For the first time ever, the UK has granted a transgender woman from Singapore asylum so that she does not have to go back to her country and do compulsory military service as a man.
The 33-year-old unnamed woman has lived in the UK under a student visa since 2004. She came into the UK identified as a woman by the Home Office, and has ‘female’ as her gender on her Home Office ID card.
She first applied for asylum in 2012 when her visa expired. She reported that she found it distressing knowing that she would have to serve her ‘reservist’ obligations if she were to return to Singapore.
In Singapore, all male citizens are required to serve a 2-year conscription after they turn 18. Upon completion, they are still obligated to serve as reservist for a few weeks every year until the age of around 40-50.
Female citizens, including transgender women who have undergone reassignment surgery, however do not need to participate in military service.
Before coming to the UK, the woman served her conscription in Singapore. For the past decade of being in the UK, she has been living as a female.
But since she has decided against having the gender reassignment procedure, she is still legally recognised as a man in Singapore.
If she refused to fulfil her military obligations, she could face 15 months in prison and a fine of USD$10,000, reports The Guardian.
Her cry for asylum had been rejected several times as the courts ruled that there was insufficient evidence showing that she would face persecution back home that’s severe enough that she should be granted sanctuary in the UK.
However, last November, a judge at the first tier of the immigration tribunal responded favorably to her call for help.
With her barrister arguing that she would be returning to her home country as a woman to be punished as a man, the judge remarked that it would be ‘a fundamental breach of her right to a private life and expression of her gender identity.’
‘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,’ the judge said.
The Home Office appealed against the judgment. However, this week, a second judge ruled in favor of the woman.
Mashable reports that earlier this month, the all-party parliamentary group on global LGBT rights commented that the Home Office needs to improve decision-making on LGBT-related cases and review its policy guidance on gender identity claims.