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Transsexual vows to fight for her rights after court refuses to update gender

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia >> A Malaysian transsexual vowed to fight for her rights after a court refused to change the gender on her identification documents to female following sex-change surgery, her lawyer said Sunday.

Lawyer Wong Kah Woh said the High Court ruled Friday it was sympathetic but couldn’t declare his 35-year-old client — who isn’t identified for safety reasons — a woman because it has no jurisdiction to deal with the issue.

Wong said his client had applied to the National Registration Department to update the gender status on her identity card after undergoing a sex-change operation in Thailand in 2006, but was told to get a court order to declare she is a woman.

“The court ruled it was not prepared to grant the application because it did not have the power to do so. My client is upset but she will fight for her rights and will appeal the decision,” Wong told The Associated Press.

Sex-change surgery is legal in mainly Muslim Malaysia, but transsexuals often cannot legally change their gender status. Activists have estimated there are at least 50,000 transsexuals in Malaysia, many who face widespread prejudice and often cannot find employment.

Wong said in 2005 a transsexual successfully changed her gender after a judge approved her application on the grounds that it was the court’s duty to help. But in the same year, another judge rejected a similar bid by a transsexual, he said.

No law exists in the country to address the issue, which has been left to the judges’ discretion, he said. Wong urged the government to enact necessary legislation to empower the courts to deal with the issue.

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