A 25-year old transgender in Malaysia failed in her bid to get her legal status changed to female after the High Court dismissed the application, saying it was bound by other UK cases and a 2013 Court of Appeal decision.
Vasudevan Ramoo, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in Thailand in 2012, had applied for a declaration that he is now female and wanted to have his name and gender changed in legal documents, including his identity card to Maha Lakshmi Ramoo.
Ramoo has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, the Malay Mail reported.
The judge, Asmabi Mohamad said she had no choice but to dismiss Ramoo's application. "By virtue of case law, the plaintiff has failed to prove to the satisfaction of the court that he is now female, in order to compel the defendant to change his name to his new name."
She said Ramoo had to first prove four factors – chromosomal, gonadal, genital and psychological – before the court can determine if the applicant is male or female.
The two medical reports presented by Ramoo as evidence failed to show that all four factors were fulfilled, and they did not record the carrying out of medical procedures like penactomy, vaginoplasty and breast and buttock enlargement, she added.
"If you check the two reports, very skeletal and the court is not able to determine if the plaintiff is a male or female just be looking at these two reports," Asmabi added.
The judge said she was using the legal precedent of the Court of Appeal's decision in 2013 pertaining to Kristie Chan v National Registration Department director-general case, which had adopted the position in the UK case of Corbett v Corbett (1970) and another UK case Bellinger v Bellinger (2003).
She highlighted the ruling of House of Lords judge Lord Nicholls Birkenhead in the Bellinger vs Bellinger case: "Individuals cannot choose for themselves whether they wish to be known or treated as male or female. Self-defination is not acceptable. That would make nonsense of the underlying biological basis of the distinction."
She expressed sympathy towards Ramoo's situation but said she could not read over and above the current legal position in Malaysia.
When asked if Ramoo, who was not present in court, will appeal the decision, her lawyer P.Muniswer said:"Not sure yet. Haven't got the instruction yet."
The Malay Mail reported that three transgenders recently also failed to have their genders changed in Malaysia. Kristie Chan and Aleesha Farhana Abdul Aziz failed in their bid to have their gender status changed to female while Wong Chiou Yong also failed in his legal bid to change his to male.
However, the newspaper noted a rare decision in the 2005 case of JG v National Registration Department director, when the High Court judge Justice James Foong allowed a transgender to be declared a female and ordered the National Registration Department to change the status on her identity card.
A Justice for Sisters activist S.Thilaga, who was present in court, said that the sexual organs of an individual should not determine his or her gender identity.
"Gender is not decided by your genitals. Gender is determined by how you feel. And your life cannot be dictated by your genitals and [it cannot] cost someone their happiness and wellbeing," the activist told reporters.
She said the best practice in various countries like Argentina, Denmark and Malta is the policy of self-determination. "The best practices right now is people don't have to be subjected to these intrusive processes. You and I don't have to go through the process to show our genitals, to go through chromosal tests," Thilaga said.