Human rights violations in U.K. jail

July 25, 2009

Power is the road to justice and money walks it on crooked legsLike (I suspect) many other trans people I keep an eye on various trans-related online news feeds and often see one story replicated amongst several outlets. I’ve just spotted one such report which I imagine originated with one of the big news agencies and has now turned up variously in three tabloid newspapers and one online news service. Two of the tabloids, The Mirror (link here) and The Metro (link here) have identical coverage, presumably simple copy/paste affairs; whilst Pink News (link here) at least attempts to edit it into a more narrative style.

As for the third tabloid, The Daily Mail (link here), well… …*sigh*… All I can really say is that I know this paper from my time as a contributor at The F-Word (link here) where its obnoxiously cissexist style would often generate a communal apoplectic rage amongst bloggers and readers alike.

Suffice to say it can be equally vile when it turns its attention to a trans-related subject: it has diligently misgendered the subject and generally exercised its various cis privileges – and the resulting piece is a textbook example of how offensive reactionary right-wing tabloid journalism is. Needless to say, I won’t be referring to it any further in this post.

To my mind, the content of the report itself has echoes of the mistreatment of Nastaran Kolestani in the U.S. which I wrote about back in April (link here, cross-posted at QT link here).

A transsexual prisoner serving life for manslaughter and attempted rape committed while she was a man has claimed the refusal to move her to a women’s prison is a violation of her human rights.

Well duh. Of course it is. Can you imagine the public outcry if the authorities put a cis woman in a cis men’s prison?

And when you add this to the equation –

The court heard the prisoner’s female sex had been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and her birth certificate amended accordingly.

– you have nothing less than the unlawful treatment of a trans woman by the state and a breach of a trans woman’s human rights.

Prisoner A, in her 20s, watched the court proceedings via video link from prison, and her seated figure was visible on screens in the courtroom as [barrister Phillipa Kaufman] argued the refusal to move her to a women’s prison breached her right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Via the Gender Recognition Panel website (link here) –

The Gender Recognition process enables transsexual people to be legally recognised in their acquired gender. […] Successful applicants will receive a Gender Recognition Certificate and will, from the date of full recognition, acquire all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to a person of his or her acquired gender.

It couldn’t be clearer. The court is deliberately ignoring one of the laws which it is sworn to uphold. Why is that, Your Honour? And your reason is?

The Department of Justice and the prison authorities argue the prisoner would be no more likely to be accepted by inmates at a female prison and that, if moved, she would have to spend long periods in segregation at an extra cost of £80,000 per year.

Where’s she being kept at the moment while all this is going on? Presumably in segregated accomodation. I hope – for her sake.

I don’t understand why there should be any extra costs involved. It’s not like the government is going to have to build a segregation cell specially for her, is it? Or that it’s going to cost more in terms of heat, light, water, electricity or food, etc?

And the acceptance argument is a complete red herring. As the holder of a GRC she is legally entitled to have her privacy safeguarded. In addition, it’s a subtle invocation of the iniquitous ‘passing privilege’ trope. The fact remains that she is protected by sex discrimination legislation, just as any other cis woman is.

[The Department of Justice and the prison authorities] contend that a move to a female jail might have a serious impact on her mental health and make it more difficult for her to reduce her level of risk to society and win early release from her sentence.

So having to serve her sentence unsegregated in a men’s jail wouldn’t have an effect on her mental health? How does that work? And what’s all this about her being a risk to society? If she’s transitioning – and there’s enough information to suggest she is – then hormone therapy would surely be an effective way to reduce that risk?

No, I’m sorry Your Honour, but I can’t see that the state has a leg to stand on in this case. It would be better for all to accept that fact and stop withholding her human rights. Right now. Full stop, end of chat.

One Response to “Human rights violations in U.K. jail”

  1. Weasel Says:

    And people wonder why interacting with authority squicks the fuck out of a fair few of us …

    Some days it feels as if everything we manage to win comes with so many conditions attached to it, and the possibility that it could be yoinked away at any point … human rights issues shouldn’t feel like a game of keep-away.


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