Singaporean transgender woman seeking to avoid in-camp training granted asylum in UK

National Servicemen from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) at a mobilisation exercise on Sept 14, 2013.
National Servicemen from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) at a mobilisation exercise on Sept 14, 2013.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

SINGAPORE - A transgender Singaporean woman will not have to serve out her national service commitments in her home country following a court ruling in the United Kingdom, where she currently resides.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday (April 27) that two judges ruled that the 33-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, should not be repatriated to serve her annual in-camp training, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind.

While the British Home Office has accepted that she is a woman and the gender on her Home Office ID card is female, ithad argued that she should be sent back to Singapore.

She first went to Britain as a student in September 2004, after completing her National Service between December 2001 and June 2004 and has said she felt uncomfortable when serving with men and has recurring nightmares about her previous military service.

Women in Singapore, including transgender women who have undergone reassignment surgery, are not required to perform national service. Though she has identified herself as a woman for the past 10 years, she has decided against having the full gender reassignment procedure.

If repatriated she would have been required to serve in-camp training of about two weeks a year until 2023, or face up to three years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

When asked for more details about the case and how it intended to deal with this ruling, Singapore's Ministry of Defence said: "All male Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents above the age of 18 years are required to serve National Service (NS) if they are medically fit. Those who are legally declared female will not be required to serve NS."