Ministry of Justice

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.”

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Ministry of Justice: LGBT training is provided to prisons’ psycho-social service experts

The Ministry of Justice responded to a request for information regarding LGBT inmates and said that it provides training on how to approach LGBT convicts and detainees to the prisons’ psycho-social service experts. The Ministry did not respond to the question on whether correctional officers and the general inmate population receive programs on awareness-building and violence prevention.

Source: Murat Köylü, “Adalet Bakanlığı: Cezaevi psiko-sosyal servis uzmanlarına LGBT eğitimi verildi”, (“Ministry of Justice: LGBT training is provided to prisons’ psycho-social service experts”), Kaos GL, 30 December 2014, http://www.kaosgl.com/sayfa.php?id=18372

The Ministry had said “We do not do any work on LGBT rights”

The Ministry of Justice sent a partial answer to Mahmut Tanal’s request for information regarding “LGBT rights in prisons”. Mahmut Tanal is a member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey’s Human Rights Commission.

The Ministry of Justice had answered that they do not conduct “any work on LGBT rights”, in response to another request for information by Parliamentarian Tanal. However, it has been revealed that the Ministry is in fact giving trainings on the issue to the prison psycho-social service experts.

Isolation instead of education!

The European Court of Human Rights had found Turkey guilty of discrimination and ill-treatment in a 2012 case regarding a gay inmate’s “isolation for his own security.” In the following months of the judgement,  the Ministry of Justice had put forth an “LGBT-only Prison”, which was criticized by civil society as “collective isolation”.

Mahmut Tanal, Member of Parliament from the Republican People’s Party, submitted a parliamentary question in November 2014 to the Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ on “LGBT inmates rights”. However, given the fact that questions submitted by opposition parties usually go unanswered, the same questions were submitted to the Ministry through a request for information, which makes a response mandatory.

The questions submitted by MP Tanal are:

  • Are there any occupational trainings regarding the problems and special needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans detainees and convicts given to correctional officers, teachers, social workers, psychologists, sociologists, and health personnel working within the prison system?
  • In the recruitment process for the aforementioned personnel, are there any criteria requiring knowledge and experience that are to be met on LGBT persons’ human rights and special needs?
  • Are there any awareness-building and violence prevention programs given to correctional officers and other inmates on combating stereotypes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, exclusion and violence?

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Turkish Ministry of Justice: “We do not do any work on LGBT citizens’ human rights”

The Turkish Ministry of Justice responded to an application to acquire information on LGBT rights: “There is no work on the protection and recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans citizens’ human rights conducted by our Ministry.”

Source: Murat Köylü, “Turkish: ‘Adalet Bakanlığı: LGBT yurttaşların haklarına dair hiçbir faaliyetimiz yok”, (“Turkish Ministry of Justice: We do not do any work on LGBT citizens’ human rights”), Kaosgl.org, December 30, 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18362

An application to acquire information on LGBT rights made in November by the main opposition party’s, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), MP Mahmut Tanal, a member of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, was responded to by the Ministry of Justice.

“There is no work on LGBT citizens’ human rights”

In response to application to acquire information, the Presidency of Education Directorate affiliated to the Ministry of Justice stated “there is no work on the protection and recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans citizens’ human rights conducted by our Ministry. For Ministry personnel at any level, including those working in local bodies, we have not implemented any work so far in order to raise awareness on the issue.”

With reference to the response, concerns regarding the fact that the Ministry has no approach to and given no priority to LGBT citizens, apart from the Ministry’s both internally and externally very much criticized “LGBT prison”policy, were confirmed. This comes despite Turkey’s LGBT citizens, civil society organizations, opposition parties [the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP)] and the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union emphasising how vital it is.

Tanal applied via the Act of Right of Information Acquirement

CHP MP Tanal submitting a parliamentary question “regarding LGBT rights” to the Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdag, brought the same issue to the agenda of the Ministry by applying under the Act of Right of Information Acquirement having considered that most of the opposition parties’ parliamentary questions are left unanswered. According to the Act, the applicant should access the requested information or document in 15 working days. Otherwise it is sent to the supreme board and administrative jurisdiction.

MP Tanal asked the following questions:

  • Is there any work on the recognition and protection of LGBT citizens’ human rights in your Ministry in line with Turkey’s national and international obligations? What kind of work and to what degree are they conducted?
  • Is there any work [on LGBT citizens] for Ministry personnel at any level, including those working in local bodies? What kind of work and in to what degree are they conducted?

