Friday, July 24, 2009

The Hermaphrodite: Prisoner A

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.

The inmate, who can only be identified as Prisoner A, was described by her lawyer in the High Court as "a woman trapped inside a man's body".

A judge heard that, although apparently born male, Prisoner A had her womanhood recognised by law and her birth certificate had been amended to show her female sex.

Barrister Phillipa Kaufman told Deputy Judge David Elvin QC that hair on A's face and legs had been permanently removed by laser and she had developed breasts after hormone treatment.

But she was forbidden from wearing skirts or blouses, or more than "subtle" make up, at the men's prison where she was being held on a "vulnerable prisoners" wing.

To complete her change to full womanhood, she required gender reassignment surgery, but had been told she could not have it while she remained in a men's prison.

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 Miss 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.

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.

They 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.

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

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