KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A 25-year-old Malaysian transsexual wants a court to affirm she is a woman following sex-change surgery so she can change her name and gender on her identification documents, her lawyer said Thursday.
Sex-change surgery is legal in mainly Muslim Malaysia, but transsexuals often cannot legally change their gender status.
Lawyer Horley Isaacs said Ashraf Hafiz Abdul Aziz underwent a complete sex-change operation in Thailand in 2008 but that the National Registration Department refused to update her gender and name on her identity card.
“Since young, she has felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body,” Isaacs told The Associated Press. “Doctors who evaluated her after her operation found her to be a woman in her physical and psychological buildup. We want the court to declare she is a woman and that she be given a change of name and gender.”
Ashraf, the third of five children, has the support of her parents to change her name to Aleesha Farhana Abdul Aziz, Isaacs said, adding that the High Court will rule on her case July 18.
Activists have estimated there are at least 50,000 transsexuals in Malaysia, many of whom face widespread prejudice and often cannot find employment.
Ashraf recently stopped working at a pharmaceutical company after her employer barred her from wearing women’s clothing to work, according to Isaacs, who said she faces a tough time trying to lead a normal life, especially since she wants to further her studies at a local university.
Isaacs said prosecutors argued in court that the sex change was only external and that allowing the application could spark chaos in society and open the floodgates to other transsexuals.
However, Isaacs said this was a rare case. Since 2005 when a transsexual successfully changed her gender after a judge ruled it was the court’s duty to help, there has been only one other such case, he said. In the last case, however, the transsexual failed in her bid after the court ruled it had no jurisdiction over the issue.
Lawyers say no law exists in the country to address the issue, which has been left to the judges’ discretion.