SUPPORTERS of Jade September picket outside the Cape Town High Court. Zodidi Dano

Cape Town - Should the Equality Court rule in favour of a transgender prisoner to express her gender identity as a female in a male facility, then the Standing Order in prison should be sent back to the minister for review. 

Tuesday marked day two of arguments in the Western Cape High Court, sitting as the Equality Court, with transgender prisoner Jade September challenging authorities and accusing prison heads of discriminating against her by not allowing her to wear her hair long, wearing make-up and jewellery or female underwear.

September is serving 15 years for killing a client in May 2013.

While incarcerated at the Helderstroom Maximum Correctional Centre, in Caledon, September said she was subjected to verbal abuse and harassment from prison officials, and at one stage placed in segregated confinement for 17 days in 2016. 

This was after she defied officials and expressed her gender. Her personal items were confiscated, and she was forced to cut off her braided hair.

The court heard that on December 7 last year, following a confrontation with one of the prison heads, September attempted to commit suicide.

In a responding arguments, State lawyer advocate Karrishi Pillay, said in terms of the legal framework, September was male. “The applicant’s treatment, while incarcerated, has been consistent with that of the males: there has been no unfair discrimination.”   

Pillay argued that transgender requirements placed September in a high risk category in Helderstroom prison, which has a male population of about 770 inmates, most serving multiple sentences for violent crimes.

“Correctional Centre culture is that male inmates take physical possession or ownership of other male prisoners who display feminine characteristics.

“The applicant’s request for communal access to other male prisoners while expressing herself as female would expose her to sexual violence because male rape is an undeniable reality of incarceration,” said Pillay.

Supporters of Jade September picket outside the Cape Town High Court. Picture: Zodidi Dano/Cape Argus

September being placed in a single cell was not a means of discipline, but of protection. She said September’s 17 days in segregation was a result of her having being “belligerent, defiant, aggressive, violent and using abusive language when asked to hand over her make-up."

State counsel asked the court to dismiss September’s application.

September’s legal counsel, advocate Nicole Lewis argued one did not need to undergo surgical transition to be defined as transgender. It had to do with gender identification.

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Cape Argus