Thailand begins to separate inmates as it considers opening LGBT specific prison

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Thai government are beginning to separate prisoners as they prepare an LGBT exclusive prison after a successful trial was run last year.

Pattaya Remand has separated inmates who identify within the LGBT community to combat against inmate discrimination in the last few months, and the out come has proved so successful that the government are now preparing to dedicate an entire prison to LGBT inmates.

“If we didn’t separate them, people could start fighting over partners to sleep with,” said Watcharavit Vachiralerphum, warden in the prison. “It could lead to rape, sexual assault, and the spread of disease.”

The LGBT inmate population believe the separation makes for a decent compromise between safety and segregation.

“There are people that discriminate against gays,” said gay prisoner Chawalit Chankiew. “If I happen to sleep next to someone who hates gay people, I wouldn’t know it unless they show it. What if they hurt me one day?”

Another LGBT prisoner said the segregation makes her sentence more bearable. “If we behave like others, if we aren’t stubborn and don’t break rules, this place actually isn’t so vicious,” she said.

Despite the progressive outlook of the system, it is still proving to be fall down when dealing with trans inmates.

Trans women who have not yet had surgery are forced to shave their heads and live in male quarters.

“Transgender women who have not gone through gender reassignment surgery, they have to shave their head and live with the men, and there’s going to be problems,” says Wannapong Yodmuang, an LGBT advocate with the Rainbow Sky Association.

“Some of them are going to be OK living with the men, but there are some transgender women who might have a bad experience with men and won’t want to live with them,” Yodmuang added.

Activists are also concerned that trans inmates cannot access essential hormone therapy, which is written off as a luxury by some prison health systems.

It is hoped that a whole prison dedicated to LGBT inmates would help eradicate some of the existing problems. However, some worry that inmates could face stigmatism upon release.

“Building and reallocating an entire prison facility for LGBT prisoners is as a matter of fact a measure of segregation,” said Jean-Sebastian Blanc, an expert on prisons at the Association for the Prevention of Torture.

“There is a significant difference between a public health policy aiming at preventing transmissible diseases and segregating a segment of the population on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Blanc added.