The BBC has been heavily criticized for its reporting of a convicted rapist identifying as a woman who was jailed for nine years on Tuesday after admitting to stabbing a vulnerable victim before tying her to a chair in an apartment in the West Yorkshire town of Halifax and demanding cash.
The convict is a man who has previously been jailed for rape and other sexual offenses, and who now calls himself Zara Jade. He will serve his time in a male prison.
The public broadcaster first led with the headline, “Halifax woman jailed after stabbing and tying up victim,” which sparked anger and derision from a number of social media users commenting on the article.
Calvin John Robinson, a British conservative political commentator and deacon in the Free Church of England, wrote: “Are you serious? This man is a predator. He is not a woman. Shame on you.”
Former Brexit MEP Martin Daubney added: “He’s a bloke. Stop calling blokes women. This insane misogyny needs to end!”
“Not like any woman from Halifax I ever saw,” commented former long-serving Sky News presenter Colin Brazier.
“Has this article been written by some left-leaning blue-haired pro-pronoun whippersnapper?” asked columnist Carl Marsh.
Other users even asked whether the verified BBC Twitter account had been hacked due to the nature of the reporting.
The article has since been heavily edited due to the backlash it has received. When first published, the report stated “a woman who stabbed her vulnerable victim before tying her to a chair and demanding cash has been jailed,” making no immediate reference to the fact Zara Jade is legally a man and has male genitalia.
It has since been edited to mention Jade is a “transgender woman” in the lead, in addition to explaining the convicted male rapist will now serve his time in a male prison.
The virality of the post sparked a debate around how crimes by men identifying as women should be reported.
It wasn’t just the BBC. West Yorkshire Police also issued a sentencing report titled: “Woman Jailed for Multiple Domestic Abuse Offenses,” and made absolutely no reference to the fact the woman in question is actually a man with male genitalia who has previously been convicted of rape and other serious sexual offenses.
Local news site YorkshireLive also reported in a similar vein, leading with the headline: “Drunk woman, 54, ties victim to chair and stabs her before stealing her money.”
Britain’s Justice Secretary Dominic Raab announced new reforms in October last year on the allocation of transgender prisoners, or prisoners identifying as the opposite sex. Under the plans, there is now a strong presumption that men, that is anyone with male genitalia, or transgender women who have been convicted of a sexual offense, should serve their time in male prisons.
“The safety of all prisoners is paramount. These changes will ensure a sensitive and common-sense approach to meeting the needs of women in custody, while we continue to ensure that transgender prisoners are appropriately supported in whichever estate they are located in,” a Ministry of Justice statement published in January added.