A young Guatemalan trans woman who sought asylum in Denmark says that on her arrival she was placed in the men’s wing of an asylum seeker’s camp and gang raped by several men who forced their way into her room.
The woman, Fernanda, was placed in the male section of Sandholm - a former barracks converted into a camp for asylum seekers – because under Danish law she is classed as a man.
Speaking to the Danish paper Politiken, Fernanda said: “I was really scared. I was new to this country. I came from a foreign country and from a terrifying background, and I faced daunting prospects here in Denmark, so I said nothing.”
Fernanda said she fled Sandholm – which is half an hour’s drive from Copenhagen – that same night: “I didn’t go to the Red Cross and report it. It was them who put me there. Why should I trust people who hadn’t even bothered to listen and who had put me in that situation?
“I didn’t want special treatment but I do have special needs because of who I am.”
She also said the hormone treatments she had been taking since the age of 14 were suspended – and that over a year passed before she again received any.
The Danish Red Cross has thus far made no comment on the case. However, Anne La Coeur, the head of asylum, said there is no automatic placement in a particular type of accommodation for transgender people, though there are specific guidelines which apply when dealing with sexual minorities.
Ms La Coeur said: “Basically, a transgender woman is likely to be placed in a male dormitory – but in a private room. We would not place her in a women’s dormitory because that is definitely for women – where cannot permit ourselves to place a man.”
Alone in Denmark, Fernanda ended up being trafficked to a brothel in Jutland. It was only after a police raid on the brothel that she was taken in by Reden International, an organisation who have sheltered her for the last 18 months.
When she visited the police who were dealing with her asylum application, she says she was told that the rape she suffered was a consequence of her choice.
She said: “Being a transgender woman is not a choice. You feel you were born this way. It is not my fault, but it was as if he blamed me for being who I am.”
Ultimately, Fernanda’s application was refused and she will be repatriated to Guatemala on 17 September.
She told the paper: “In Guatemala if you are different you are cut off from your family, society and by the government. You cannot get an education. You cannot get medical treatment because if you arrive at the hospital as a woman and your papers say that you are not, they refuse to treat you even if you are bleeding to death.”
Guatemala is a staunchly Catholic country, where the church wields enormous power.
Of her enforced return to Guatemala, Fernanda said: “What I’m most afraid of when I go back isn’t being killed. What really petrifies me is being attacked and tortured.”