Thiruvananthapuram: In a first, a block exclusively to house transgenders is coming up in a high security prison in Thrissur in an effort to protect their privacy and human rights.
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 TGs.
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 give a separate enclosure for TGs to protect their privacy and human rights.
With the completion of the block, jail inmates who declare themselves as TGs will be housed there.
The step is expected to give confidence to more TGs to declare their gender identity, a senior jail official said.
"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, TGs are housed either in the male or female blocks in jails.
"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," he said.
According to rough figures, around 20-30 transgender inmates are there among around 8,000 prisoners housed in the total 52 jails in Kerala, he said.
However, only very few of them have declared their third gender identity, he said.
A three-storey building in circular shape, the new high security prison complex will have a state-of-the-art surveillance system and security facilities, including video conferencing and telemedicine facilities for the inmates.
Biometric identification for guards, an e-beat system, double locks and complete CCTV coverage are other features.
Social Justice Minister MK Muneer had recently said that there are more than 25,000 transgenders in Kerala.