Transgender prisoners in one Indian state will get their own prison blocks in the interest of protecting their privacy and human rights, state authorities announced this week.
Inmates at the high security Viyyur Central Prisoner will be the first to be housed in a separate transgender block if they inform prison officers that they identify as transgender. All new prisons built in the state will include transgender blocks, according to the Deccan Chronicle.
"There were instances in which those belonging to the third gender faced harassment and sexual exploitation in many prisons. We used to take strong action against those found guilty in such cases. The new block is expected to offer a permanent solution to this problem," K Anil Kumar, special officer-in-charge of high security prison, told NDTV.
Transgender prisoners in particular are vulnerable to abuse from guards, prison authorities and other prisoners. According to NDTV, there are currently around 20-30 transgender people in prison in the state of Kerala.
"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," said Kumar.
The move is in line with momentum towards supporting transgender rights in India. Just last year, the Indian Supreme Court ruled to officially recognize a third gender, for people who don't identify as male or female.
Building specific cell blocks designed to protect transgender inmates could be a move for American prisons to consider, as cases continue to surface of trans people suffering abuse while they're incarcerated.