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Corrections' stance on trans inmates slammed

Fri 17 Feb 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Two senior Rainbow Labour MPs are appalled at the Corrections Department’s stance on the housing of transgender prisoners, following revelations the inmates are at risk of sexual assault under current policy. Currently prisoners are placed in prisons according to their birth gender, unless they have completed gender reassignment surgery. A report by the Office of the Ombudsman on the prison health system says the policy does not adequately reflect the expectation that transgender prisoners are treated with dignity. However Corrections says there are only three transgender prisoners out of 8,500 and the policy will not be reviewed. Labour’s Justice and Corrections Spokesperson Charles Chauvel and Health Spokesperson Maryan Street say it’s simply not good enough for the Corrections Department to say it will not change its policy. “The plea from the Ombudsman, Beverley Wakem, for Corrections to detain prisoners according to their self-identified gender identity, not the identity listed on their birth certificate, should be heard and implemented,” Chauvel says. “It is both unjust and dangerous for transgender inmates to be put at such high risk of sexual and physical assault in prison, simply because Corrections cannot move with the times and recognise the significance of gender identity,” he continues. “The Human Rights Commission’s 2007 report To Be Who I Am, explicitly refers to the human rights of transgender prisoners and documents the risks posed to them by detaining them in an inappropriate way. This is a human rights issue, that prisoners be treated with dignity as human beings and it is clear that transgender prisoners often are not.” Street says the risks to mental and physical health from detaining transgender prisoners in prisons which are not appropriate to their gender identity are significant and well known. “Assaults, especially sexual assaults on transgender prisoners whose sexual reassignment is not complete, are commonplace and predictable,” she says. “These compound the risk of self-harm, to which these people are already vulnerable. It is incumbent that Corrections revisits their policy in order to treat these prisoners humanely. Harm to these prisoners will be the responsibility of the Corrections Department if they do not.” You can discuss this New Zealand gay community news story in the Forum.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 17th February 2012 - 10:11am

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