MP asks the Ministry of Justice about Hate Crimes

Melda Onur, a prominent parliamentarian in Turkey, filed an official parliamentary question, asking the Ministry of Justice about hate crimes against LGBTI individuals and formal measures taken against such crimes (PDF file).

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey

Republican People’s Party (CHP)

Group Presidency

Date: 20 October 2014

No: 31239

To the Presidency of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey

I request that my questions below be answered by the Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdağ, in writing.

Melda Onur

Member of Parliament from Istanbul

In Turkey, the othering of those who are perceived as different is transforming into hate murders when encouraged by the hate speech of some opinion leaders. The most obvious targets of these murders are LGBTI individuals and hate crimes against these individuals are increasing daily.

The murders that have been occurring in various cities show that the government does not take permanent legal measures or precautions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

These attacks, which especially target trans individuals, have most recently led to both the discovery of the dead body of a trans woman, Gypsy Gül, in her Istanbul home as well as the brutal murder of trans woman Corti Emel. Effective investigations are not conducted after these attacks, which threaten the right to life; the punishments given to the criminals do not act as deterrents.

On the other hand, the “Bill to Amend Various Laws to Improve Fundamental Rights and Freedoms”, more commonly known as the “Democratization Package” was put forth by the government in March and passed as law by the Parliament. With the Democratization Package, the phrase “hate” has been included in law for the first time. However, the terms gender identity and sexual orientation have not been included in the law and no added punishment will be given if sexual assault and sexual harassment, etc. are conducted with motivation rooted in hatred.

Therefore, the inability to prevent physical and verbal assaults against LGBTI individuals across the country is a reflection of this legal vacuum.

As such,

  1. In the new legislative year, do you foresee additional arrangements to include attacks against LGBTI individuals within the scope of hate crimes?

  2. Does your ministry’s agenda include an action plan to prevent hate motivated attacks and murders that target LGBTI individuals? Are you considering coordination with other institutions?

  3. What is the number of trans and gay individuals who have lost their lives due to hate crimes in the last five years? What is the distribution of these across different cities?

  4. How many people have been tried for hate crimes against LGBTI individuals up to today and what is the total amount of jail time that these people were sentenced to?

CISST: Our Critiques of the LGBTI Prison and Suggestions for Solving the Problem

Source: Mustafa Eren, “LGBTİ Hapishanesine Yönelik Eleştirilerimiz ve Sorunun Çözümüne Dair Önerilerimiz” (“Our Critiques of the LGBTI Prison and Suggestions for Solving the Problem,”) 15 April 2014, http://lgbthapiste.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/lgbti-hapishanesine-iliskin-goruslerimiz-ve-onerilerimiz/

The Ministry of Justice responded to the Republican People’s Party Member of Parliament Veli Ağbaba’s inquiry by stating that they will establish a separate prison for inmates with “different sexual orientations.” This is not the first statement on this issue by the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice had previously stated that “a special penal institution is being planned for those convicts and detainees in the condition of being LGBT.”

As the Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST), we conducted a research project “Inmates with Special Needs” between November 2012- November 2013. Within this research, we submitted an application, within the right to information, to the ministry regarding LGBTI inmates. The Ministry responded on 24 July 2013 declaring that they will establish a separate prison for LGBTI inmates. We shared this information with the public and stated our critique of the issue.

When the Ministry declared its plan, we submitted a new application asking when and where the prison would be established. Their answer from 16 September 2013 stated that “it is not certain where and when the penal institution would be established, however, the project continues.”

We think it is necessary to share our critiques with the public again.

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Trans Inmates

Source: Önder Abay, “Hapishanedeki Translar,” (“Trans Inmates,”) BİRGÜN, 13 January 2014, http://birgun.net/haber/hapishanedeki-translar-9848.html

“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.

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“Unwritten Rules” Rather Than Legislation Applied to LGBT Inmates

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Mahpus LGBT’lere Mevzuat Değil “Yazısız Kurallar” Uygulanıyor,” (“Unwritten Rules” Rather Than Legislation Applied to LGBT Inmates,”) bianet, 7 November 2013, http://www.bianet.org/bianet/lgbtt/151135-mahpus-lgbt-lere-mevzuat-degil-yazisiz-kurallar-uygulaniyor?bia_source=twitter&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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.

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