The Refugee Review Tribunal has upheld the claim for refugee status of a transgendered woman from Malaysia, on the basis that she would be persecuted in Malaysia, due to her status.
It appears that most transgendered people in Malaysia work as prostitutes, in part because they cannot obtain other employment in part due to stigma, and in part because they cannot change the gender on their compulsory ID cards, which shows them in their old gender. Most live below the poverty line.
The applicant had been rejected by her mother and sisters, and society in general, and arrested and fined for being a prostitute, as it was assumed that as her ID showed that she was male, was in an area where prostitutes were known, and was found with a male, she must have been a prostitute.
The applicant had applied to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, been rejected as falling within the class of people as a refugee, and appealed to the Tribunal.
Statements by the applicant were heart rending:
In Malaysia I do not count as a person. I am not considered to be a man because I look like a woman. I am not considered to be a woman because my identity card says that I am a man. I have no rights to obtain employment or open a bank account, or even to get health insurance in my name. Because I can’t open a bank account I can’t purchase a house. If I am sick and go to the hospital, they will put me in the men’s ward. Any prescription or receipt they give me will be issued in the name of [applicant’s former name]. The pharmacy calls out that name and it is very embarrassing for me to answer to that name in front of everyone. People laugh at me and I worry that someone will try to beat me or assault me because I am transgender. It is not possible for me to change my identity card to say that I am a woman.~~~~~~
I cannot live in Malaysia There is nobody to take care of me and I am not allowed to work because of my identity. I was arrested three times just because of who I am and I was forced to pay money just so that I wouldn’t be put in jail. I did not do anything wrong but Malaysian society and the government thinks that there is something wrong with who I am. I do not want to work as a prostitute and that is the only life for me there. I am a transgender person I am being persecuted by the government and by the authorities in Malaysia who will not allow me to survive....
I [the applicant] 38 years, of age whom struggling in my life for justice. I would like to take this opportunity to express my feeling sorrow and disappointment at my country which I am living presently.
I am a Malaysian which rich in everything except for person like me who born as a boy but living as a girl. I had been going thru painful life during my time. There is no justice, understanding, pity and sympathy on people like us. I had been fighting for life for justice in my country but its failed.
My mum doesn’t work. She are (sic) housewife the only person who take care of me is my father (he reasonally (sic) past away) there is no one to take care of me.
In my country they look down on (transsexual) like me and they don’t accept for what I am and who I am they only care for their needs an their races and sex.
I am a complete woman now. I tried to get a job they look down on me because of my (Identity). Its return that my gender as are (male). In Malay it means (Lelaki).
This is the reason why I am expressing my feeling to you sir/mdm how painful and difficult life I am going thru in my country.
I am begging for leniency from you sir/mdm to allow me to stay in your country.
I would really appreciate if you sir/Mdm grant my wish...
Transgendered Pakistani woman granted refugee status
A transgendered Pakistani woman has been granted refugee status by the Refugee Review Tribunal. The Tribunal decided the matter on review from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, which found that the applicant was not a refugee.
The evidence and information of the applicant was very disturbing:
From a very early age the applicant wanted to be a girl and he has always felt like a girl trapped in a male body. He was able to behave in a feminine way until he was 9. At 9 his father told him not to behave like a girl. At school he did not make friends and he was stereotyped as a gay by his peers. If he did not participate in male sports his father would lock him in a room and not talk to him for days. Both his parents were angry about his feminine ways and they physically punished him for them. He has scars on his upper lip and forehead where his father beat him at age 12 when he discovered some female cosmetics in his room. On that occasion his father locked him up in a store room for a whole day. In front of his uncles, his father threatened to pour petrol over him if he ever caught him in female clothing or make up. His uncle slapped him on the face for having cosmetics in his bedroom.
He moved to Islamabad to study at a university where he continued to lead an isolated life and felt pressured to dress like a male. He commenced taking female hormones at university but kept that a secret from everyone. He ceased taking hormones in Pakistan because he was scared of the consequences if his father found out. The applicant was only able to discuss his sexuality with his sister.
At university the applicant realised that Pakistan society would never accept transsexuals, no matter where he lived in Pakistan. His relatives have told him they will “get” him if he lives in Pakistan as a woman which he treats as meaning they intend an honour killing. The police would not be able to protect him.
In Pakistan gay people are looked down on and transsexuals lead the worst lives as beggars, sleeping on the streets without employment. He never felt safe in Pakistan as there is no protection for transsexuals as there are no laws enacted to protect them.
His family in Pakistan includes his father’s siblings and their children who live in adjoining houses in the same complex. The applicant stated that he is not able to seek protection from his relatives as none of them understand him.
In his early twenties his parents and his relatives pressured him to marry and told him that he was a disgrace to the family because of his homosexuality which they said meant no girl would marry him. His relatives warned his parents that his sexuality would mean that their children would be eliminated from marriage as the community would think all his generation is gay because of him. In front of his father and his cousins his uncle threatened to kill him because of his gay appearance which the uncle said brought shame and disgrace to the family.
He moved to Australia to undertake his Master’s degree where he has not been stereotyped or mocked for his feminine appearance. He started on female hormones again and living as a woman full time. He felt safe in Australia, a country where he has rights. He is considering having surgery to complete his conversion to a female.
He visited Pakistan in mid 2004 for his sister’s wedding. His hair was short and he still had some facial hair. By that time his breasts had grown owing to the hormonal treatment but they were not fully developed. He pretended to be a male during his time in Pakistan in 2004. During that visit he told his sister about his transsexualism. His sister advised him to keep away from their family because his life would be in danger if he faced them as a female.
On his return to Australia he met [Person 1]. [Person 1] proposed to him after 6 months. In April 2007 the applicant informed his father by telephone that he was living as a woman and his boyfriend wanted to marry him. His father was very angry and told him never to return to Pakistan as a transsexual and never to contact him again. Later in April 2007 the applicant’s younger brother informed him that their father had died and that the family blamed him for his death. One of the applicant’s uncles also telephoned him and threatened him with death if he returned to Pakistan as a transsexual. His uncle told him that his family is bound to take revenge on him in consequence of his transsexualism and that if he came to Pakistan he would be easy to trace and put to death.
He submitted that the laws of Pakistan do not permit gender changes and his sex will always be male on his identity documents. If he tried to get employment in Pakistan his documents would state he is male and so, upon presenting as a woman he would not obtain employment.
He does not want to live the life of a transsexual in Pakistan which is to live as a beggar on the streets and to earn money by working in the sex industry.