• LGBT prisoners are at higher risk of violence and sexual assault than others. (Photo: Getty Images) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Authorities and activists disagree on whether an LGBT+ prison would be for safety or segregation.
Michaela Morgan

31 Jan 2017 - 3:00 PM  UPDATED 31 Jan 2017 - 3:00 PM

The Thai government is considering opening an LGBT+ exclusive prison, according to the Associated Press.

While plans are still being discussed, the facility would be a world first and provide a higher level of protection to gay prisoners.

Currently, some prisons in Thailand—such as Pattaya Remand—already separate the LGBT+  population to protect them from violence from other inmates.

Watcharavit Vachiralerphum - a warden at the prison - says if prisoners weren’t separated, "It could lead to rape, sexual assault, and the spread of disease."

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While LGBT prisoners at Pattaya eat meals and exercise with other prisoners, they are able to return to separate quarters to sleep at night.

Gay prisoner Chawalit Chankiew says that the LGBT+ prison population faces discrimination at Pattaya. 

“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?”

Transgender women prisoners are also at risk. If they have not undergone gender re-assignment surgery, they are forced to shave their heads and live with the male population.

They are also denied adequate access to health care - including hormone therapy - which authorities have written off as a ‘luxury’.

There are hopes that a separate facility for LGBT+ prisoners would improve their safety and wellbeing.

"It'd be easier to control, easier to take care of, easier to develop and improve their habits and behaviour," said Watcharawit.

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"We are reminding them that they need to act and behave with dignity and with proper care to the uniform.”

"But they have to mix with other inmates because once they're released, they'll have to rejoin a diverse society."

However, activists such as Jean-Sebastian Blanc say building a separate prison is a matter of segregation.

“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," says Blanc.