Transgender woman takes Hong Kong police, prison officers to court over all-men detention ordeal

Police and prison officers are accused of treating Filpina as a man during a seven-month ordeal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 June, 2015, 12:56am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 June, 2015, 12:56am

A transgender woman is seeking a legal review of a decision by police and the Correctional Services Department to treat her as a male prisoner while she was jailed for drug and immigration offences.

Philippine national Navarro Luigi Recasa, 19, was subjected to strip-searches by male officers and denied seven months of hormone treatment during her detention, from which she was released recently.

She argued the decision to treat her as a man was irrational and unconstitutional, according to an application for a judicial review filed with the High Court.

"[Recasa] has been living a life as a female since 12 years old. She is not seeking to transform from male to female - she has already been undergoing that process for many years," the document says.

"It is of fundamental importance to her dignity, her private life and to her psychological compulsion as regards her gender identity and how the world sees her."

[Recasa] has been living a life as a female since 12 years old

Recasa was biologically male, the document says, but was undergoing hormone treatment and intended to visit Thailand for surgery to complete her physical transformation into a woman.

She was arrested for drug offences in June last year and paraded in front of male detainees at Central Police Station. After an initial hearing in Eastern Court, she was remanded at the all-male Pik Uk Correctional Institution.

On arrival, the document says, she was ordered to remove all her clothing, including her bra and underwear.

She was also asked to squat and lean on the table, whereupon she felt an object placed in her anus. The procedure was conducted by male prison officers.

That was followed by solitary confinement for the first three days, after which Recasa was moved to Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre. The centre serves male and female inmates but, the document says, she suffered a further strip-search in which male officers touched her breasts.

On July 31, Recasa pleaded guilty to two drug charges and a count of breaching her conditions of stay in Hong Kong.

She was jailed for 20 months in Siu Lam, but was denied her hormone therapy until transgender groups intervened. The treatment resumed in March.

Recasa claims the conditions of her detention were inhumane and degrading, and breached her rights to dignity and privacy.

She suffered psychological trauma as she feared losing her identity as a woman. The prospect of her male appearance re-emerging as her therapy wore off made her depressed.

Recasa wants the court to review the authorities' decision to sending her to male facilities and also claims an unspecified sum in damages for pain and suffering.

A police spokesman said the force would look into the matter.