New Zealand’s Green Party has urged the government to speed up its review of policy concerning transgender prison inmates. The party warns that the drawn-out review has put the safety of trans people at risk.

3 News reports that the University of Auckland’s Equal Justice Project recently found that prison policy towards transgender people was discriminatory.

Current policy states transgender people should be interred in prisons according to the gender they were assigned at birth, unless they have undergone gender reassignment surgery. This results in trans women being housed in male facilities, and trans men in female facilities.

The Equal Justice Project warned that this left trans prisoners at high risk of sexual assault and violence.

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley has said the government is reviewing the policy.

However, Green MP Jan Logie said the issue had been raised in February 2012, and the National Party government had taken too long to act on it.

“The state’s duty of care really requires more urgent action when trans-prisoner’s protection from abuse is at stake,” she said.

“Transgendered women don’t deserve to be put at risk of sexual assault while under our care just because their anatomy doesn’t match their gender.”

She added: “The Minister has claimed that the issue is complicated, and it is, but we aren’t talking huge numbers of people here. We are talking about a few people who have been put absolutely at huge risk because of this Government’s lack of will to protect them.”

Ms Logie welcomed the “change of heart” from the government, but said immediate action was required.