A week of progress for transgender rights across Asia

Hong Kong recognizes the first non-op trans woman, while Taiwan and India look set for important changes

A week of progress for transgender rights across Asia
16 March 2014

It has been a week of changes for transgender individuals.

In Hong Kong, a 25-year-old pharmacology scholar from Colombia has become the first non-operative trans person to change the legal gender in the city.

With the help of the UN Refugee Agency, Eliana Rubashkyn secured a gender-free temporary permit from the HK Immigration Department and permission from a hospital to be admitted to the female ward, reports Apple Daily.

Two years ago, Rubashkyn fled her transphobic home country to start anew with a government scholarship at the Taipei Medical University, where she began her transition.

As the hormonal treatment changed her bodily features, she was forced to get a new passport from the nearest Colombian consulate, in Hong Kong, in September last year.

In what she called ‘a horrible city’ at the time, Rubashkyn was first searched by male immigration officers, who behaved ‘like animals.’ 

But after months of efforts and a certificate from the UNHCR confirming her name and gender, Rubashkyn eventually scored a ‘small victory’ and became the first non-operative trans woman to be recognized as female in the special administrative region of China.

Rubashkyn told Gay Star News she is now waiting to be resettled in any of the five UNHCR member states – New Zealand, Sweden, Australia, the USA and Canada (Quebec and Ontario) – which do not require transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment operation before recognizing their desired gender.

But her next destination cannot be Taiwan, where she led a life that ‘was happy and full of positive experiences’, since it does not belong to the United Nations.

Taipei is ahead of its Asian peers when it comes to trans rights.

A study commissioned by the Ministry of Interior has recommended removing the biological gender and a gender identification number on the National Identification Card, according to Taiwanese reports today.

The study also proposes adding a ‘social gender’ to the existing biological gender in the household registration system and following Germany’s example by allowing parents the choice not to register a baby’s gender at birth.

It will give transgender and intersex individuals much more freedom to make their own choice.

This came after the Ministry of Health and Welfare suggested allowing people to change their legal gender without transitioning late last year.

While the Interior Ministry has repeatedly voiced concerns about making these changes, activists are hopeful officials will cave in to pressure.

This is especially likely when other governments in the region are also moving ahead.

In India, a government-appointed committee has recommended that transgender individuals, or hijras, be declared the third gender and the government draft laws that protect transgender people from discrimination and violence, reports Gaylaxy.

Bangladesh and Nepal have already recognized hijras as the third gender.

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