Women’s advocates say female inmates should not be forced to share prisons with biological males

Women’s advocates say female inmates should not be forced to share prisons with biological males

It is great to see the issue of males being housed in women’s prisons finally getting some airtime in Australia in a piece by Clarissa Bye in today’s Daily Telegraph.

Mark Latham MP called attention to the issue in the NSW Parliament, asking the Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services representing the Minister for Corrections:

  • How many biological men are held as transgender women in women’s correctional centres in New South Wales?
  • What precautions are taken to separate these men from women traumatised by male crimes of violence and sexual assault?

He was advised that “there are three transgender women housed in female correctional centres in NSW” and that the relevant policy is available here.

Women’s advocates are calling for steps to be taken to protect female prisoners, including our CEO Rachael Wong who is quoted as saying: 

“Single-sex prisons exist to protect the dignity, safety and privacy of female inmates. Placing trans identified males in women’s prisons unacceptably exposes female inmates to increased risks of harm.”

We have previously written about the grave risks for female inmates forced to share prisons with biological males here and here. Similar policies overseas have resulted in devastating cases of women being sexually assaulted:

Take for example the two women inmates who were sexually assaulted by transgender prisoner and convicted rapist Karen White in a UK female-only prison in 2018, or the recent story of a female inmate from Illinois who has claimed in a lawsuit that she was raped by a transgender inmate. There have also been reports of female prison officers being raped by transgender inmates.

Recent figures from the UK show that transgender prisoners are five times more likely to carry out sex attacks on inmates in women’s prisons than their female counter-parts.

Every effort should be made to ensure the safety of all prisoners, in particular to ensure that no prisoners are subject to physical or sexual violence in prison. However, in attempting to make things safer for transgender inmates, policymakers have inadvertently made things more dangerous for women.

It is critical that the Federal Government acts to protect the rights and safety of women in prisons and other female spaces and services by putting the sex-based definitions of ‘woman’ and ‘man’ back in the Sex Discrimination Act, and that public policies affirm women’s spaces and services are based on sex not gender. 

Read the full article below:

Transwomen in female jails in NSW debate: call to change law

Clarissa Bye, Daily Telegraph 

NSW now has three transgender women housed in the state’s female prison population – with questions being raised about security for female sex assault and DV victims.

Corrective Services NSW revealed the figures after questions from MP Mark Latham about whether the biological men had been separated from women “traumatised” by male crimes of violence and sexual assault.

The issue has become controversial in the UK and in the US after rapes and pregnancies within jails – and now several Australian feminist groups are calling for the Sex Discrimination Act to be changed to protect female prisoners.

Mr Latham says the current policy is “lopsided” and cares more about the rights and protection of transgender women than other female prisoners, who may be traumatised by domestic violence and rape.

“It’s all about the interests of the transgender prisoner instead of consideration of how this is a relatively new and unusual practice and how the women in the prison might react and might be traumatised.”

Australian Women’s Forum chief executive Rachael Wong said single-sex prisons existed to “protect the dignity, safety and privacy of female inmates”.

“Placing trans identified males in women’s prisons unacceptably exposes female inmates to increased risks of harm,” she said. 

Coalition for Biological Reality founder Stassja Frei said sex segregation was necessary and said trans women were not the only males at risk of violence in men’s prisons — therefore the solution was separate wings in those jails “for all vulnerable men, inclusive of trans women”.

“A simple clause in the Sex Discrimination Act that allows for lawful discrimination in settings where girls and women are in a state of undress would solve many problems, including the prisons issue,” she said.

“We know that similar policies introduced overseas (housing transwomen in female jails) have resulted in unwanted pregnancies and sexual assault.”

Fair Go for Queensland Woman’s Steph Hughes, who has researched the issue, says UN conventions state different categories for prisoners in separate institutions should take into account sex, age and criminal record.

“It appears that accommodations are being made for the special interests of those who say they are transgender without consideration for the rights and needs of women, and this has resulted in negative outcomes for women, arguably most egregiously incarcerated women,” she said.

Asked what specific measures were in place to protect vulnerable women, a Corrective Services NSW spokeswoman said that when deciding on the placement of transgender people in custody, they “take into consideration the person’s criminal history, behaviour in custody and the safety of both the transgender inmate and other inmates”.

“A transgender person may be refused placement in a correctional facility of their gender of identification if they’ve committed crimes of violence or sexual assault against women or children,” she said.

The official Inmate, Classification and Placement of Transgender and Intersex Inmates policy of Corrective Services states: “A person who self-identifies as transgender has the right to be housed in a NSW Correctional Centre appropriate to their gender of identification, unless it is determined through classification that the transgender person should more appropriately be assigned to a correctional centre of their biological gender.”

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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