The LGBT community in Turkey is in an uproar. Over the weekend, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced that the government has come up with an plan to “protect convicts” by constructing separate prisons for openly gay or transgender inmates.
"Convicts who stated that they are gay will not mix with other convicts in the communal area, or during social activities in the new prison facilities," Bozdag wrote in response to the parliamentary question from an opposition lawmaker.
The establishment of these prisons is meant to prevent Turkish LGBT inmates from abuse. This is an unprecedented move, and the first time something like this has been established in recent world history.
Murat Koylu, a spokesman for the Ankara-based gay rights group Kaos GL, was quick to respond today.
"This is a medieval-age practice. This kind of segregation is nothing but a punishment," he said. "Instead of creating public areas where people from all sexual orientations can live together, the government has once again chosen to ostracize homosexuals.”
Koylu has also said that LGBT prisoners are already frequently put in solitary confinement when hostile prison authorities don't know what else to do with them.
“I think it's a bad idea,” Graeme Reid, the Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, told VICE News. “There's a need to protect vulnerable people within prison, but that should be done in a way that's not a punitive measure.”
Reid thinks prisons need to seek out measures that can prevent LGBT inmates from being targeted, without putting them in solitary confinement or completely separating them from the other prisoners. He agrees with Turkish LGBT groups that the government establishing who belongs in separate prisons, and the labeling of these people as somehow abnormal, is offensive.
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This is not Turkey's first brush with offensive legislation in regards to the LGBT community. Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey — it is punished though. In December, legislation to make targeting people based on their sexual orientation a hate crime was struck down. In the Turkish military, you are only exempt from the draft if you are sick, disabled or a homosexual. And just being openly gay in public can be seen as violating “public morality” laws.
According to a 2013 World Values Survey, 9 out of 10 people in Turkey say they wouldn’t appreciate having homosexual neighbors.