Majority of imprisoned LGBTs kept in ‘solitary confinement’

Majority of imprisoned LGBTs kept in ‘solitary confinement’

Nisan Su Aras ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Majority of imprisoned LGBTs kept in ‘solitary confinement’

The statement revealed that 79 LGBT individuals are currently held in Turkish prisons. DHA photo

A majority of imprisoned lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are effectively being held in solitary confinement, and are not allowed to join activities with other prisoners, the Justice Ministry has revealed. The ministry issued a statement on the status of imprisoned LGBT people in response to questions posed by Zafer Kıraç, the chair of the Civil Society in the Penal System Association (CİSST).

The ministry’s answers, provided within the framework of the “right to information,” further indicated that providing a "health report" to prove sexual orientation was a precondition, in language that has caused fury among LGBT associations. The ministry’s plan to build a separate facility for LGBT individuals has also rung alarm bells.

“Planning is done so that detainees and convicts in the LGBT situation do not come together with other detainees and convicts when taken to common use areas and social activities in the penal execution institutions,” the Justice Ministry said in its response delivered on July 24.

“Also, it is being planned that a special type of institution will be built for those detainees and convicts in the LGBT situation,” the statement read, causing worry on its repercussions that might doom the LGBTs to further isolation.

The ministry stated that there were a total of 79 LGBT individuals currently in prison, eight in custody, 71 convicted. However, the real number is arguably higher, since sexual orientation can be identified only when expressed.

Planning regarding daily life in prison is done “by taking into account the legal provisions and the physical conditions of the institution,” the ministry added, describing a practice which is likely to leave room for many LGBT people not being able to enjoy these rights.

According to the ministry’s answer, when prisoners declare themselves as LGBT prior to entry into penitentiary, they are asked for a health report and put into wards with those in the same situation. Yet, since the LGBT prisoners are dispersed across 16 penitentiaries, most of them are in practical solitary confinement.

Being asked to present “a health report indicating their situation” is usually regarded as paving the way for medical examinations that might violate human dignity.

Another notable feature of the ministry's response was its use of the phrase “having LGBT” to refer to LGBT individuals, sparking controversy over whether it was therefore being regarded as an illness.