Thailand’s transgender inmates will be getting more medical help in jails as The Department of Corrections is seeking to improve services to be in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Currently, Thailand has over 4,000 transgender inmates, or about 1% of the total prison population, spread out in 143 prisons. 1,800 of them are transvestites, 1,200 are transgender women, 352 are gay, 1,000 lesbians and 34 are sex-changed men. 60 of these inmates have already underwent sex change operations.
But only prisons with more space like Minburi, Pattaya, and Khlongprem Central can cater specifically to transgender people. The added medical help will feature psychological counselling among other enhanced support systems with those undergoing sex change operations to be more medically supported under the new system. Those who have completed the sexual reassignment surgeries will have to be examined by a nurse or medical staff before gaining permission to be housed in the women’s section of the jail and vice versa.
But the system still needs to be improved. Currently, potential inmates have their gender legally described by the courts before they enter the prison system and are normally housed in the facilities aligned with their legal gender. For homosexual males, they are housed in the male section of the jail, but in different quarters.
Uthaithani Provincial Prison has been a prison model in providing the appropriate custody and treatment to special groups of prisoners, but with the renewed commitment by the DOC, more prison systems will make changes that will support such sensitive prisoner populations soon.
Thailand has seen its transgender population growing in recent years, which has, in turn, increased transgenders entering into the prison system. Kathoeys, or ladyboys, as they are called in Thai, are males that identify as females, and are considered Thailand’s 3rd gender. As Thailand is a Buddhist country, the country’s culture dictates practising tolerance towards others. But that doesn’t mean Kathoeys have it easy. Apart from sociocultural differences, Kathoeys, or anyone wishing to change their gender are not allowed by the courts.
As of today, it is illegal to change one’s gender, which can pose issues for those transgenders who identify with a different gender role in society.