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...