Kerala Prisons to Have Exclusive Third Gender Blocks

Kerala is planning separate blocks for transgenders in its jails in a first of its kind initiative in the country. The move is to protect privacy and human rights of transgender people and comes in light of rise in harassment and sexual exploitation of third gender inmates on jail premises.

A high security prison block is coming up at Viyyur Central Jail in Thrissur to exclusively house transgender prisoners. Other jails will follow suit soon.

“The exclusive third gender block is planned within the nine acre new jail complex adjacent to Viyyur Central Prison,” jail authorities said.

Though the unique complex is designed to house inmates like NIA prisoners and those convicted under Goondas Act and Kerala Anti-social Activities (Prevention) Act (KAAPA), the state Prison Department decided to have a separate enclosure for transgender people.

Jail inmates who declare themselves as third genders will be shifted to this new block on completion of the block.

“Reserving a separate block for transgenders is a historic step towards protecting the rights of the community members and to end the social exclusion faced by them in society,” K Anil Kumar, special officer-in-charge of high security prison, said.

At present, third gender inmates are housed either in female or male blocks where they often face harassment and sexual exploitation.

About 8,000 prisoners are currently housed in 52 jails in Kerala, of which 20-30 inmates belong to transgender community. However, only very few of them have declared their third gender identity and the actual number of transgender inmates is expected to be higher.

The current move will likely inspire confidence so that more third gender people will come forward and declare their identity, says a senior official.

The decision comes close on the heels of the Supreme Court recognising them as the third gender. The Kerala government is also working on a Transgender Bill to protect the rights of the transgender people.