Shaun Robinson The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is supporting the Chief Ombudsman's criticism of the Department of Corrections and expressing its solidarity with transgender people, saying that policies in New Zealand prisons put transgender prisoners at risk of HIV. Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakems says the Department of Corrections policy to house inmates based on their sex at birth, unless they have had gender reassignment surgery, does not adequately reflect the expectation that transgender people are treated with dignity. The Department of Corrections has refused to reconsider its policy. NZAF Executive Director Shaun Robinson says one effect of the policy is that transgender women who may not have completed gender reassignment surgery and therefore have not changed their birth certificates are housed in male prisons and treated as male prisoners. "Yet these women identify as women, dress as women, receive female hormones and live their day-to-day lives as women." Robinson argues that trampling on the human rights of people on the basis of sexual and gender identity is fundamentally unjust. "This is a human rights issue at a base level; the policy is transphobic and places transgender people at severe risk of violence in prisons. It illustrates on-going institutional oppression of people on the grounds of sexual and gender identity. There are also wider implications; the Department's stance is a recipe for ensuring that sexual health issues, including HIV, remain underground in prisons and are virtually impossible to address." Ombudsman Wakem has pointed to the frequent risk of sexual assault faced by transgender women in male prisons and Robinson says Corrections' stance flies in the face of the recommendations of the 2007 Human Rights Commission Report To Be Who I Am on the rights of transgender people. "We urge the Corrections Departments to listen to the Ombudsman, MPs, Agender and other community organisations who have created a groundswell of support for a review of this discriminatory policy."
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Friday, 17th February 2012 - 2:54pm
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