Inmate wants right to dress up

Saturday Star - - METRO - NOR­MAN CLOETE nor­[email protected]

LAWYERS rep­re­sent­ing trans­gen­der pris­oner Jade Septem­ber will head to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court should her bid to dress and ap­pear like a woman falls short in the West­ern Cape High Court. Septem­ber is serv­ing a 15-year sen­tence at the Helder­stroom Prison since 2013 for the mur­der of Gra­ham Flax.

Septem­ber, who was a trans­gen­der sex worker at the time, said Flax had been a reg­u­lar client and re­fused to pay for ser­vices, lead­ing to an al­ter­ca­tion and even­tu­ally Flax’s death.

Septem­ber is tak­ing on the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices in a bid to al­low her to dress like a woman, wear her hair the way she chooses and wear fe­male un­der­wear.

Lawyers for Hu­man Rights at­tor­ney Sanja Born­man says Septem­ber’s case is the first of its kind in South Africa.

The depart­ment, in its fil­ing af­fi­davit, states that at present the sys­tem only al­lows for men and women to dress in a cer­tain way.

The court heard that Septem­ber was be­ing kept in “seg­re­ga­tion” for wear­ing make-up.

She also ac­cused of­fi­cials at Helder­stroom of “rude” and “ag­gres­sive” be­hav­iour.

Lawyers for the depart­ment ques­tioned the au­thor­ity of the court to rule on this mat­ter, say­ing the court should re­fer the case back to the depart­ment for re­view.

It is also ar­gued that Septem­ber’s “seg­re­ga­tion” was a purely ad­min­is­tra­tive is­sue.

The depart­ment ar­gues fur­ther that “rude” and “ag­gres­sive” be­hav­iour against Septem­ber can­not be seen as un­fair dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Born­man, mean­while, ar­gues the depart­ment’s re­fusal to al­low Septem­ber to be her “true self” flies in the face of her con­sti­tu­tional rights to freely ex­press who she is.

“We no longer live in a world of just men and women. The sys­tem needs to ac­com­mo­date trans peo­ple so that there is jus­tice for ev­ery­one.”

Born­man says while Septem­ber is “okay” now, she is anx­ious about the case and has suf­fered abuse from prison of­fi­cials in the past.

Con­sti­tu­tional law ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Pierre de Vos be­lieves Septem­ber has a case to ar­gue.

“While the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Pro­mo­tion of Equal­ity and Preven­tion of Un­fair Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act do not ex­plic­itly pro­hibit un­fair dis­crim­i­na­tion based on gen­der iden­tity, they do al­low courts to find that there is dis­crim­i­na­tion on grounds that are sim­i­lar to those listed. This is such a case,” he said.

He says where dis­crim­i­na­tion oc­curs on the “anal­o­gous” ground of gen­der iden­tity, trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als are a vul­ner­a­ble group and the im­pact of the dis­crim­i­na­tion on Septem­ber will be se­vere.

Depart­ment spokesper­son Simphiwe Xako de­clined to com­ment on the case, say­ing the mat­ter was sub ju­dice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.