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Singaporean transgender woman allowed to stay in UK to avoid reservist

Two British judges have ruled that a 33-year-old transgender woman will be allowed to remain in the UK, despite the UK Home Office’s argument that she should be deported back to Singapore. Should she be forced to return, she would be liable for reservist military duties for two weeks a year for the next eight years.

The Singaporean had been studying in the UK since September 2004 under a student visa. When her visa expired in October 2012, she applied for asylum but was rejected by the British Home Secretary. Another attempt at applying in 2014 still resulted in rejection by the UK Immigration and Asylum Chamber.

It was only until the two judges blocked the Home Office’s efforts to deport her that she was finally granted permission to remain in the UK.

The Singaporean cannot be named for legal reasons, but it is understood that her Singapore identity documents still state that her gender is male as she had not undergone, nor does she plan to undergo, a full sex reassignment surgery. Only after a full sex change will she be recognised by Singapore law as female.

Singapore’s Penal Code states that a “person who has undergone a sex reassignment procedure shall be identified as being of the sex to which that person has been reassigned.”

Nevertheless, the Singaporean’s UK Home Office ID states that she is female, and she has been identifying and living as a woman for the past ten years.

The Singaporean served compulsory National Service (NS) between 2001and 2004 before leaving for the UK, and found the experience distressing while serving with men and as a man.

As her gender entry in Singapore documents is male, she would be made to go for reservist training two weeks a year until 2023. If she refused, she could face 15 months in prison and a fine.

“I find that the requirement of the appellant to essentially hide her gender and live as a man, even for two weeks a year, would be wholly unreasonable,” one of the judges said.

The woman’s solicitors, West 12, reportedly said: “We are pleased that the plight of this transgender woman has been resolved successfully. It means she can now enjoy living a full life without any compromise to her gender identity or her personal integrity. This is a basic right denied to her in Singapore.”

As of 27 April, she has been granted sanctuary in the UK.