No UK asylum for cross-dressing Singaporean

A person holds a Union flag umbrella in front of the Big Ben clock tower and Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, on Oct 4, 2014. A Singaporean who sees himself as a woman has failed in his bid to remain in the country on human rights grounds. --
A person holds a Union flag umbrella in front of the Big Ben clock tower and Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, on Oct 4, 2014. A Singaporean who sees himself as a woman has failed in his bid to remain in the country on human rights grounds. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

British judge rejects claim of possible inhumane treatment in the Republic

A Singaporean who sees himself as a woman has failed in his bid to remain in Britain on human rights grounds. He had argued that he would be under pressure to live as a male here and would have to do reservist training.

The United Kingdom Immigration and Asylum Chamber found no exceptional circumstances to justify reversing the British Home Secretary's decision in 2012 to refuse the Singaporean's continued stay in Britain.

In yesterday's published judgment grounds, in which the man was not named to protect his identity and referred to as "her", it was revealed that the 31-year-old entered Britain in September 2004 as a student. He was allowed to remain until October 2012 to complete his studies.

It was noted that since 2004, he had presented himself, behaved and socialised as a female in Britain. In 2009, the man, who considers himself a "transgendered lesbian", changed his name by a legal deed poll to a female one, which he used in his most recent 2012 Singapore passport.

He lost his first appeal against the Home Secretary's decision in January this year, and that led to the current appeal.

He had argued that under Singapore law, he could not officially change his gender to female because he had not undergone a sex change and did not plan to.

And that could subject him to "inhumane and degrading treatment", as he would not be able to live openly as a woman because his identity documents would show he is male. He would also have to serve his reservist obligations, despite finding his national service (NS) between 2001 and 2004 very distressing.

The Singaporean produced a "legal opinion" by lawyer M. Ravi which painted Singapore as "a comparatively conservative country".

But senior immigration judge George Warr found that the earlier decision made by Judge P.J. White to reject the man's appeal was "not flawed in law".

Judge White, while agreeing that the appellant would be unable to live officially as a woman in Singapore, said there were laws here to protect the person from harassment.

He pointed out that no direct evidence of the Singaporean's friends being abused or assaulted because of gender bias, or of any systematic discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in general, was presented.

He also noted that there was a possible gradual change in attitudes in Singapore towards the LGBT community, which was "not entirely underground".

As for the man's claim that he would not be able to marry as a female to another woman, Judge White pointed out that "many, if not most, of the countries in the world do not give official recognition to same-sex unions".

Judge White accepted the Singaporean's problems with NS and that the two weeks of reservist training each year would also be "distressing and difficult".

On the other hand, the man had given evidence of how some of his own friends and acquaintances were able to "stick it out" during reservist training.

"It had not, in other words, been so harsh for them as to be unendurable," said Judge White.

He ruled that the man failed to show he was at risk of such a level of harm or prejudice that would entitle him to asylum in Britain.

vijayan@sph.com.sg