Civil Society Organizations: “LGBTI-only prison means institutionalizing discrimination!”

LGBTI organizations and CISST has stated that “LGBTI-only prison is the institutionalization of discrimination by the state” and reminded that mistreatment, molestation and rape are committed by prison personnel.

Source: “LGBTI hapishanesi, ayrımcılığı kurumsallaştırmaktır!”, (“LGBTI-only prison means institutionalizing discrimination!”), kaosGL.org, January 6, 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18413

In a published letter, LGBTI organizations including Kaos GL and the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST) issued a call to the Ministry of Justice regarding the planned LGBTI-only prison. The organizations expressed concern and summarized the process as follows:

“In their responses to a series of inquiries and requests for information, the Ministry of Justice announced that they will be building a special prison for LGBTI inmates and have continued to make announcements along the same lines. Most recently the response to a query by a trans inmate contains clearer information: “Our ministry has begun work on the project of building open and closed penal institutions where lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals will be held. The said project will be put out to tender and construction will commence in 2015 in Izmir province. Following the granting of tender and a construction site, the project will be completed within two years.’”

“The persistence of the Ministry of Justice has increased our concern”

Underlining the fact that the Ministry of Justice announcement foresees the completion of an LGBTI prison in 2017, the NGOs reminded the following points in their press statement:

“Every time the Ministry of Justice brings this issue on the agenda, we have made numerous statements in newspapers and magazines and we have participated in TV programs to express our concerns. The persistence of the Ministry of Justice on the project in utter disregard for these statements has further increased our concerns.”

The organizations’ views and calls regarding the construction of an LGBTI-only prison are as follows:

“LGBTI inmates, civil society organizations or academics have not been consulted in this issue that will affect the lives of LGBTI inmates and furthermore statements of concern have been completely disregarded.

“It is a requirement of democracy to consult with people and to include them into decision-making mechanisms when making decisions and taking steps that have a direct impact on their lives.

“LGBTI inmates, civil society organizations and concerned academics should be asked what they want, their views must be taken, and only after such a process of discussion and consultation should there be any decisions made.

“In order for the trials to proceed in a healthy manner and for the inmates to maintain their ties to their family and social circles, the inmates must be placed in prisons in their location of arrest. According to the data published by the Ministry of Justice on May 2014, 95 LGBTI inmate will be taken from various prisons around the country and sent to the prison constructed in Izmir (according to 2013 July data, there are 79 LGBTI inmate in 18 different prison complex).

“To gather inmates in one prison can mean ‘exile’”

“To remove the inmates from their current prisons and to place them all in one prison will negatively affect the trial process and will sever their ties to social circles. This would amount to “exile” and can be interpreted as doubling the penalty.

“Inmates must not be exiled to a prison built in a single province in Turkey. They must remain in the same city so that the trial can proceed properly, that their trips to the court do not become arduous (transport of inmates to prisons in other cities is done in ring vehicles in bad conditions and through journeys that take very long hours…), so that they are able to consult with their lawyers regularly and receive visitations from their families, children and friends.

“In Turkey, discrimination against LGBTI people is an important problem. Attacks against LGBTI people and hate crimes are the most evident signs of this discrimination. Discrimination exists  in prisons as well and takes on a multidimensional form. Thus it is true that LGBTI inmates face a security problem in prison. This is used as a justification for keeping LGBTI inmates separate from other inmates. Most LGBTI inmates are unable to access common use areas and social life. This situation is tantamount to a rigid isolation for the LGBTI inmates. The Ministry of Justice might rationalize the construction of a special prison as a solution to the security problem and as a way to end their de facto isolation. However:

“Building an LGBTI-only prison is discrimination!”

“To build an LGBTI-only prison and to isolate LGBTI inmates from others is to institutionalize existing discrimination; it is discrimination by the hand of the state and through the use of architecture.”

“To open an LGBTI prison is to stigmatize all the inmates held there. When people who have not come out to their families and social circles about their sexual orientation are taken into custody to be sent to this prison, their sexual orientation will have been exposed by the state.

“The stigmatization will also extend to the visitors of this prison. People who visit their relatives and friends will also become visible, marked and finger pointed. If we bear in mind that almost all of the recently-constructed prisons are outside the city limits in locations without public transportation access, this stigmatization and the problem become more clear.

“Rape of LGBTI inmates are committed by prison personnel”

“If the issue is security, it must be remembered that the LGBTI inmates are already kept in separate cells and kept apart from other inmates. Therefore, almost all the known cases of harassment, rape and mistreatment against LGBTI inmates have been committed not by other inmates but by prison personnel. Building a separate prison will not address this security concern.

“Another problematic situation that comes to mind is the possibility of sending to the same prison both those inmates who have been raped and their rapists on account of their “different sexual orientation.” We do not know what the criteria are for sending inmates to this prison.

“Civil Society Organizations must be included in the process!”

“in light of these critical objections, we regard the construction of an LGBTI-only prison to be a negative prospect. What must be done is not to institutionalize discrimination through building a separate prison, not to stigmatize inmates and their relatives, not to ostracize inmates from social life, not to exile them, not to subject them to double punishment, but to try to solve their problems of discrimination and security in the prisons they are already held in, and to include civil society organizations in the process. Civil society organizations can conduct studies on the situation of LGBTI inmates to help abolish conditions of isolation and they can contribute to reducing discrimination through studies regarding other inmates and prison personnel. If the prison administrations show such will and take a stance on the issue, LGBTI inmates can access common use areas, can benefit from social activities like other inmates, and the de facto isolation can come to an end. We do not need a separate prison for this to happen. To show the necessary will to solve the problem and to include civil society organizations and academics in the process will be an important step.

“Before commencing the construction of this project, we would like to carry out a process whereby as the stakeholder civil society organizations, we visit LGBTI inmates with authorities from the Ministry of Justice, explain the project to them, hear their opinions and follow up with an open public debate. This is what a democratic stance requires. We invite the Ministry of Justice to take this stance before taking the steps to build an LGBTI-only prison that will directly impact LGBTI inmates’ lives.”

Signatories:

CISST (Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation)
Flu Baykuş (Student group advocating for freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University)
Hêvî LGBTİ (Istanbul based Kurdish LGBTI NGO)
İstanbul LGBTİ Dayanışma Derneği (Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association)
KAOS GL (Ankara-based LGBTI Association)
Kars Homofobi ve Transfobi Karşıtı Platform (Kars platform against homophobia and transphobia)
Kırmızı Şemsiye Derneği (Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association)
Lambdaistanbul LGBTİ (Istanbul based LGBTI Community Center and Association)
LeGeBİT Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Studi and Solidarity Group (Ege University)
Lion Queer (Galatasaray Üniversity)
LİSTAG (Families of LGBTIs Istanbul)
Malatya Homofobi ve Transfobi Karşıtı Gençlik (Malatya youth against homophobia and transphobia)
Pembe Hayat (Pink Life trans rights association)
Queer Adana
Siyah Pembe Üçgen (Black Pink Triangle, Izmir-based LGBTI Association)
SpoD (Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association)
Trans Dayanışma Merkezi Derneği (Trans Consultation Center Association)
ZeugMadi LGBT (Gaziantep-based LGBTI Initiative)

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