Petition calls for better recognition and protection of transgender inmates in Tasmanian prisons

The family of a transgender woman who was allegedly raped by five men at the Risdon Prison in 2018 have launched a petition calling for better protection of transgender inmates.

Marjorie Harwood's mother said her daughter "lost the will to live" after she was raped in the Risdon Prison in 2017.

Marjorie Harwood's mother said her daughter "lost the will to live" after she was raped in the Risdon Prison in 2017. Source: Supplied: Rosemary Harwood

This article contains reference to rape and sexual assault. 

Marjorie Harwood was just 38 when she died of kidney failure.

Marjorie's mother, Rosemary, told SBS News her daughter lost the will to live after she was allegedly raped by five men at the Risdon Prison, near Hobart, in 2017. 

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"She just had enough of life, and she wanted to die," Rosemary Harwood said.

Rosemary Harwood hopes the petition will lead to better protections of transgender people in prisons.
Rosemary Harwood hopes the petition will lead to better protections of transgender people in prisons. Source: Supplied: Rosemary Harwood


Marjorie was a transgender woman who was placed in Risdon Prison because the gender on her birth certificate was listed as male.

Ms Harwood said Marjorie did not report the alleged rape, and Tasmania Police confirmed it did not receive a report.

In 2018, Marjorie was hospitalised again for a kidney-related illness, something she had been battling since childhood, but with a period of custody in the Risdon Prison ahead, Marjorie refused medical treatment. 

"Marjorie said 'I want to die mum' - because of the rape. She knew she was going back to jail," Ms Harwood said. 



Ms Harwood said that when Marjorie refused treatment for kidney-disease in 2018, she was due to be sent back to prison for "stealing two chicken curry pies, two things of cheese and a cooked chook."

On Monday Rosemary, with the assistance of LGBTQI+ advocate Ben Dudman, launched an online petition, calling for the protection and recognition of transgender people within the prison system. 

"(The petition) is to protect transgender and gender diverse people in the prison system, they should be treated fairly and properly. Not be outcasts because of their gender," Ms Harwood said.

Marjorie Harwood was 38 when she died.
Marjorie Harwood was 38 when she died. Source: Supplied: Rosemary Harwood


"I know with Marjorie growing up, she copped heaps of abuse, and bullying and it's not fair."

In April 2019,  the inclusion of gender optional on birth certificates.

Ms Harwood said if those laws existed earlier, Marjorie would still be alive. 

A spokesperson for the Tasmanian Department of Justice said they couldn't comment on Marjorie Harwood's alleged rape.

"For privacy reasons, and considering legal action has been foreshadowed, it is not appropriate to comment on these allegations," they said.

In a statement, the spokesperson said correctional officers receive diversity training as part of their intensive 10 week training program, to ensure they develop an understanding of the needs of LGBTI prisoners so they can respond to their needs.



"The Tasmania Prison Service has a comprehensive policy for transgender, transsexual and intersex prisoners which prioritises safety, and treats prisoners with dignity and respect," the statement said.

"Upon entry into custody, prisoners are able to self-identify as transgender, transsexual or intersex.

"Provided that the safety and security of the prison is not compromised, transgender, transsexual and intersex prisoners have the right to be housed in a correctional facility appropriate to their gender identification."

The petition is addressed to Australia's Ministers for Corrections. Called "Marjorie's Law" it calls for:

  • transgender inmates to be treated without discrimination in Australia's prison services
  • correctional staff to be provided with training relating to LGBTQIA+ people
  • prison policies to be adhered to which allow transgender people to be housed according to their gender identity
"Hopefully I can get something out of this petition to protect the transgender and diverse people," Ms Harwood said.

"It's take something like this ... it shouldn't happen. It shouldn't have happened."

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.


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4 min read
Published 11 January 2021 at 4:14pm
By Sarah Maunder
Source: SBS News