Warning: distressing content
A transgender rights group is calling for reform after a Tasmanian trans woman was allegedly gang-raped while housed in a male prison.
The mother of Martin Harwood, who identified as Marjorie, told ABC News she supported her child’s gender expression.
“I’d walk down the street with him, I used to buy his makeup. I didn’t care. He wanted ladies’ clothes, he got ladies’ clothes,” she said.
She said Marjorie, whom she referred to as Marty, turned to alcohol and crime after enduring years of bullying and was in and out of jail several times.
“I used to say to the magistrate, ‘Can you please put him somewhere safe?'” she said.
“But people say I can’t blame the magistrate, it’s not up to the magistrate to say where he goes.”
Ms Harwood said Marjorie was housed among the male prison population and while in prison was allegedly gang-raped by a group of men and hospitalised with significant injuries.
“He said ‘Mum, they raped me. Five of them,” Harwood said.
“When the magistrate used to sentence him he would sing out ‘Mum, help me’. I would feel helpless.
“I have been thinking to myself lately that he would have been lying there bleeding and crying and thinking, ‘Mum, help me.’ I wasn’t there.”
Ms Harwood said Marjorie suffered from kidney disease from a young age, but after the alleged rape she refused life-saving treatment. Marjorie died last month.
“The doctor offered him dialysis numerous times,” she said.
“[Marjorie said] ‘No I don’t want dialysis mum, I want to die’. That is hard for a mother to accept.”
A spokesperson for the Tasmania Prison Service (TPS) said allegations of serious offences were referred directly to Tasmania Police for investigation.
Police have no record of the alleged rape, which was never reported, according to ABC News.
The TPS spokesperson said the service had a comprehensive policy for trans prisoners which prioritised safety and treated prisoners with dignity and respect.
“Subject to the security of the prison, transgender, transsexual and intersex prisoners are housed in a correctional facility appropriate to their gender identification,” the spokesperson said.
“The TPS has no record that the individual in question identified as female.”
Transforming Tasmania spokesperson Martine Delaney said Marjorie should not have been housed in the men’s prison.
“She was a lot braver than I and she was attempting to be herself back in the early 1980s,” Delaney said.
“That caused her a lot of trouble and a lot of grief that went on for most of her life.
“I wonder why a prison system which provides protective custody for people accused of child sex offences didn’t provide that same protection for a transgender person being placed in a male prison?”
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