Being transgender or gender non-conforming in a Turkish jail or prison often means daily humiliation, physical and sexual abuse, and fear of reprisals for using the legal remedies to address underlying problems. Many transgender people are placed in solitary confinement for months or years just because of who they are.
In recent years, these issues have gained national attention. For example, the solidarity campaign with transgender inmate Buse.
Transgender inmate Buse, who has not been allowed to undergo gender transition surgery despite the related court ruling and medical report, has been on hunger strike for 31 days.
As she cannot finalize her gender transition process, she cannot move to the women's prison. Buse has been staying in the same ward at a men's prison with another transgender inmate, Diren Coskun.
Police interactions, jails and prisons can be traumatizing and are often dangerous interactions and places, especially for transgender people and anyone who is gender non-conforming.
In a country like Turkey that incarcerates more and more daily, transgender people are more likely to be stopped and questioned by police, engage in survival crimes such as sex work, end up behind bars, and more likely to face abuse behind bars.
Buse's friends came together at the Human Rights Association (IHD) and made a statement for the press today (July 5). In the statement, a call was made to the Ministry of Justice to "stop its arbitrary treatment and provide the necessary administrative procedures for gender transition surgery of Buse as part of her right to health, which is a fundamental human right."
The Human Rights Association's co-chair, Eren Keskin said, "She once told me, 'I want to break free from the prison in my body.' She wanted me to give priority not to her case file, but to her gender transition process."
Buse, who has been held at the TekirdaG Type F Closed Prison, fulfilled all legal procedures required for gender transition surgery while in prison. Afterwards, she applied to the TekirdaG Civil Court of First Instance to get a permission for the surgery.
In the medical report dated July 21, 2017, and issued by the 6th Specialized Board of the Forensic Medicine Institute, it was stated, considering that the person in question is of a transsexual disposition, a gender transition is suitable in terms of her mental health." The Court granted permission for the gender transition surgery based on this report.
As stated by Eren Keskin, the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses of the Ministry of Justice ruled that the related report is inadequate.
The Ministry did not allow Buse to be referred to hospital for surgery on the ground that "the surgery does not have vital importance or urgency."
Buse previously went on a hunger strike twice, for 30 and 60 days.
“We are holding the ministry responsible for any psychological harm that might happen to Buse because it has been making decisions that amount to blocking the right to access health, despite the direct court order,” Derya Ozata, the attorney of Buse, said.
This treatment illustrates the broader policy changes Turkey desperately needs to ensure that no one in a correction setting - or any setting, for that matter - is denied their human or civil rights because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.