“Guardian Angel” of Arab Gulf Transsexuals

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MANAMA, Oct 31 (IPS) – Transsexuals in the Gulf call Bahraini lawyer Fawziya Janahi “guardian angel”. She is the Arab world’s only female lawyer who takes up cases on behalf of clients who want to change their sex.

Janahi’s clients want legal permission to undergo sex change operations. While the law is quite straightforward on this in Bahrain, the lawyer says it is more difficult in other countries in the region. “But that wouldn’t stop me from helping transgendered trapped in their bodies,” she says. “I’m ready to challenge the odds!”

Janahi, 47, spoke with IPS about her unusual practice, her future and hopes of greater acceptance of transgendered / transsexuals in Gulf societies.

IPS: How did you become a lawyer for the transgendered?

FAWZIYA JANAHI: I had a transgendered roommate, who studied with me in university in Egypt. I felt her agony and difficulty in accepting herself as a woman. When she approached me in 2001 to defend her I didn’t hesitate. In 2005, she won the case and was officially declared a man. My female roommate is now a happily married man who got a chance for a new beginning.

IPS: Did you think there would be others who would come to you?

FJ: I didn’t think there could be many people who had the courage to pursue long lawsuits. I got really recognised after my second case – when the female “Zainab” turned into a male, “Hussain”. This person was courageous and confident enough to attract media attention throughout his legal battle that ended in 2008.

Now I’m overloaded with cases from all over the Gulf. I take up all those who seriously seek sex-change operations.

Read the full interview here.


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