Eldoret court to examine trans woman's claims of inhumane treatment in prison

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Court gavel. (Courtesy)

Eldoret High Court has recommended the involvement of an expert on transgender and sexual orientation issues to give input and make testimony in a transgender case.

Justice Reuben Nyakundi said expert opinion will help in deciding a case filed by Shieys Chepkosgei, alias Hillary Kiprotich, who claims to be a transgender woman.

“We need to hear from an expert who is knowledgeable on matters relating to transgender issues to help us draw the difference between transgender and intersex persons. I would prefer an expert knowledgeable on both legal and medical matters,” said the judge.

In the case pending at the High Court, Chepkosgei through her advocate Colbert Ojiambo claims her rights were violated by police, prison and health officers during her arrest in June 2019.

She has sued the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), the Attorney General, the Commissioner General of Kenya Prisons Service, and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH).

The Amka Africa Justice Initiative and Kenya Humans Rights Commission (KHRC) have been enjoined in the case as interested parties.

The 27-year-old claimed that after her arrest, she was subjected to an intrusive search involving stripping and touching of her body parts at the Eldoret Women’s Prison and at the Eldoret Central Police Station, actions which, she argues, violated her right to privacy and human dignity.

Chepkosgei narrated that although she was born male, she realised since childhood that she identified more with the female gender.

“My father would refer to me as his daughter. Twelve years ago, I decided to change my name from Hillary Kiprotich to Shieys Chepkosgei,” she stated.

During cross examination by State counsel Mark Mugun, Chepkosgei revealed that even though she underwent initiation into manhood under the Nandi culture and traditions, she prefers to be identified as a woman.

She said she was arrested at the MTRH for impersonation allegations on June 14, 2019 and was detained at the facility’s police post where she was questioned before being moved to the Eldoret Central Police Station.

The next day, she was arraigned at the lower court and committed to remand at the Eldoret Women prison, which is a female detention facility. However, during the routine checks, the prison officers were shocked to find out that the remandee was male.

“The officers screamed, drawing the attention of their colleagues. They then conducted intrusive and inappropriate bodily searches in a bid to establish my gender. The searches involved stripping and spreading of legs to ascertain whether my genitalia is male or female,” she told the court.

She said the officer–in–charge of the prisons then wrote to the court asking the court to recommend where she would be remanded. Later, she was held at the police station for about two weeks before being granted bail. 

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