Transgender woman’s detention in Hong Kong all-male prison ‘unconstitutional’, court told
Lawyers for Filipino Navarro Luigi Recasa claim that the woman was subjected to repeated strip-searches by male prison guards and other ‘degrading and inhuman’ treatment during her time in the city’s correctional institutions
A transgender woman who is seeking a legal review of a decision by police and the Correctional Services Department to treat her as a male prisoner was a victim of discrimination and unconstitutional prison rules, the High Court heard on Monday.
Her lawyer argued that she was “extremely sensitive” while in transition from male to female, and that the treatment she had received was “inhuman and degrading”.
Philippine national Navarro Luigi Recasa, now 21, has since gone back to her home country after serving time in Hong Kong for drug and immigration offences, her lawyers said outside court.
On Monday, Clive Grossman SC, for Recasa, told the court his client had received partial gender reassignment surgery.
Recasa was said to have received hormone treatment since the age of 12 and had breast augmentation surgery at the age of 18.
She was arrested for drug offences in June 2014 and paraded in front of male detainees at Central Police Station, it was claimed. After an initial hearing at the Eastern Court, she was remanded at the all-male Pik Uk Correctional Institution.
Recasa was incarcerated in both the institution and Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre for around 13 months, during which time she was placed in all-male detention facilities and was strip-searched on multiple occasions by male officers.
The Filipino had been subjected to “degrading” treatment, as she was ordered to remove her clothing, including her bra and underwear, in front of male prison officers, Grossman said.
She may have been subjected to sexual harassment in an all-male prison, the barrister added.
He said Recasa was refused hormone treatment for almost eight months, during which time she was “traumatised” due to the development of male physical characteristics on her body.
“I am a woman,” Recasa was said to have stated.
Grossman argued that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inmates – as a small minority – were still a disadvantaged group in the city’s jails.
He said the treatment Recasa had received was inhuman and breached her basic human rights.
“Prison rules are unconstitutional,” the lawyer said, claiming there was an infringement of Article 3 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, which prohibits “torture or inhuman treatment”.
Recasa wants the court to review the authorities’ decision to send her to male facilities, which breached her fundamental rights under the Basic Law constitutional order.
The hearing continues on Tuesday before High Court judge Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung.