Article Title:On trans prisoners
Author or Credit:Diane Sparkes
Published on:15th January 2013 - 10:44 am
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Story ID:12751
Text:The issue of being a transgender person in New Zealand continues to be denied as valid or of little importance by many government ministers. Minister Anne Tolley continues her head in the sand status by maintaining that because no evidence of widespread sexual assault on transgender prisoners exists, it is ok to do nothing. As a woman she surely must have held a very sheltered life, if she does not realise there are more than one kind of assault. A transgender woman put in a male prison will be subjected to verbal and mental assault from male inmates, and this kind of assault can be far more destructive than the physical as many statistics on bullying and suicide can attest. She clearly does not understand the impact fear has on someone who is already daily challenged by the way many in society reacts to their very existence. While all the facts of the Glen Cooper case are not known, those facts are not as important as the way she is being treated by the state. We all recognise committing a crime, but do we so easily recognise it is also wrong the way the state is attempting to incarcerate her. The law expects her to pay for her crime by forgoing her freedom, but fails to recognise the fear they place upon her in their bid justify its actions. All human beings have a right to live without fear, more so when their freedom is limited and controlled by the state for whatever reason. Regardless of minister’s assurances, she will not feel safe from anyone, from the top to the bottom, statistics have shown all too often, that to be true. What society should be saying is that what we want from our justice system. Remove the right to freedom; YES Place at risk of assault, (any kind) of outright violence or even potential death: NO No matter what the cost, this situation cannot be justified in any terms, and it is the states responsibility to acknowledge this and find an acceptable solution. This woman could not receive home detention because she did not have a home, an all too common a situation in the life of anyone transgender. Why then could the social welfare department not have provided her with a home, even for a limited time, just as it does to so many others that have transgressed society’s rules? Our social welfare system goes out of its way to house those who have broken the law, but when the word transgender is mentioned the system closes its Transphobic ranks. This will seldom be seen outwardly, but it will be there, someone somewhere in their misguided attempt to protect society, will make a decision to judge the merits of this the transgender individual. Minister Judith Collins in her attempt to maintain a strong public profile continues to ignore the advice and suggestions of others, of the overseas countries approach to this issue, and stick to the old way of doing things regardless of whether it is morally wrong. With her apparent wish to ignore the transgender issue she perpetuates a Transphobic stance, many have tried to tell it like it is, in an attempt to educate her but it falls on deaf ears; at least that is the only conclusion gained from her statements. She even fails to understand the very basics of what it means to be a male to female transgender individual. Oddly the stance taken by these two female ministers would appear to go against the norm of acceptance of transgender people and their issues. Research shows that in most cases women are more accepting of transgender individuals than men. The question then must be asked why do these women react so strongly to allowing transgender people the same rights as everyone else. Is it as simple I wonder, as by challenging the system on behalf of a marginalised group of New Zealanders, there is no political advantage. Putting their own careers above the right of others, is in my mind appalling, hopefully society will take notice of this come next election time. It is important to remember that both these ministers are not actually supporting NZ legislation (law) with their stance but actually supporting a department policy. The ministers have the ability to make changes to policies if they choose, but in this case they choose not to. A clear example of the ability of a minister changing a department’s policy, has recently taken place when the minister of Internal Affairs, Chris Tremain changed his departments policy on passports for transgender people. Internal Affairs have shown their willingness to accommodate the transgender issue, the question is very clear, why the Justice Minister cannot and the Corrections Minister do the same. What are they scared of? Diane Sparkes - 15th January 2013    
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