National workshop calls for new standards to manage transgender inmates and combat sexual harassment in prisons
10 September2018 – Findings of a recent internal review shows that transgender inmates continue to experience unequal treatment, challenges in accessing basic services, as well as sexual harassment by other inmates. The review was conducted by the Department of Rights and Liberty of the Ministry of Justice and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and is being presented this week at a national workshop in Bangkok.
The National Workshop is jointly organized by the Department of Corrections, the Inspire Project of Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand, the Ministry of Justice, and UNDP. The workshop aims to raise awareness of Department of Correction officials on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression in closed settings and challenges faced by transgender inmates.More than 150 participants are attending the national workshop, including Department of Corrections officials, prison wardens, civil society organizations, transgender groups, UNDP, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the media.
“The Ministry of Justice gives priority to and guarentees the rights of all inmates equally, including those of transgender inmates," said Air Chief Marshal Prachin Jantong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. "The workshop today will guide the Ministry's workplan on this issue, to respond to the specific needs of transgender inmates, including to develop a guideline on the management of this group of inmates."
Transgender people in Thailand face stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, and stereotyping in their daily life because their gender identity and/or expression does not coincide with their sex assigned at birth. There is evidence of discriminatory and abusive treatment when transgender victims seek assistance from the legal system. Moreover, there is a large percentage of transgender people in correctional institutions who report being harassed, assaulted, and lacking protection from other inmates.
“Many LGBT inmates, especially those who are transgender, are concerned and feel unsafe to come out due to fear of discrimination, stereotyping, violence or unequal treatment by those around them due to a lack of understanding about gender diversity,” said Verapun Ngammee, Executive Director, Ozone Foundation. “I would like to commend the Department of Corrections for giving priority to this issue and also for working more with civil society to initiate programs and activities to create an understanding, including a friendly and inclusive environment for these inmates. This is crucial to creating a new image for the Department.”
Key Findings from the Review on the Current Management of Transgender Inmates in selected Thai Prisons shows that the lack of legal gender recognition in Thailand leads to an absence of specific regulations to support the management of transgender inmates. In addition, correctional officers’ lack of awareness results in stigma against and stereotyping of LGBT inmate, causing transgender inmates to be sexually harassed and discriminated against.
“Transgender people in Thailand continue to experience marginalization and exclusion in Thai society because of a lack of legal protections. This can be seen in in the absence of specific regulations to support the management of transgender inmates,” said Deirdre Boyd, UNDP Resident Representative.“UNDP stands ready to support the Ministry of Justice in taking this issue forward, in order to prevent and address violence, exclusion, and discrimination in closed settings.”
As a result of the workshop, the Department of Corrections will lead on developing guidelines to improve the management of transgender inmates in Thailand. Thailand will take advantage of its role as the chair of ASEAN in 2019 to propose this issue for discussion with other ASEAN countries.
Note: This workshop was supported by the UNDP Being LGBTI in Asiaprogrmame, aimed at addressing inequality, violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, and promotes universal access to health and social services. It is a collaboration between governments, civil society, regional institutions and other stakeholders to advance the social inclusion of LGBTI people. The programme is supported by the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Faith in Love Foundation (Hong Kong).
Additional support was provided by UBRAF – a UNAIDS instrument to maximize the coherence, coordination and impact of the UN's response to HIV and AIDS by combining the efforts of the UN Cosponsors and UNAIDS Secretariat.