Transgender IDF Refusenik Imprisoned in Men’s Cell, Despite Identifying as Woman

Army places conscientious objector in prison for men, because she has not undergone sexual reassignment procedures.

Nir Kafri

The Israel Defense Forces has refused to move a transgender woman to a women’s prison because she has not begun medical gender transition procedures. The woman was jailed because she refused to serve in the military for reasons of conscience.

Aiden Katri was tried last Tuesday after she refused to leave the IDF enlistment center and go to basic training with a combat unit. Katri, 19, was born as a male but considers herself to be a woman.

Because Katri has not undergone any operations or other medical treatments to reassign her gender, the IDF has refused to place her in a woman’s prison out of consideration for the other female prisoners, and instead sent her for a week’s confinement with male soldiers in Military Prison 6, which has units for both male and female prisoners.

She is due to be released on Monday, but similar to others who consider themselves conscientious objectors and refuse to be drafted, will likely be sentenced to jail a number of times if she continues to refuse her military assignment.

A number of transgender men and women serve in the IDF, one of whom is an officer with the rank of lieutenant. According to Israeli law, the IDF pays for gender reassignment procedures for transgender soldiers who meet the appropriate criteria.

The IDF is relating to Katri as a man, and her medical profile is appropriate to serve in a combat unit. At earlier stages in the enlistment process, she even expressed willingness to enlist and serve in a combat unit. The IDF says it has dealt with Katri with the “necessary sensitivity,” but she cannot be placed in a female unit out of consideration for the rest of the women prisoners. Nonetheless, the IDF has not found a different solution for her imprisonment, one not related to gender or which would cause her less harm.

Katri has appealed to the High Court of Justice against her detention in the all men prison. The petition argues that imprisoning Katri with men is a violation of her constitutional right to dignity and equality, and exposes her to harassment and abuse.

Intersectionality

Katri has refused to enlist for reasons of conscience. “As someone who believes in gender equality between men and women, I cannot ignore the inequality in other matters: Arabs and Jews live in this land as two different classes, Israelis and Palestinians live under different legal systems,” she said. “It would be absurd to strive for justice in the guise of injustice.”

Knesset members Ilan Gilon and Michal Rozin of Meretz appealed to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the IDF’s women’s affairs adviser, Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel, concerning Katri’s imprisonment.

Katri wrote to the commander of the prison on Thursday, saying she feels she is a woman, “and behaved as a transgender woman before her enlistment.” She said she understands she is serving time in prison as a punishment, “but when I am in a man’s prison it is an additional punishment. I am begging you to transfer me to a company of women.” She has not received an answer to her request.

On Friday, Katri’s lawyer Dana Nof appealed to the commander of the Military Police, Brig. Gen. Golan Maimon, asking for Katri to be transferred to a woman’s prison. If this request is not answered, Nof said she would consider going to court.

Maimon’s aid told Nof it was not possible to transfer Katri to a unit of women, and referred to Katri as a male in his letter. “On the matter of the imprisonment of soldiers in the process of a sex change, an appropriate answer is provided to every prisoner according to the stage which they are at in the sex-change process. According to the stage Aiden Katri is at, he was assigned, similar to what is accepted in the civilian prison system too. As a result and according to the circumstances of the matter, and after examining the matter of Aiden Katri, it was found it was not possible to place him in the woman’s company.”

On Sunday, Ya’alon’s chief of staff, Haim Blumenblat, responded to the letter from the MKs. Blumenblat said that because Katri had yet to undergo any gender transition treatments of any kind, the military relates to him as if he is male.

“Aiden’s gender feelings are not expressed in any external signs, which would allow or require different conduct in his case,” wrote Blumenblat. “Aiden met with a doctor and mental health officer during his stay in prison. They did not find that a different or special process was required in his case.”

Blumenblat wrote that Katri had not submitted any request “concerning the conditions of his imprisonment.”