Male Rapists Are Being Allowed Into Women's Prisons
The most vulnerable women are increasingly subject to abuse and loss of human rights. Many states are now forcing these women to share cells with male rapists.
Who are women prisoners?
In recent decades, the number of women incarcerated has grown twice as fast as the number of men. According to prison justice researchers, the data needed to analyze the cause of this increase does not yet fully exist. Furthermore, it has been obscured by the scale of male incarceration and the growing scarcity of sex-specific data. As a result, a reduction of the already limited resources given to prisoners is leaving women behind in the fight against mass incarceration.
Incarcerated women are often young, single mothers, lesbian or bisexual, and from ethnic minority backgrounds, exposing them to discrimination in the form of misogyny, homophobia, and racism. They have often had inadequate access to education and/or labor opportunities and are discriminated against by class. In a recent study in the United States, it was revealed that a third of incarcerated women are lesbian or bisexual, compared to less than 10% of men. According to the same study, lesbians and bisexual women receive longer sentences than their heterosexual peers. In the United States and Canada, women's prisons have a completely different race and ethnic breakdown than the overall population, with black and indigenous women (respectively) greatly overrepresented in prisons. More than half of women prisoners have some sort of mental illness, substance addiction, or have previously suffered from sexual assault or rape.
What's the issue?
Since 2016, male prisoners in the UK have been able to ask to be transferred to women's prisons. Males self-identifying as women are required to have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), and a diagnosis of gender dysphoria which can be acquired by self-identifying as the opposite sex. Medical or legal transition is not necessary. This allows prisoners who are legally and biologically male to be housed in women's prisons.
In the US state of California the controversial bill, SB 132, took effect in January 2021. It allows male state prison inmates self-identifying as women to transfer into women’s prisons based on “individual preference”, with no hormones, surgery, or time spent living as the opposite sex required. Spokeswoman Terry Thornton of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says 264 male prisoners have requested a transfer to women’s facilities under this law.
In the UK, a legal challenge to prevent men who self-identify as women but have been convicted for violence against women, "sex" offenses, or rape against women from being imprisoned with women was dismissed by the UK high court. As the judgment was handed down, Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mr. Justice Swift, "acknowledged" the fear and anxiety female inmates would suffer if a male rapist was in the same jail, but claimed existing policies should moderate this.
The legal challenger was a UK woman, a former inmate, known only as FDJ. She spoke out about the failure of UK policies allowing men to be allowed in women's prison. She was raped by a male who possessed a gender recognition certificate (GRC) and had been housed with women prisoners in HMP Bronzefield in 2017. FDJ argued that her human rights were violated by having to be in the same prison as male rapists.
According to official figures, men are five times more likely to carry out sexual assaults or rape against inmates while housed in women's prisons. In a high-profile case in the UK, a violent male rapist was allowed to be housed in a women's prison where he proceeded to violently assault and rape more women. The male who self-identified as a woman had previously raped a pregnant woman and sexually assaulted children. The "existing policies" the UK government touted as protection systems for women prisoners have clearly failed.
Meanwhile, in the United States, an inmate at Illinois’ largest women’s prison reported that she was raped by a male inmate who was transferred into her housing unit in 2019. The victim also stated that the Illinois Department of Corrections conducted a “sham investigation” to help cover up the incident. She was forced by a supervisory officer into denying the attack took place and then punished for filing a “false” complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The state later claimed it was "consensual" sex and the victim was punished and relocated to a new detention center 40 miles away. Other inmates in the same prison have also reported being sexually assaulted and intimidated by the same man.
In the United States, almost 2.3 million individuals are held in prisons. At least 231,000 are women and girls. The United States has a total of 917,771 registered "sex" offenders or rapists nationwide, almost all male, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Comparatively, in the United Kingdom, there are approximately 77.42 thousand men and 3.41 thousand women in prison. Close to 1 in every 5 male prisoners have been convicted of a "sex" offence, including rape. That’s about 14,000 male "sex" offenders or nearly 20% of the male prison population. In contrast, less than 150 female prisoners have been convicted of "sex" offending or rape. That's 3% of the female prison population of nearly 4,000. Of those women convicted of "sex" offenses or rape, the majority were only charged as accessories to the crime.
According to the UK's Ministry of Justice, nearly half of all imprisoned males self-identifying as women were charged as "sex" offenders or rapists and/or highly dangerous prisoners.
In the UK, both the Tory and Labour Parties have tried repeatedly to pass self-id legislation similar to California's. Given the statistics and cases currently available, it is reasonable to expect that self-id would produce the same or far worse results than the current numbers.
Women's rights are human rights
Not only have women prisoners had their rights violated, their voices, and that of their advocates are silenced by the state. There is an extreme double standard by sex in both the concern for safety and the hate crime laws as interpreted by UK courts. A UK justice minister has stated that women prisoners referring to a male as “he” or “him” could be punished with time added onto their sentence.
Meanwhile, the laundry list of slurs directed at women are still commonplace and not prosecuted. A recent women's conference that featured Afghan women speaking about the loss of rights under the Taliban and an Ethiopian woman talking about the Tigray genocide was protested, by a group backed by Amnesty International, with the typical signs threatening violence and rape to the women. Elder women have been beaten up for speaking about women's rights, but UK police instead investigate and prosecute any sign of a suffragette flag as a hate crime. Women's rights are increasingly ignored by so-called human rights organizations, media, and government, a situation examined in detail in a recent BBC podcast. It is an uphill battle to have misogyny recognized as a hate crime.
The Male Rape Crisis
According to official reports in 2008, at least 216,000 people, mostly male, were sexually assaulted or raped in prison. While men are also raped in prisons, particularly if they are young, small, or weak, that issue is in no way resolved by subjecting women to male violence. The solution to male violence must be found in male prisons.
Moving Forward Together
Women's rights, visibility, and voices are increasingly under attack, worldwide. The most vulnerable women, those already discriminated against by income, race, or previous victimhood, are largely ignored in theoretical debates which hold centre stage in media. Human rights are always lost at the bottom first and women in prisons and shelters bear the brunt of attacks on women.