Suhakam calls for SOP on transgender prisoners


PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) wants a standard operating procedure (SOP) on the treatment of transgender prisoners to ensure their safety, and that they are treated fairly and lawfully.

In its 2017 nationwide survey and report on the right to health in prison, it said placing transgender prisoners with men due to the legal status of their sex could lead to them being sexually abused or raped.

“The commission observes that there is no standardised policy concerning the placement of transgender persons in prisons,” it said.

“As it stands, decisions over whether to send a prisoner (prisoners) to male or female prisons depend on their legally recognised gender, which is determined through their birth certificate or identity card.”

Suhakam added that sometimes prison authorities exercised local discretion on the matter, given its complex and sensitive nature.

It said the opinion of medical officers is also sought to determine the placement of transgender prisoners.

The commission said prison authorities should produce a policy framework outlining how such prisoners could be assured of their safety and respect within the prison environment.

It recommended that input for the framework be gathered from psychologists, healthcare professionals and prison staff.

According to the report, while the number of transgender prisoners in Malaysia is low, they are at substantially high risk of suffering from assault or self-harm.

Suhakam also recommended that the Prisons Department consider training selected staff to ensure the security and protection of transgender prisoners, as well as to address their special needs in prisons.