A transgender teenager who fled the southeast Asian nation of Brunei to seek asylum in Canada has shared her story.
Zoella Zayce, 19, is currently living in the Canadian city of Vancouver as she awaits a decision on her claim for asylum.
Zayce told Reuters she fled Brunei late last year, scared her conservative family would find out about her gender identity.
She never told them that she was transgender, but she said they asked if she was gay.
At age 11 or 12, her parents subjected her to a “cleansing” or “exorcism” by a cleric, a process that left her “traumatised”, she said.
“I just didn’t feel safe with my family,” Zayce said.
She said she knew she would have to leave Brunei in 2014 when she heard that two people had been fined and jailed for cross-dressing.
Earlier this month, Brunei introduced a new Islamic Penal Code which punishes gay sex and adultery with death by stoning, prompting international outrage.
Prior to that, homosexual activity was still criminalised and punishable with a prison sentence.
Zayce told Reuters she expects to hear the result of her claim for asylum as soon as November, and until then is working full-time in Vancouver.
She said she chose Canada as her destination because of its strong human rights record and its distance from Brunei.
“[Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau was very accepting of people fleeing their countries so that was one of the major things as well,” she said.
The trans teenager said she would like to see other nations impose sanctions on Brunei, and said she wished to see the Sultan of Brunei abdicate so the country could become a free, democratic nation.
“I just want to let the world know that if I do get sent back to Brunei, I wouldn’t mind dying back there,” she said.
“If I do go back, I would have at least lived a good life … on my own terms.”
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