A Malaysian court on Monday rejected a trans woman’s application to have her gender change formally recognized by a change to her birth certificate.
Aleesha Farhana Abdul Aziz, birth assigned male and previously known as Mohamad Ashraf Hafiz Abdul Aziz, underwent gender change surgery in Thailand in 2008.
She applied to the High Court of Kuala Terengganu to have her gender change formally recognized and her birth certificate duly amended. The Malaysian court reportedly rejected the application on three grounds: Aleesha’s chromosome count, the appearance of her genitals at birth and a lack of female internal sex organs.
A high court in conservative eastern Terengganu state ruled that a person’s sex was determined at birth so Ashraf Hafiz Abdul Aziz, who was born a man, 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?”
‘The court has no authority to make any declaration regarding gender change,’ the judge said. ‘There is no legal provision in this country that allows such an application.’
Transsexuals have long faced legal limbo in the predominantly Muslim country, where sex-change surgery is banned and same-sex relationships are criminal. Muslim transsexuals also may be hauled before religious authorities and not just the police.
According to Aleesha’s lawyer only two people have filed for a gender change prior to Aleesha’s court plea. Of them, only the 2003 application in the case of J.G v. Pengarah Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara was successful.
The three criteria cited above, chromosomal factors, gonadal factors and internal sex organ factors, also featured in the two previous cases. They are based on the British suit Corbett v. Corbette. A fourth criteria, psychological factors, is given less weight by the Corbett v. Corbette standard but was considered in the J.G v. Pengarah Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara case.
For more information on the history of legal recognition for trans people in Malaysia, please click here.