In the first case of its kind, judges rule the 33-year-old, who has lived as a woman for 10 years, should not be sent back to Singapore so that she does not have to return to her home country and do compulsory military service as a man.The Home Office argued that she should be sent back to Singapore, claiming any discrimination against her would not amount to serious harm.
In Singapore, males are conscripted into the army for full time national service for two years after they turn 18, they are obligated to be called up for a period of several weeks each year as a “reservist” in the army.
The unnamed woman served her two-year national service term as an 18-year-old before travelling to the UK in 2004, where she has remained under a student visa.
However, she appealed to the British courts in to allow her to stay in 2012 when her visa expired, saying she found it distressing to think about having to return to serve her reservist obligations.
Women in Singapore, including transgender women who have undergone reassignment surgery, are not expected to participate in military service. The student has been living as a woman for the past 10 years but has decided against having the full gender reassignment procedure and would therefore face calls to serve.
The courts decided that they could not find sufficient evidence that she would face the kind of persecution in Singapore that would convince them to grant her sanctuary in the UK.
However, her latest success in court comes after two judges ruled in her favour, The Guardian reports. She had told of her recurring nightmares about her time in the military, and would find it intolerable to be treated as a man upon her return to Singapore.
One of the judges is quoted saying: “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.”
A statement from West12 Solicitors said: “We are pleased that the plight of this transgender woman has been resolved successfully before the Immigration and Asylum Upper Tribunal on the basis of her gender identity.
“For her, it means she can now enjoy living a full life without any compromise to her gender identity and to her personal integrity. This is a basic right that is denied to her in Singapore.
“We hope this important judgment will encourage countries such as Singapore and Malaysia to review their laws which are discriminatory against transgender people.
“This judgment will no doubt be welcomed by the transgender community and it should be also welcomed by the wider community.”