Tuesday, 23 March 2010

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.


  1. A legal question: assuming she manages to get the $15-25,000 needed for sex reassignment surgery, would she be allowed to marry?

    Her Cardinal Document - her immigration records - for the purposes of issuance of an Australian passport can be changed to female on production of evidence from a medical practitioner even before surgery.

    But she'd be unable to gain either a female foreign birth certificate, or a female foreign passport. How is her identity to be proven for the purposes of marriage? Is this still necessary - it used to be that either a foreign passport, foreign BC, or stat dec was needed.

    BTW I'm Intersexed. My UK BC says "boy", but my UK passport says "F" - as do my immigration records and Australian passport.

    So this isn't a hypothetical. People in similar situations exist. As we're not born in Australian States or Territories, with the exception of Victoria, there is no means at a state level of identifying our sex. Federally, it differs between departments, based on policy rather than legislation.

  2. Thank you, Zoe. The starting point is to go back to the Marriage of Kevin and Jennifer
    http://lgbtlawblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/focus-on-transgender-rights-3-getting.html where it was seen, from a combination of events that Kimberley, who had gone through surgery and much more to become Kevin was legally able to marry Jennifer. I don't know what proof of ID, if any, that celebrants or Ministers need. Let me know. Cheers