To petition Anne Tolley and the New Zealand Department of Corrections to change their discriminatory policy to recognise transgender people by their gender identity
Anne Tolley's recent statement in Parliament that "A man who is transgender but pre-surgery is still a man" is ignorant and discriminatory. It is not in step with global recognition of the rights of transgender people to be treated with dignity and respect.
The New Zealand Department of Corrections' failure to recognise transgender people on the basis of their gender identity (except through a high burden of proof) means that transgender people are at risk of sexual, physical, and psychological violence.
As the Chief Ombudsman has recently highlighted, the New Zealand Department of Corrections' policy to treat people only by the gender on their birth certificate is discriminatory and dangerous. This report outlines potential risk of assault to transgender people. There is a high legal threshold for changing one's birth certificate and not all transgender people take all the steps required for health, cultural, financial, or personal reasons.
The Human Rights Commission's 2008 Transgender Inquiry raised concerns about the safety of transgender people in prison and it seems there has been little action on this now more than four years on. There have also been concerns raised about transgender people being put into segregation and not being able to mix with other prisoners, not having access to rehabilitation and other prison services, and not having access to hormones if they have not been prescribed these prior to sentencing. While the data on the exact number of transgender people in prison in New Zealand is incomplete, the small number means flexibility to protect and help rehabilitate people in this marginalised group should be possible.
We, the undersigned, ask that:
- Anne Tolley must apologise to the transgender community of New Zealand and
their allies for her denigrating description transgender people who have not had sex reassignment surgery. Any transgender person – whether they have had any or all of the possible surgeries – is protected from discrimination under the grounds of sex in New Zealand’s Human Rights Act.
- There is immediate change of New Zealand Department of Corrections' policy to not only recognise transgender people by their surgical status. This policy must recognise the rights of transgender people and implement an equitable treatment. This includes the rights to safety and protection from sexual, physical, and psychological violence.
- There must be a full independent investigation into the safety and other needs of transgender people in prisons. This should be conducted in collaboration with the Aotearoa New Zealand transgender community including transgender people who have previously been in prison.