Self-ID and the prison system: Men in women's prisons. A report from Canada

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An Irish newspaper, TheJournal.ie, reports today Lto news of a woman arrested in Dublin for possession of violent child pornography images. Alone at the end of the article it is said, almost incidentally, that it's about a man who identifies himself as woman. In countries that allow self-id -self-certification of gender- if a prisoner claims to be a woman he can be transferred to a women's prison. This entails very serious risks for the safety and dignity of female prisoners. Here's what happens in Canada, where since 2017 a law authorizes self-id.

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On March 7, a group of Canadian women gathered outside the Grand Valley Institution for Women, a women's prison in Ontario, to protest the transfer of male inmates who say they feel like women.

Transfers of men to women's prisons they happen regularly in Canada, in general silence, since the law came into force in 2017 law on “gender identity” which allows you to change gender with one simple self-declaration (self-id). Means that a male prisoner can declare himself a woman, without any medical diagnosis or intervention, and request transfer to the women's prison. Most of them committed murders and sexual crimes, and leaves a circuit with a high level of vigilance for the homes and the much calmer community of the female institute.

Of the 14 transferred male inmates we know of, 12 have not had surgery or taken female sex hormones.

The leading voice in the defense of incarcerated women is Heather Mason. A former prisoner herself, Heather has seen the harm this policy does to vulnerable women, who have often already suffered a life of physical and sexual violence, poverty and alienation.

"We have the risk of violence between prisoners in men's prisons has been entirely transferred to women,” he said in his speech. “We are used as shields to protect men who self-identify as women from violence from other men."

Steve “Sam” Mehlenbacher. He raped an inmate at the Grand Valley Institution (see here)

Mason is speaking at her own personal risk (considering the nature of those she is trying to limit – criminals and gender activists) and without the support of institutions that have historically fought for incarcerated women, captured by the ideology of “gender identity.” The Canadian press is almost completely silent on this issue and reports trans news only from a positive perspective. Since the federal prison agency, Correctional Services Canada, does not provide information on male inmates who transfer, Mason relies on a network of women, inside and outside prison, and ingenious detective work to find these men and what they did.

Through Mason's investigations, we have learned that some of the most obvious risks of placing dangerous male inmates with vulnerable women have already been realized: sexual and physical violence, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Women felt the need to arm themselves with makeshift means, such as soup cans hidden in socks.

There are also less obvious but equally unfair consequences for women, such as re-traumatization of victims of abuse, the rivalries due to the added sexual element of being with an intact male, the loss of dignity and privacy that women retain when in single-sex spaces, etc. Services like Mother and Child Program, which humanely allows the child to be with the mother, risk being canceled due to increased security measures necessary to surveil violent male criminals. Counseling services offered to women as rehabilitation are useless for male prisoners, who have different behavior patterns (despite their supposed “gender identity”), as evidenced by the crimes they have committed.

Even the female guards they are forced to deal with these men who identify as women, for example during searches, and feel that their safety and dignity are being compromised. In fact, their union wants to arm the guards at the women's prison with more powerful guns and riot gear. This Increased security is a direct result of the influx of dangerous male prisoners, and will have a negative effect on the female prison population.

The Correctional Services Canada he accepted all this in the name of human rights and equality towards men. It is certainly not fair to the women who have to endure these unjust conditions in their captivity. Their human rights do not matter in this equation. For women who identify as men, no transfer to a men's prison is permitted. The possibility of them being raped is too high.

The protest was organized by two groups created “from below” to fight for women's rights in Canada, caWsbar (Canadian Women's Sex-based Rights) e We The Females. Ex-prisoners and guards also joined the demonstration. Although media coverage was scant (for example here), there were no interruptions from gender activists, and many passersby showed their support. After the success of the first protest at the GVI, the women held a second one on March 20: the number of demonstrators grew, it was animated by songs and a group of passing guards stopped and joined the women. We can only hope that the tide is turning for some of Canada's most marginalized women, once again victimized by the prison system.

Tania Alessandrini for Feminist Post, March 26, 2021

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