Men in women’s prisons is a human rights violation

Men in women’s prisons is a human rights violation

By Stassja Frei

On Sunday September 11, I – and around 30 other Victorian women – gathered on Parliament steps in Melbourne to protest one of the most abhorrent consequences of Victoria’s transgender laws: the housing of violent male sex offenders in women’s prisons.

A trans-identified male attacked a woman in broad daylight in the inner-city suburb of Richmond, demanding that she ‘lie down and have sex’ with him. He put his hands down her pants, attempting to remove the woman’s jeans, but she was able to fight him off as passersby came to her aid. When confronted, the perpetrator said, ‘I didn’t do anything, it was her fault.’

I will not use female pronouns for this man.

This male predator is currently housed in the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre – a women’s correctional facility in Deer Park. Understandably, the female inmates are terrified. They have petitioned the Minister for Corrections, the Department of Justice and Community Safety, Corrections Victoria, and the Ombudsman to have the man transferred to a men’s prison, to no avail.

He also served time in a German prison for sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl. The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre is part of the Living with Mum Program which allows young children to live as residents with their incarcerated mother, in order to maintain the mother-child bond. To say this is a child safeguarding failure is an understatement.

In another example of how dangerous trans and gender-diverse inclusion policies are for women, the inevitable has already happened. A trans-identified male sexually assaulted a woman at Tarrengower women’s prison in Maldon, Victoria. The only mention of this incident in mainstream media was in two paragraphs at the end of an article by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. The article was largely devoted to championing research produced by La Trobe University in conjunction with Transgender Victoria, which focused on transgender people as suffering ‘intense sexual violence’ in the criminal justice system.

Transgender Victoria’s solution to male-on-male sexual violence in the prison system is to transfer that violence onto female inmates. It’s unconscionable and morally reprehensible. It’s also in violation of United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) that are very clear about the need for sex-segregated prisons.

How has Victoria got this so wrong? Part of the problem lies with activist lobby group Transgender Victoria who campaigned for the right of men to change their legal sex to female. In May 2020, Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill was enacted to allow a person to change the sex on their birth certificate, including to self-nominate whatever descriptor they like within reason, without the need for ‘sex reassignment’ surgery. This reform was welcomed as a win for ‘trans and gender diverse people’ by some, such as VIC Greens leader Samantha Ratnam MP, but the consequence is males were granted access to formerly female-only spaces and services, including prisons.

Key amongst campaigners for reform was Transgender Victoria spokesperson, Brenda Appleton, a trans-identified male who led Transgender Victoria for 17 years. Appleton campaigned hard for Corrections Victoria to change their policies around the housing of trans and gender-diverse offenders. The Commissioner’s Requirements were recently updated for the benefit of male offenders and to the detriment of women:

As a guiding principle, a person should be imprisoned in the prison of their gender rather than their sex assigned or assumed at birth.’

In September 2022, Appleton has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Voltaire Human Rights Award by Liberty Victoria.

Women’s Forum Australia has partnered with the Coalition for Biological Reality to produce a petition calling for urgent reform. We gained over 5,000 signatures in the first week and have made numerous Victorian Ministers, Shadow Ministers, and other authorities aware of the situation. The only real response so far has been from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Ro Allen, whose assistant said Allen would raise the issue in an October meeting with Corrections Victoria.

Part of the rise of gender identity ideology is an apparent growing trend of Lesbians appearing to ‘identify’ out of womanhood. According to Wikipedia, Allen identifies as a ‘walker’ who walks between genders and uses they/them pronouns. Allen is comfortable being referred to as he/him but not she/her. Even though Allen appears to no longer identify as a woman, it was hoped ‘they’ would nevertheless be a strong advocate for at-risk women, and appropriately address the serious danger posed to imprisoned women by intact male inmates. It appears that hope was misplaced.

In a letter dated October 12, 2022, Commissioner Ro Allen advised ‘they’ had met with Corrections Victoria and no action will be taken to remove the violent sex offender from Dame Phyllis Frost Correctional Centre:

‘The Commission considers that Corrections Victoria’s policy for the management of prisoners who are trans, gender diverse or intersex provides a framework for prisoner placement decisions that is grounded in human rights principles. Corrections Victoria is responsible for applying the policy and for making decisions about prisoner placement in Victoria. The Commission does not have the legislative power to initiate an inquiry into these decisions or to direct or overturn them.’

If you feel you’ve just stumbled into a dystopian nightmare, you’re not alone.

Stassja Frei is the founder of grassroots organisation Coalition for Biological Reality. She is also co-host of the weekly YouTube show, TERF Talk Down Under. This piece was originally posted on The Spectator Australia and has been re-posted with permission. Sign and share the petition to protect women in prison.