LONDON – A British court issued a landmark ruling Friday, allowing a transsexual prisoner serving life for manslaughter and attempted rape to be transferred to a women's prison.
High Court Deputy Judge David Elvin said the refusal of Justice Secretary Jack Straw and the prison authorities to transfer the 27-year-old was a violation of her human rights.
The prisoner, who began gender reassignment treatment years ago to become a woman, was not named to protect her identity.
Keeping her in a male prison "effectively bars her ability to qualify for surgery, which interferes with her personal autonomy in a manner which goes beyond that which imprisonment is intended to do," Elvin said.
The prisoner's lawyer, Phillippa Kaufmann, said she would be transferred in the coming weeks.
Although born a man, she began the process of gender reassignment while in prison. In 2006, she obtained a legal acknowledgment that she should be recognized as a woman.
The prisoner, who was then a man, was originally sentenced to five years for manslaughter in 2001 after strangling his boyfriend to death.
Days after his release, he tried to rape a female shopkeeper and was sentenced to life.
The judge said the prisoner had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and had been aware of her condition from an early age.
In evidence presented for the hearing, she said she had always felt like a woman.
"For me it is simply a reflection of how it should have been from the start," she said, adding she hoped to have surgery soon to remove her penis.
She has adopted a female name, had facial and body hair permanently removed and developed breasts after hormone treatment.
Elvin said she looks "convincingly" like a woman, although she has been prevented from wearing skirts and other items in the male prison.