Prison rapes would hopefully be reduced significantly in New Zealand jails with a new policy by the government to give transgender convicts and accused the option to choose if they would be sent to a male of female facility.
The policy is a big leap from the long-accepted practice in prisons all over the world of sending prisoners to correctional facilities based on their gender at birth.
The policy would apply to any transgender inmate whose birth certificate has not been changed to reflect the new gender of the prisoner so they can move to another jail where inmates belong to their identified or chosen gender, said Corrections Minister Anne Tolley.
Previously, only transgender prisoners who underwent complete gender reassignment through surgery were allowed to be sent to correctional facilities of their new chosen sex.
But the policy excludes inmates facing or serving sexual offence charges.
There are actually only nine transgender offenders in New Zealand jails. One of them is Glen Cooper, convicted of serious assault charges in 2012 , who was sent to a male prison in Whangarei even if she told the court she suffered from frequent sexual assault from other male inmates.
Lesbian Greens MP Jan Logle, who lobbied for the change in policy, said, quoted by Gaynz.com, "This change will only affect a few people, but it will affect them deeply and keep them safe from the risk of sexual assault and rape."
However, it will not stop prison rapes even if all the inmates are straight men or women.
There are also other changes in the country's correctional system including the change of treatment of remand prisoners as high security offenders. Instead, there would be individual security assessments for such types of inmates, giving access to rehabilitation programmes to those classified as not high security risk.
Corrections staff are also provided more options in restraining prisoners to protect them from self-harm.