Scottish prison service rules allowing male-born transgender offenders to be housed in women’s prisons have been suspended and are now under ‘urgent review’. The women who raised concerns about this issue for several years have thus been vindicated; their persistence and determination in raising those concerns should be noted and acclaimed.
The Scottish development follows cases that have grimly caught the public eye across the UK. Last week’s conviction of the double rapist known as Isla Bryson was followed by reports that the violent sex offender ‘Tiffany Scott’ (born Andrew Burns) was heading for a female jail – solely because he says he identifies as female.
These miserable stories – and the tortured language used to report them, including phrases such as ‘her penis’ – are precisely what a number of women have been warning of. And while trans sex offender transfers to the female estate are now on hold, there have already been too many reports of women in that estate being intimidated and worse by other male-born criminals who say they are female.
The fact that it has taken such vivid cases for those warnings to be accepted and acted on is revealing.
Those warnings are longstanding. Very nearly five years ago, I wrote here about worries that accepting self-identified gender at face value could lead to policies and practices apt to be exploited by predatory men:
To those who worry about this, the prospect of women’s prisons, refuges and toilets being open to a person who was born male and now says they are female and who is entitled to enter those women-only spaces solely on that person’s self-declaration of gender is profoundly troubling. They fear that such rules could easily be exploited by men who were not genuinely conflicted about their gender but simply wished to gain access to women’s spaces and rights for some other malign purpose.