Human Rights, Trans Rights, Prisoners’ Rights: An International Comparison

Butcher, Tom | April 1, 2023

In this Note, I conduct an international comparison of the state of trans prisoners’ rights to explore how different national legal contexts impact the likelihood of achieving further liberation through appeals to human rights ideals. I examine the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Argentina, and Costa Rica and show the degree to which a human rights framework has been successful thus far in advancing trans prisoners’ rights. My analysis also indicates that the degree to which a human rights framework is likely to be successful in the future varies greatly between countries. In countries that are hesitant to adopt a legally internationalist orientation, a human rights framework is unlikely to see much success. Additionally, even countries with robust human rights traditions may be unlikely to apply that framework if the needs and identities of imprisoned trans people are not sufficiently visible in the national public consciousness. However, in countries with significant human rights or international law traditions, as well as a high degree of trans visibility, appeals to a human rights framework will likely lead to success in advocating for further protections for trans prisoners’ rights.