Tara Hudson is a 26-year-old transgender woman who has been sentenced to serve 12 weeks in an all-male prison in the U.K. because her passport still records her gender as male. This week, advocates fearing for her safety and well-being started a petition to have her moved.
"I spoke to Tara today and she told me she is getting loads of sexual harassment and abuse," Hudson's mother Jackie Brooklyn told Gay Star News. "They are constantly shouting her name and asking her to show them her boobs. Although she is locked up 23 hours a day, she has to mix, and when she does, they are sexually harassing her."
Hudson plead guilty to assault charges after a bar fight last year. The petition to have her transferred to a women's facility has more than 111,000 signatures, as of this morning. Activists are organizing a protest outside the Ministry of Justice in London tomorrow.
"In an era of unprecedented victories for LGBT rights, people like Tara Hudson are still paying a high price at the hands of an outdated and outmoded judicial system, simply for being who they are," the petition reads. It's also spurred online support with the tag #ISeeTara:
Hudson doesn't have a Gender Recognition Certificate (an official document in the U.K. that can be used by transgender people to have their gender recognized), which is usually used by courts to decide where to send transgender prisoners. But, the New Statesman reports, the Ministry of Justice also has a provision that stipulates that if a transgender prisoner doesn't have a G.R.C., the court should consider their wellbeing and potential harmful effects of sending them to the wrong prison. As the magazine writes:
That is why this case has provoked so much rage. Tara Hudson must now endure cruelty because those who sat in judgment of her deemed they had no alternative but to follow the rulebook. Except they didn’t: they only read half of it.
For trans people, that is the reality of justice in Britain today.
Hudson's case is up for review tomorrow at a Bristol court, but Gay Star News reports that the issue of which prison she's being held in may not be dealt with. A prison service spokesperson did not directly address whether or not she woudl be moved, but told the Independent, "It is long-standing policy to place offenders according to their legally recognised gender. However, our guidelines allow room for discretion, and in such cases medical experts will review the circumstances in order to protect the emotional well-being of the person concerned.” The newspaper writes that though prison authorities do not keep statistics on transgender prisoners, advocates estimate that there are around 20–30 trans people in prison in the U.K. at any time.
This case has gained publicity at a time when the government's Women and Equality Committee is conducting an inquiry into the state of transgender rights in the U.K. Despite some progress in the last decade in the form of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and the 2010 Equality Act, "the Committee is aware that full equality for trans people still has not been achieved," its mission statement reads.
The way transgender people are treated in prisons is an ongoing human rights issue across the globe. In one Indian state, new cell blocks are being built specifically for transgender inmates, in the interests of protecting their privacy and preventing abuse. Despite some progress in a few U.S. states, conditions for transgender prisoners nationally is still of concern to advocates. The Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was introduced in 2012, provides specific protections for trans inmates—but in practice, does not appear to be doing enough to curb abuse, NPR reported last year.