A transgender teenager from Brunei has fled the country and is seeking asylum in Canada.
Zoella Zayce—who is 19-years-old—is currently living in a basement apartment in Vancouver while she awaits a decision on her claim for asylum, according to CBC News.
She is claiming asylum in Canada as she says that Brunei is not safe for LGBT+ people. She said she has known she would have to flee the country for years due to its archaic laws.
Brunei introduced death by stoning for gay people just weeks ago
The news comes just weeks after Brunei introduced barbaric new laws which will see gay people stoned to death.
Zayce fled Brunei late last year as she was afraid of her conservative family finding out about her gender identity. She never told them that she was transgender, but said they suspected her of being gay.
She said she was “traumatised” when her family brought her to a cleric who performed a “cleansing” or “exorcism” on her when she was just 11 or 12-years-old.
“I just didn’t feel safe with my family,” Zayce 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.
Zayce expects to hear the result of her claim for asylum as soon as November, and in the meantime is working full-time in the Canadian city of Vancouver.
Zoella Zayce praised Canada for being open to refugees
She chose Canada as her destination because it was far away from Brunei and she felt her family were less likely to follow her and track her down there.
Zayce also praised Canada for its openness to refugees. “Justin Trudeau was very accepting of people fleeing their countries so that was one of the major things as well,” she said.
“I just want to let the world know that if I do get sent back to Brunei, I wouldn’t mind dying back there.”
– Zoella Zayce, transgender teenager who fled from Brunei
The transgender teenager said she hopes that the Sultan of Brunei will abdicate one day so that the country can become a democracy, and said she hopes to see it become a more secular place.
“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.”
Brunei’s foreign minister claimed last week that the new laws will focus ‘more on prevention than punishment’
Earlier this month, Brunei introduced new Sharia laws which punish gay sex and adultery by stoning to death—however, the country was a dangerous place for LGBT+ people even before the laws were implemented.
The new laws have been heavily criticised by high-profile figures such as George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John. The Asian country has also been slammed by the European Union and the United Nations for introducing the barbaric laws.
Last week, Brunei’s foreign minister wrote a letter to the United Nations where he claimed that gay people were unlikely to be stoned to death under the laws.
He said the new laws will focus “more on prevention than punishment.”