Malaysian court rejects transsexual’s name change
KUALA LUMPUR—A court in Muslim-majority Malaysia rejected a bid on Monday by a transsexual to change her name after undergoing a sex-change operation to be become a woman.
A high court in conservative eastern Terengganu state ruled that a person’s sex was determined at birth so Ashraf Hafiz Abdul Aziz could not change the name on her identity card, her lawyer said.
“I fear for her… the difficulties she is going to face daily,” lawyer Horley Isaacs told AFP. “What is this person going to do now? Can she go to a man’s toilet?”
Isaacs said Ashraf Hafiz, a 25-year-old former pharmaceutical assistant, was born with an abnormally small penis and underwent a full sex-change operation in neighboring Thailand in 2008.
Isaacs said Ashraf Hafiz’s family supported her application to change her name on her identity card to Aleeshya Farhana, but the National Registration Department had rejected it.
“According to her mother, right from when she was a child her characteristics were feminine. She was all prim and proper,” he said.
Isaacs said in recent years only two other transsexuals have filed court petitions to be allowed name changes. One of the applicants, in 2005, was successful.
Angela M. Kuga Thas, who works with transgendered people, said activists estimate there are some 50,000 transsexuals in Malaysia, but few dare to come forward.
Transsexuals and other transgendered people face daily discrimination and harassment in Malaysia, and many of them are forced to earn their living as sex workers because they cannot get any other job.
Islamic laws, which apply to the Muslims who make up 60 percent of Malaysia’s population, make it an offense for men to pose as women in public, with punishment stretching to several years in jail in some states.
Kuga Thas said discrimination had become worse as the country’s leaders emphasized the importance of Islam and Islamic officials enforced laws more zealously.
“With the rising consciousness of a more Islamic way of being in Malaysia, this has created a lot of complexities, and it has encouraged a lot of stigma and discrimination against people who don’t share the same belief system,” she said.
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