LGBT+ doubly punished in Turkish prisons - DW

Turkey’s LGBT+ community faces harassment, abuse and persecution even after imprisonment, highlighting a double punishment for the sexual minority, German news outlet Deutsche Welle reported on Monday. 

Buse Aydın, a 44-year-old transgender woman who is serving 24 years in prison, had her request for gender confirmation surgery rejected after a five-year wait by the Ministry of Health, according to DW. The ministry said the surgery was not necessary.

After her hunger strike failed to change the state’s stance, Aydın cut off her own penis in the prison bathroom, according to the research institute Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST).

“The legal situation is clear. The state should bear the cost of her operation,” Eren Keskin, Aydın’s lawyer, told DW, arguing that the surgery refusal was based on the state’s homophobic attitude. 

Aydın’s story spread quickly after it was revealed last month, causing outrage among the Turkish public, according to DW. Hilal Başak Demirbaş of CISST, author of a study called “LGBTQI Prisoners in Turkey,” says that complaints from imprisoned LGBT+ figures like Aydın are common.

"One of the most serious problems is that LGBT+ people are placed in solitary confinement, especially when there are no other LGBT+ people in the prison," said Demirbaş.

Lesbians, gays and transgender people are usually separated from heterosexual prisoners to protect them from attacks and discrimination, according to the study. Yet LGBT+ people sometimes spend more than eight months in solitary confinement — a length of time meant only for dangerous criminals.

The study also highlights numerous reports of humiliations and insults, including trans women addressed by their birth names and sexual harassment and abuse. 

"When transgender women are arrested, they often request that the medical examination be carried out by a woman,” said Aylin Kirikcu, a lawyer who defends LGBTI prisoners, adding that this request is rarely fulfilled. "There's sometimes unwanted physical contact, which my clients experience as sexual torture." 

In 2014, the Turkish government proposed setting up "pink blocks" to ensure safety for LGBT+ people in Turkish prisons, but so far nothing has been done, according to DW.

LGBT+ activists criticise the idea, arguing that it would only further exclude them, DW said. “A prison-like that is nothing other than the institutionalization of existing discrimination," said Demirbaş.