THE Malaysian authorities are being discriminatory and ignorant in their treatment of transsexual woman Fatine, who is facing visa problems in the United Kingdom.
Instead of assisting Fatine in negotiating with the UK authorities, the Immigration director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman has instead threatened her with stern action for overstaying in the UK. Abdul Rahman also declared that Fatine has brought “great shame” upon the nation not only for overstaying but by entering into a civil partnership with Briton, Ian Young.
Abdul Rahman appears to have completely ignored the basic facts surrounding Fatine’s situation. Unlike many Malaysians who overstay for economic reasons, Fatine reportedly obtained a Certificate of Approval from the UK Home Office to marry Young while on a visitor visa. Fatine’s subsequent application for leave to remain in the UK as Young’s civil partner was however denied due to the submission of an incorrect photo. Her second application was then rejected as her visitor visa had expired by that time. She now faces deportation to Malaysia pending her third application.
Far from being sympathetic towards Fatine’s plight, Abdul Rahman has instead singled her out from amongst thousands of overstaying Malaysians and castigated her publicly.
If our government can intervene on behalf of Malaysians even when they have potentially been involved in criminal activities abroad, why can’t they offer assistance in this case? Or at least sound more sympathetic?
The Malaysian government and immigration authorities have frequently stepped in to assist Malaysians in tight spots abroad. To the credit of the Malaysian government, it has demonstrated an ability to look out for its citizens when they are in trouble overseas, even in remote areas.
When the Bangkok airports were shut down in 2008 due to protests, the government dispatched a special military aircraft to fly stranded Malaysians home. Military aircraft also brought Malaysian students in Padang, Indonesia home after the 2 Oct 2009 earthquake.
When Raja Munirah Raja Iskandar was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in Japan for attempting to smuggle syabu into the country, then Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar took action. He ordered Malaysian embassy staff in Japan to visit Raja Munirah and gather information about her case. Malaysian embassy staff in Peru have also been tasked with looking after the welfare of Malaysians in jail who have been found guilty of drug charges.
If the government doesn’t turn its back even when Malaysians have been convicted of crimes abroad, then why the public dressing down of Fatine? Shouldn’t Abdul Rahman, and his staff, be thinking of ways to help her instead of clambering onto his moral high horse to condemn her for somehow “shaming” the nation?
Doesn’t Fatine have the same right of access to her government’s support as any other Malaysian? And if her own government can’t stand up for her, then who will?
And really, how has Fatine brought “great shame” to the nation? Could it be that the perceived shame is originating from prejudice towards Fatine who was registered at birth as Mohammed Fadzil Min Bahari?
Malaysian obstacle course
UK authorities say Fatine can reapply for leave to remain, however, she must do so from her country of origin. This would not pose a problem for many couples as the fact that Young and Fatine are in a civil partnership would be a strong factor in assuring a successful application. Given the circumstances, however, Fatine faces a Malaysian obstacle course if she wants to continue living with Young in the same country.
If Fatine’s passport is confiscated upon return, as threatened by Abdul Rahman, Fatine would not be able to apply to the UK Home Office for leave to remain.
If Young decides to live in Malaysia instead, Fatine and Young could potentially be prosecuted for “carnal intercourse” under section 377 of the Penal Code. Fatine has not undergone sex reassignment surgery.
Fatine’s civil partnership to Young would not be recognised in Malaysia.
Even if Fatine and Young were somehow registered as married, Young would still face hurdles in living and working here. Malaysia’s current laws do not grant a foreign husband automatic rights to work in Malaysia.
Even if Fatine and Young overcame all the above hurdles, they would still have to face discrimination and rejection from society.
Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Fatine’s choice as an adult to live as a woman in a mutually consenting relationship with Young, one should at least be able to sympathise with her glaring lack of options. Whether she chooses to continue facing deportation in the UK or to return to Malaysia, her future with Young is threatened.
As the Malay saying goes, “Seperti timun dengan durian, menggolek kena, digolek pun kena”. But the main reason Fatine finds herself in this situation isn’t the UK government’s bureaucracy. It’s the refusal of her government to lay aside its prejudices against minority groups like transsexuals, and assist and respect these citizens wherever they may be found.
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