Italy is to open its first prison specially for trans inmates.

The building, a former halfway house for women, is in the town of Empoli in Tuscany. It will open in late March.

It will house 30 prisoners who are currently being held in a special section of a prison outside Florence.

Trans prisoners, especially those transitioning from male to female, can often find their treatment postponed while in jail.

In the US, there have been several cases of inmates taking legal action after being refused hair removal treatment or state-funded surgery.

Authorities are reluctant to house them in women’s prisons and they often have to be housed separately in men’s prisons.

Maria Pia Giuffrida, a detention administration official, told reporters that the building was “very satisfactory”, news agency Sapa reported.

The move was welcomed by LGBT groups and Vladimir Luxuria, a former MP and Italy’s best known trans advocate.

She said that such prisoners were often punished for their trans status along with their crimes, adding: “It’s a question of dignity.”