“It is hard to find high-heels in size 42 (9.5) in prison. Even though we pay the price, the officials cannot bring them in. Here our warden understands us; but the inmates in Ankara are not even given tweezers and the others are complaining about personnel violence. What I ask of you is to send me high-heels.” (A note from Deniz’s Letter)
The law states, “The primary reason for incarceration is to rehabilitate,” which means that the state regards every inmate as unhealthy. Considering the recent arbitrary arrests, prisons can be seen as places where anyone could potentially end up. Because of rights violations and bad treatment, one can get much worse rather than becoming a rehabilitated person. Trans inmates face further unfairness and discrimination. We talked about the situation of trans people with Mustafa Eren from the Civil Society in the Penal System, who has been closely following the rights violations in prisons.
Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST) brought attention to the isolation imposed on LGBT inmates. They stated that there is no such legislation on the issue but that prison administrations’ “apply unwritten rules.”
CISST released their report for the Project of Inmates with Special Needs and stated that the main problem LGBT inmates face is isolation.
They stated that legislation concerning LGBT inmates must be drafted but that one prison for LGBT inmates would cause more discrimination and labeling.
“Unwritten rules means “I will do what I want””
CISST visited Maltepe No: 6 L Type Closed Penal Institution where 11 trans women are imprisoned with one academic, one lawyer, representatives of LISTAG, SPoD LGBT, Istanbul LGBTT, and Lambdaistanbul.
Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Homofobi Hem İçeride Hem Dışarıda,” (“Homophobia is both Inside and Outside,”) bianet, 17 May 2012, http://bit.ly/Jxu8M4
LGBT people face homophobia/transphobia all the time in the outside world and they must fight inside as well. They are fighting discrimination, the prison management, and prison guards; they demand their rights to health care and access to treatment, the right to a fair trial and the right to live humanely.
Activist Aras Güngör who works with LGBT people in prisons spoke about LGBT inmates and their living conditions “inside.”
3 prisons have trans wards
We do not know the number of LGBT people in prison because the probability of problems during trial and in prison is very high when sexual orientation and gender identity are expressed.
Güngör states that the inability to express sexual orientation and gender identity because of social exclusion and discrimination in the outside world exists in prison as well. This also explains the lack of data on the number of LGBT people in prison. Still, he remarks that it is not possible to keep gender identities hidden from inmates in the same wards.
The situation gets a bit more complicated for transgender people. Güngör states that the treatment of trans people- who are visible by nature- differs according to the attitudes of prison administrations.
Human Rights Agenda Association publishes their work for LGBT people on their website. One of these studies explains LGBT rights within the conditions of prisons. We share this article with our readers:
Just like in normal life, LGBT people face discrimination, prejudice, and labeling in prisons as well. Most LGBT people in prison are exposed to attacks by other inmates and the prison staff because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The measures taken in order to protect them from these attacks often result in their isolation.(1)
The United Nations has developed general principles about the treatment of people in prisons and the conditions of the prisons, as well as a series of protective standards such as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (Principle 1), UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (Principle 1), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 10), and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading treatment or Punishment (CPT Standards). Although life is never normal in prison, the general principle based on this framework is that prison conditions -apart from the loss of freedom – should be as close to normal living conditions as possible. The punishment consists only of the deprivation of liberty. Conditions of incarceration cannot be used as an additional punishment. All circumstances that imprisonment could cause should be minimized. Therefore, for those in prison, life in prison must be made as close as possible to normal life.(2) In Turkey, the 2nd article of “The Law on the Execution of Penalties and Security Measures” number 5275 interdicts discrimination of inmates and bans cruel, inhumane, humiliating, and degrading treatment during the execution of the penalty.
Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation’s (CISST) Observations and Questions to the Ministry of Justice regarding LGBT inmates and the Ministry of Justice’s response.
A response from the Ministry of Justice, to the questions posed by Zafer Kılıç, CEO of the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation, regarding LGBT inmates within the framework of the Law on the Right to Information, has been received [on 24 July 2013]. The observations that can be made from the Ministry of Justice’s responses are as follows:
1. The Ministry of Justice describes LGBT people as “people with LGBT” which brings forth the question whether the Ministry considers someone being LGBT akin to living with a disease like cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis.