The following is an extract from The New Straits Times (Malaysia). Click on the link below for the full story.
A 38-year-old Malaysian transsexual was recently given refugee status in Australia.
Born male, she had undergone a sex-change operation in Thailand.
She went to Australia last year on a tourist visa and worked illegally as a fruit-picker.
However, she claimed refugee status after being apprehended by Australian immigration authorities.
"In Malaysia, I do not count as a person," she told tribunal member Rosa Gagliardi when her case was heard in February.
"I am not considered to be a woman because my identity card says that I am a man."
Her statement was enough to convince Gagliardi that Australia owed her protection obligations under the Refugees Convention.
It is rare that transsexuals are given refugee status.
Transsexualism is recognised as a valid medical condition under Gender Identity Disorders within the International Classification Of Diseases (ICD-10) by the World Health Organisation.
Between 1994 and 2008, only 12 transsexuals were given asylum in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The Australian case has dismayed, but not surprised lawyers and academics.
Lawyer Simran Gill said it was alarming that a Malaysian citizen had won refugee status, considering how high the standards required for it was.
She said applicants for refugee status needed to show a "well-founded" fear of persecution.
"For a Malaysian citizen to be granted refugee status implies that the international community perceives Malaysia's human rights violations to be as gross as countries such as Myanmar and Afghanistan."
She added that people do not often get refugee status on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.