By EILEEN NG
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A Malaysian transgendered woman who underwent sex-change surgery has lost her bid to officially change her gender, with a court ruling that a person’s sex is determined at birth, her lawyer said.
Ashraf Hafiz Abdul Aziz, 26, underwent a complete sex-change operation in Thailand in 2008. She asked Malaysia’s High Court to rule that she is a woman after the National Registration Department refused to update her name and gender on her identity card.
“The court has ruled it has no jurisdiction to make such an order and that the sex of a child is determined at birth and can’t be changed through surgery,” Ashraf’s lawyer, Horley Isaacs, told the Associated Press.
Ashraf wasn’t in court to hear the July 14 ruling. Isaacs said he hasn’t been able to contact her and it was unclear if she intends to appeal.
Sex-change surgery is legal in mainly Muslim Malaysia, but transgendered people have faced difficulties legally changing their gender status. The last time a transgendered person was allowed to do so was in 2005, when a judge ruled it was the court’s duty to help. However, in the only other case since that decision, a 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 discretion of judges.
Isaacs said the court cited concerns that allowing Ashraf’s application could spark confusion and open the floodgates for other transgendered people to officially change their gender.
Activists have estimated there are at least 50,000 transgendered persons in Malaysia, many of whom face widespread prejudice and often cannot find employment.