecrit,” (“Separate Prison for the LGBTI, Collective Isolation,”) kaosGL.org, 15 April 2014, http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=16329

LGBTI organizations, lawyers and MPs from Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Republican People’s Party (CHP) offer their assessment on the project for separate prisons for the LGBTI: “collective isolation,” “concentration camp,” “labelling,” “against the ECHR”

Bekir Bozdağ, the Minister of Justice, stated that plans were underway for the project to construct separate prisons for inmates with different sexual orientations and gender identities.

Bozdağ’s announcement triggered a public debate. According to the report by Ümran Avcı and Şerife Güzel from Habertürk, while some approve of the policy, LGBTI organizations have reacted and described the project as “isolation/quarantine” and “concentration camp.”

Here are some of the opinions expressed:

“This is actually collective isolation, total medieval mentality”

Murat Köylü, Kaos GL Foreign Affairs Coordinator:

We believe this exposes a very important reflex of this government. Not only with regards to the rights of gay and trans citizens, but also, in the context of national and international dynamics, its perspective on topics like human rights, the primacy of law and democratic criteria. We can see that a government that denies the existence of LGBT people when it comes to discrimination and protection from violence, can take special measures when it comes to imprisoning them. When you look at the issue from the perspective of human rights, democracy and the primacy of law, this is actually a collective quarantine. A medieval mentality. 1.5-2 years ago, Turkey was found guilty at the ECtHR in a case where a gay inmate in Izmir was placed in a separate prison for their “own safety.” Now they will be separating all the LGBT people “for their own safety.” Isolation is one of the heaviest penalties. This means, in effect, the institutionalization of social discrimination. LGBT people want to live like everybody else without being subjected to discrimination. What kind of reasoning are these policies based on? Most LGBT people have to hide their gender identity in the absence of a policy of protection. How are they going to protect those who do not want to be out in normal prisons?

“This is profiling for both LGBT individuals and their visitors”

Hayriye Kara, Legal Advisor, Kaos GL

Such practices exist but a separate LGBT prison recalls a concentration camp under the disguise of prison and means labelling people. Similarly this is labelling not only the inmates but also their visitors. This is something that can lead to very serious social problems and discomfort. How can isolating people in a separate place, labelling them and separating them from society be about discrimination and rights when it is done without fighting prejudices that are deeply rooted in society, without doing anything, without conducting any study? Highly debatable.

“Prisons are not the priority”

Barış Sulu, Member, the Trans Consultancy Center Association (T-Der)

It is frightening that the state takes such measures when so far it has taken no steps with regards to LGBT individuals. Prisons are not the first order of business when it comes to things that need to be done with regards to LGBT individuals. How are LGBT individuals to be integrated into society? How are we going to prevent them from getting killed? How are they going to get education, how are we going to prevent them from being discriminated against in health services? Without solving these problems the state is preoccupied with segregating them from the larger society. On the one hand, LGBT individuals face discrimination in prisons just as they do in other areas in society. They are directly being isolated in prisons through a discourse of “their safety.” They are not getting outdoor access, cannot participate in training, cannot work, cannot earn money. There is already isolation, they are in effect doubly isolated.

“It is against the European Convention on Human Rights”

Eren Keskin, Lawyer, Human Rights Advocate

I am absolutely against special prisons. This means pure discrimination against LGBT people when they already are constantly subjected to discrimination. Male hegemonic ideology has always approached LGBT individuals with an attitude of discrimination. This prison policy is an example. A person is who they feel they are. Thus a separate prison violates the 14th article of the European Convention on Human Rights. It creates a situation where they are, in effect, almost sending them to a separate camp and this is a very repulsive approach in my view.

“A well-intentioned idea”

Ayşe Türkmenoğlu, AKP Konya MP, Member of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee:

We heard the problems and complaints of gay-trans inmates’ on our visits to the prisons as the Prisons Subcommittee. For example, there were two inmates in Antalya prison, one had the operation, the other had not. The one who had the operation should have actually been in an open prison, but the prison administration cannot send the person there because it is a male prison. They are holding them both in a separate cell. They are deprived of their social rights. These people are experiencing a double isolation. They too complain of this isolation, but what is the solution? We do not know. I believe the Ministry of Justice is acting with good intentions for a solution. Really, even as a jurist for many years, I became aware of these people’s serious problems only when I went and saw the prison. Let their organizations bring proposals about how they can be solved and we can discuss them.

“The organizations must be consulted”

Veli Ağababa, CHP Malatya MP, Member of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee

The Ministry of Justice must consult with gay, trans nongovernmental organizations. They must hear their opinions. They must not act on their own. These individuals are already subjected to double isolation for not being able to use their social rights in prison. They are unable to stay in open prisons as they should be. This must for sure be debated before proceeding with implementation.

 

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