Transgender inmates in Hong Kong are assigned to male or female wards according to identity documents rather than the agenda they identify with, an investigation into Hong Kong’s prison system has revealed.
Inmates are often subject to mistreatment and abuse from other inmates and prison officers. Mistreatment to transgender female inmates include solitary confinement, being denied hormones, forced to have their hair cut and to wear male clothing.
The report by the South China Morning Post highlights the plight of Filipina Navarro Luigi Recasa who was sentenced to two years in prison 2014. Recasa has not undergone a full sex change but has identified as female for 12 years, has fully formed breasts and takes hormones.
Recasa reported that during a doctor’s examination, she was made to get fully naked, lean on a table while male correctional officers ridiculed her, and that an unidentified object was inserted in her anus.
She has filed a judicial challenge against her treatment and it will proceed to a hearing on August 8.
“The procedures and policies that our client was subjected to were grossly unfair, and led to major repercussions both physically and mentally,” says Patricia Ho, Recasa’s attorney from human rights firm Daly & Associates. “We’ve encountered other cases, including people who are so depressed about the conditions under which they are detained in Siu Lam that they’ve attempted suicide.”
As being transgender is still considered a mental illness in Hong Kong, transgender prisoners are sent to the maximum-security Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre.
Hong Kong-based NGO Midnight Blue said they have heard complaints from 40 male-to-female transgender offenders and report hair forcibly shaved off, body searches carried out by male correctional officers, interpreters refused, and verbal and sexual abuse by prison officers.
According to the report, open advocate of LGBT rights Legislator Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, challenged the issue of treatment of transgender prisoners in March last year with the commissioner of the Correctional Services Department (CSD).
According to Chan, “the Commissioner for Correctional Services unabashedly answered my question by saying that the CSD will continue the practice of determining the gender of the prisoner solely on the sex as shown on identity documents.”