The Hong Kong High Court where the case is being heard. Photo: Wikipedia
The Hong Kong High Court where the case is being heard. Photo: Wikipedia

The High Court in Hong Kong on Friday dismissed a judicial review sought by a Filipino transgender woman. Navarro Luigo Recasa, now 23, complained that she has wrongly been treated as a man by police and in prison ever since she was jailed in 2014 for drug trafficking and breaching conditions of her stay in Hong Kong.

Recasa, who was 19 years old and still had male genitalia when she was sentenced, was from the outset treated as a male because that was what it stated on her passport, Sing Tao Daily reported.

The court heard that at the time of her conviction Recasa had been receiving hormone treatment for years, had had breast augmentation surgery, but had not undergone gender reassignment surgery.

The Filipina was forced to serve her sentence in the all-male Pik Uk Correctional Institute and the Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre. She was subjected to strip searches and cavity searches by male guards, and for almost the entire length of her incarceration was denied access to hormones she had been taking since she was 12 years old.

Recasa’s legal petition complained about the alleged inhumanity of her treatment and argued that her prison arrangements had infringed her fundamental rights.

But Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung disagreed.

He noted that the commissioner for correctional services had taken Recasa’s special vulnerability into account and had made special arrangements for her. This included ensuring her privacy during toilet and shower visits, and giving her a single cell to to prevent harassment from other inmates, Ta Kung Pao reported.

Justice Au also said that there is no question of discrimination as Recasa, who biologically is still a man, might pose “at least a risk” to other female prisoners if she was put in an all-female prison.

However the judge noted there remains room for improvement in how officers carry out body searches on transgender people, adding that the police should consider providing guidelines on what factors should be taken into account before a search on transgender prisoners is carried out.

Recasa had also complained that there was an unreasonable delay of some seven months after a request was made for the continuation of her hormone treatment. The judge agreed with the plaintiff on this point.