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Transgender Detainee Claims Human Rights Violations

SNA (Tokyo) — A 27-year-old transgender woman who has spent the last nine months in custody at the Shinagawa Detention Center is claiming that her human rights are being violated, on counts related to her sexual minority status.

This Philippine national, who goes by the nickname “Pato,” came to Japan in January 2015 to be with her father and his family. The father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and in fact he passed away in 2017.

Pato arrived in Japan on a tourist visa, and soon became an overstayer. Much later, she learned that she probably could have applied for residency based on her family connections to Japan, but neither she nor her family understood that possibility at the time.

Pato lived peacefully in Tokyo for a number of years, working at a bento shop in Japan, until an evening last July when she was stopped by a police officer on the street who asked to see her identification. She has been in immigration detention since that time, battling efforts to deport her back to the Philippines.

It has been her treatment in detention that Pato regards as constituting violations of her human rights.

First, the Japanese immigration authorities have no settled policies on how to treat LGBT detainees. They have rejected Pato’s call to be treated like any other female detainee, and also rejected her compromise position that she be treated as a male detainee. Instead, she has been left in a limbo status that works very much to her disadvantage. Primarily, this means that she has spent unusually long periods in isolation, which is a treatment usually meted out to those accused of misbehavior. While ordinary detainees are given six or more hours daily outside of their cells to mingle with the general population, engage in physical exercise, etc., Pato is not allowed to do so, instead given only two hours on her own outside the cell, and then 22 hours a day in isolation.

Secondly, in order to make her physical transition to a more female condition, Pato had taken hormones for years. However, the Japanese detention authorities have not allowed her to continue this practice, leading to serious physical changes and even major health problems. There has been no accommodation to the special needs of transgender detainees.

Shingetsu News Agency paid a visit this afternoon to the Shinagawa Detention Center to meet Pato, and she explained that in spite of this mistreatment, she was still determined to fight against deportation. Her closest family members live in Japan, and she believes that whatever this country’s problems, it is still a better place for transgender people to live in than her native Philippines, with its strong Catholic Christian influences. In Japan, she believes, she can one day hope to hope to find a husband and partner, and to live a normal life.

“I want people to know that I am alone,” she pleaded at our interview. “I just want my human rights.”

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