A British judge has ruled that a transsexual prisoner must be transferred to a women's prison so she can complete her surgical transition. Making things a little more complicated is the fact that she's in jail for raping a woman.
According to Tom Whitehead of the Telegraph, the prisoner, identified as "A," has undergone hormone therapy and changed her birth certificate to say she is female. She's also obtained a certificate under Britain's 2004 Gender Recognition Act, which mandates that she be treated as a woman "for all purposes." She would like to have gender reassignment surgery, but she can't do that unless she lives as a woman for a period of time, which she can't do while in a men's prison. She's currently being housed in a "vulnerable prisoners" wing, where she is allowed to shower by herself and wear "subtle" makeup, but where she cannot wear skirts or women's blouses.
The judge ruled that keeping A in a men's prison violates her right to "private and family life" under the European Convention on Human Rights. He said that being incarcerated with men placed unfair restrictions on her, and kept her from her goal of getting surgery. His ruling makes a lot of sense, especially since A is now considered a woman under British law.
But A's most recent crime — tying a woman up and attempting to rape her — initially seems to cloud the issue. Would A's presence in a women's prison be a threat to the women there? Is this a case where someone's still-male anatomy needs to be balanced against her female gender identity? I initially thought so, but the truth is that woman-born women can rape women too. And men who have raped men are routinely placed in men's prisons. And the fact that A had to be in a "vulnerable prisoners" unit highlights the harassment and assault transsexual and transgender prisoners sometimes face from other inmates. Clearly, how to protect prisoners' rights is a problem neither Britain nor the US has solved. But safeguarding their right to live according to their gender identities is a step in the right direction.