In August 2022, it was revealed by the Herald Sun that a man convicted of serious sexual offences against women and children, who now identifies as transgender, is being housed in the Dame Phyllis Frost Correctional Centre for women.
Female prisoners are petitioning multiple Victorian government departments for the immediate removal of the man in question. The petition says that many of the prisoners carry significant trauma associated with having been victims of sexual assault or supporting victims, and that on hearing the news, "the mental wellbeing of many of the women was severely compromised." They understandably “feel threatened, unsafe, distressed and traumatised with this current situation.”
Women’s Forum Australia and the Coalition for Biological Reality have launched a petition in solidarity with these women calling on Victorian leaders to remove this male sex offender and other men from women’s prisons in Victoria.
Research shows that female prisoners are particularly vulnerable. They are more likely to have a history of physical and sexual abuse than male prisoners, and are more likely to have mental health problems, with nearly 1 in 3 reporting a history of self-harm. It is cruel and gravely unjust to imprison these vulnerable women with a violent male sex offender.
Corrections Victoria has made a significant error in judgment, ignoring its own Commissioner’s Requirements which require it to consider that trans identifying male prisoners “might pose safety risks to others, particularly if their criminal record indicates a history of sexual and / or physical violence.”
Of particular concern regarding the Commissioner’s Requirements is Section 6.1.1 which states: “As a guiding principle, a person should be imprisoned in the prison of their gender rather than their sex assigned or assumed at birth.” This is wrong and puts women at risk of violence, sexual assault, and unwanted pregnancy, as has been demonstrated in overseas jurisdictions.
Corrections Victoria has also ignored two sets of United Nations Rules regarding the human rights of prisoners that it references on its own website, which require that “men and women shall so far as possible be detained in separate institutions” (The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners) and that the “distinctive needs of women prisoners” be taken into account (The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners).
Single-sex prisons exist to protect the dignity, safety and privacy of female inmates. Placing trans identifying males in women’s prisons unacceptably exposes female prisoners to increased risks of harm and is a breach of their human rights.
Males who identify as transgender are not the only males at risk of violence in men’s prisons. We believe solutions for male-on-male violence rests with men’s prisons and that separate units for all vulnerable males is the best option.
Women’s Forum Australia CEO Rachael Wong and Coalition for Biological Reality Founder Stassja Frei have also directly addressed their concerns to Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews, Minister for Corrections Sonya Kilkenny, Minister for Women The Hon Natalie Hutchins, Minister for Equality Harriet Shing, Attorney-General The Hon Jaclyn Symes, and Ombudsman Deborah Glass, calling on them to remove men from women's prisons in Victoria and protect the human rights and safety of female prisoners.
Every effort should be made to ensure the safety and welfare of all prisoners, but housing males in women’s prisons - particularly dangerous male sex offenders - is not the answer. We call on Victorian leaders to urgently act to protect the safety, rights and wellbeing of female prisoners in Victoria.
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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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