Harassed trans women wins lawsuit against men’s prison

Jade September, a South African trans woman who is in prison for murder, has won a lawsuit against the prison she is in. The staff of the men’s prison harassed her by cutting off her hair and taking away her make-up and underwear.
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The inmate was also placed in segregated confinement for asserting her gender. This all led to her attempting to commit suicide in 2017. September sued the prison, supported by many human rights organisations.

The court ruled mostly in favour of September. The judge decided that September has the right to express herself as a women, even in a men’s prison. The way she was treated violated her freedom of expression and dignity. The prison has to return her confiscated jewellery, underwear and make-up. The judge reprimanded the prison staff because of the way they treated the trans woman. The prison department must introduce gender sensitivity training for all new and existing officials within 12 months. They also have to refer to Ms September with the female pronouns – something the staff rejected to do. September may be transferred to a female prison.

The judge concluded the placing of Ms September in segregated confinement was lawful. The trans rights organisation Gender Dynamix welcomed the judge’s verdict: “we believe that it is central to the promotion of the rights of transgender and gender diverse persons in South Africa. These classes of persons remain marginalised and ignored by the law and its application.”

September is serving a sentence of 15 years for committing a murder and a robbery. She has to serve at least nine more years.


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