A transgender woman has won her appeal to remain in the UK in a bid to avoid serving her remaining mandatory National Service duties in the Singapore army. The Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in the UK dismissed the Home Secretary's appeal of an earlier ruling to allow the Singaporean's asylum application.
The transgender, who was only known as EFH in the court documents, fought against returning to Singapore on fears that she will be forced to undertake National Service duties. She had completed part of her mandatory National Service between December 2001 and June 2004.
However, the mandatory service does not end there. Once the compulsory two-year national service is completed, all servicemen, often called Reservists or Operationally-Ready National Serviceman, are called up for training and exercises regularly.
Reservists make up more than 80% of Singapore's military defence and are considered the backbone of the Singapore Armed Forces. As such, EFH will be liable for National Service duties until 2023.
The statutory age cap of reservist obligation is up to to age of 40 and for commissioned officers, it is up to the age of 50. If she fails to serve, she will have breached the Enlistment Act and will face up to three years in jail or a fine of S$10,000 (£5,093, €6,488, $7,440) or both.
EFH had extended her student leave twice. Completion of National Service can be deferred for studies purposes. On her second application for further leave to remain in the UK in November 2012, she said that she had "transgendered and lesbian and that her gender was not legally or socially recognised in Singapore."
The Home Office had argued that the punishment for not performing her National Service was not persecution as it was not linked to discrimination. However, her lawyer, S. Chelvan told Channel News Asia that when EFH returns to Singapore, she will be "returning a woman to her home country to be punished as a man."
She is liable to fulfill National Service duties as she has yet to undergo a full gender reassignment procedure, according to her lawyer, who described her as a "pre-operative trans woman." She was born a male in 1983 and realised in 2002 that she was psychologically a female. In 2004, EFH went to the UK to study and while in the UK, "presented herself as a female and behaved and socialised as such in the UK," according to the court documents.
The Singapore Ministry of Defence told Channel News Asia: "All male Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents above the age of 18 years are required to serve National Service if they are medically fit. Those who are legally declared female will not be required to serve NS."