All Countries Brunei

2019 RLLR 161

Citation: 2019 RLLR 161
Tribunal: Refugee Protection Division
Date of Decision: September 24, 2019
Panel: Heidi Worsfold
Counsel for the Claimant(s):
Country: Brunei
RPD Number: VB8-07145
Associated RPD Number(s): N/A
ATIP Number: A-2022-00978
ATIP Pages: 000163-000167


[1]       PRESIDING MEMBER:  This is the decision of the Refugee Protection Division in the claim of XXXX XXXX XXXX as a citizen of Brunei pursuant to sections 96 and 97(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[2]       You were born biologically a male but identified as female ever since you were a young child of the age of four or five. As you went through school, you were called names because others thought you were gay due to your more feminine manner. You became more and more gender dysphoric as you became older and it was more difficult to express your gender identity openly. As well, you began to question the religion of Islam in general terms, but also in respect to your gender identity, which you had decided accept by around age 13.

[3]       You did not feel safe to speak to your parents about what you were thinking and feeling, and there seemed to be mostly a concern around you being homosexual.

[4]       You learned to censor your actions and tried to confirm to the expectations of your family and society in general. You were able to connect with some friends who shared some of your values and also questioned Islam and were tolerant or gender non-conforming or of other sexual orientations.

[5]       You were finally able to come out as a transwoman with some friends in junior college and you knew that you could not live freely and openly in Brunei and made plans to leave.

[6]       You attempted to get into contact with the UNHCR in Thailand and then in Malaysia; however, this had numerous difficulties attached. Instead, you saved enough money to get to get to Canada, thinking this was the furthest away from those who might do you harm. You booked a trip in XXXX 2018, telling your parents that this was a vacation before you started university back in Brunei to avoid their suspicions.

[7]       You arrived in Canada XXXX XXXX XXXX 2018 and claimed for protection shortly thereafter.

[8]       You fear that if you return to Brunei you would face persecution, arrest, and death because of your gender identity as a transwoman and your religious beliefs.

[9]       I find that you are a Convention refugee pursuant to section 96 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

[10]     In deciding your claim today, I have considered the SOGI Guidelines. You have established that you have a well-founded fear of persecution based on the Convention ground membership in a particular social group, specifically, gender identity as a transwoman, as well as on the ground of religion, as an apostate in Brunei.

[11]     Your identity as a citizen of Brunei is supported by your testimony and passport, as well as other documentation on file and I accept on a balance of probabilities your identity as a national of Brunei.

[12]     You made an affirmation to tell the truth and there is a presumption that sworn testimony is true unless there is sufficient reason to doubt its truthfulness.

[13]     I have found no reason to doubt your truthfulness. You testified in a straightforward manner and there were no relevant inconsistencies in your testimony or contradictions between your testimony and the other evidence before me.

[14]     You have provided numerous documents in support of your claim including several letters of support from individuals and various organizations who have been working with you who corroborate your allegations. These supporting documents can be found in Exhibit 4.

[15]     You have shared your personal lived experience of realizing you were transgender at a very early age and being forced to hide your feelings and your true identity from everyone. You were called names and suspected of being gay by other family members, as well as students during school, which led you to be more withdrawn from others in society at large.

[16]     You also began to question Islam and you came to that decision that it was not compatible with your own identity or your view of the world. You stated your spiritual beliefs are currently not active or you have put this aside for now but would definitely be seen as an apostate as you are no longer a practising Muslim.

[17]     Additionally, you have spoken publicly about some of the government back in Brunei and its lack of human rights and freedoms, and that can be found at Exhibit 4, page 63, where you gave an interview and described your own experiences.

[18]     Overall, I have found you to be a credible witness and, therefore, believe what you have alleged in support of your claim. There is certainly an objective basis for your claim and I have read the country documents provided by your counsel related to the country conditions in Brunei. I am not going to go into great detail but suffice to say, there is a plethora of evidence to suggest you have a well-grounded claim.

[19]     I am just going to mention a few areas. As have been discussed during the testimony, the US DOS Report provides information. Members of the LGBTI community reported societal discrimination in public and private employment, housing, recreation, and in obtaining services including education from state entities. LGBTI individuals reported intimidation by police including threats to make public their sexuality, to hamper their ability to obtain a government job or to bar graduation from government academic institutions.

[20]     Members of the LGBTI community reported the government monitored their activities and communications. Like all events in the country, events on LGBTI topics were subject to restrictions on assembly and expression. The LGBTI community reported that the government would not issue permits for community events or events on LGBTI topics.

[21]     There is also a Sharia Penal Code ban on anal intercourse between men or between a man and a woman who is not his wife. The Sharia Penal Code also prohibits men from dressing as women or women dressing at men without reasonable excuse or for “immoral purposes”.

[22]     As far as turning away from Islam, being an apostate is illegal in Brunei. The punishment can be death or imprisonment for up to 30 years and corporal punishment.

[23]     Speaking out against the Brunei government is seen as dissent and is also illegal in Brunei, and the (Indiscernible) Act penalizes commentary against the government. [Amnesty International and US DOS Report.

[24]     Lastly, from the US DOS Report, human rights issues include censorship, criminal, liable, and the monitoring of private email and other electronic communication, substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, restrictions on political participation and crimes involving violence or threats targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons including intimidation by police and exploitation of foreign workers including through forced labour.

[25]     On the issue of state protection, there is clear and convincing evidence before me that the state is unable or unwilling to protect you. Given the deeply intrenched level of anti- LGBTI or transphobic or homophobic feelings and attitudes, and reports of state authorities being abusive and intimidating. As well, country conditions indicate discrimination and violence are acceptable, especially now that Sharia law has been declared. Those who define moral codes that have been put in place face fines, jail, and the death penalty.

[26]     You could not live openly as a transwoman without facing a serious possibility of a significant level or discrimination and violence from the society at large, as well as the state authorities.

[27]     Accordingly, I do not find you have an internal flight alternative in Brunei. For the foregoing reasons, I find that you are a Convention refugee and, therefore, I accept your claim.

[28]     This matter is now concluded.