The Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica’s Supreme Court ordered prison officials to allow a male inmate to dress in women’s clothing after he claimed that they forbade him to do so, the La Nacion newspaper reported Sunday.
David Avila Ulloa, who changed his name to Sherlyn Tatiana, has been in prison since March 2011 for drug trafficking and a few months after being incarcerated he filed a request for protection with the Constitutional Chamber, saying that officials at the La Reforma prison some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) west of San Jose prevented him from dressing as a woman.
The court ruled in Avila’s favor on March 30, but prison officials have not done anything regarding the case yet because they have not been presented with the comprehensive ruling, La Nacion said.
The justices said in their ruling, however, that Avila may dress “as a woman or in the way that he wants, provided that such clothing is not obviously scandalous or is displayed in an act ... whereby it affects the order or the security of the penal center.”
The 22-year-old inmate said that since he was a child he has liked to use female accoutrements, jewelry and makeup, and he added that discrimination in the prison is “very strong,” with prison staff not viewing him as either man or woman but rather “as an animal.”
“They told me that if I wanted to go to the school (where the prisoners study) I had to dress like a man and they returned me. Sometimes, due to my desire to study, I transformed myself,” Avila said.
Several months ago, the inmate was transferred to another prison where he says that the authorities were more flexible regarding his sexual orientation.
At the prison, Avila participates in anonymous drug meetings, studies and sings in a musical group, and he says he hopes to be paroled in six months.