Trans Pinay Detained, Isolated, and Abused in Tokyo Immigration Facility

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A Filipina trans woman currently detained in Tokyo Immigration Bureau in Shinagawa Ward detailed her isolation and the discrimination she’s been going through under the Japanese authorities.

Pat or Pato-chan was arrested last year for overstaying after her residency status expired. She was then brought to a nyukan, Japan’s immigration facilities, where violators are detained before processing their deportation. However, Pat revealed that she has been going through a hard time because of her gender identity as a trans woman.

Japan-based journalist Sumireko Tomita was able to talk to the 28-year-old Filipina. Pat said that her free time has been cut down to just two hours a day — four hours less than what is given to other women in the facilities. This has made it difficult for Pat to see other people as well as do personal activities. For the rest of the day, she is cramped in a small room by herself.

Pat drew her detention area where she is currently held. She depicted herself as a crying girl who feels alone and separated from the boys and other girls because she’s a part of the LGBT+ community. She also drew the placement of the toilet which is just a few steps away from her bed.

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Pat drew her room and showed it to Tomita. Sumireko Tomita / Buzzfeed News

In her diary, Pat also wrote about her depression. “I’m always alone and thinking of dying,” she said.

Her isolation was also aggravated because of the interruption in her hormone therapy — a process that she’s been going through for six years. Pat said that she was not able to take her pills for eight months, which caused her physical and mental pain. It was only until April this year that she was allowed to resume her hormone therapy and receive medical care.

“I am a transgender woman who is currently transitioning, so I need hormone drugs. If I don’t take them suddenly, my body will go crazy,” Pat told Tomita.

The Philippines Might Be Worse

Pat said that it is very difficult for a transgender woman to live in the Philippines and she’s afraid that, when she gets deported, she will be discriminated against in her own country.

In Tomita’s report, she recalled being sexually assaulted while still being a student in the Philippines, which adds to her doubts about the country’s treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community. She believes that discrimination will put her under further distress.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center in the U.S. suggests that 73% of Filipinos think that homosexuality should be accepted in the Philippines. We also seem to have loosened our prejudice against trans men and trans women by having openly-transgender people like celebrities and elected public officials.

However, we also have recorded cases of aggression, sexual and physical violence, and even killings of members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Discrimination in workplaces has also been reported. As these continue to persist, the plight of the LGBTQIA+ community remains unstable.

‘Trans’ and Immigrant: An Intersection of Struggles

Japan’s progressive policy on foreign nationals such as the amendments on the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (or Immigration and Refugee Act) allowed thousands of Filipinos to work and live in Japan. This act also gave Japan a boost in their workforce as they were able to address their shortage of especially-skilled workers. However, human rights groups have raised alarm due to the possibilities of sexual abuse, work-related deaths, and bad working conditions.

Illegal overstay is also a problem for foreigners. Japanese laws strictly prohibit overstaying both for immigrants and refugees. If caught, a foreign national can be detained in nyukans where alleged human rights violations have taken place.

At least 15 deaths of foreign nationals have been reported since 2007 while being transported or detained in these nyukans. In May last year, around 30 people went on a hunger strike in Higashi-Nihon Detention Center that lasted until the end of June. One of the participants said that the hunger strike is their only resistance, the last resort for their pleas to be heard, as many have already died from illness or suicide.

Around the same time, the case of a man from Cameroon who died while in a nyukan was heard. The hearing exposed video footage of the man lying on the floor, twisting in pain while screaming “I’m dying! I’m dying!” It was, later on, found out that authorities were knowledgeable of the man’s conditions, but chose to neglect it. He was only moved to a specialized room three days prior to his death and received medical attention when he’s already dead.

The instances of abuse and neglect in nyukans are catching the wind in Japan. Nami Nanami, a Japanese activist I spoke with, said that these detention facilities have grave notoriety. “All detainees need serious attention,” she said.

She also posted a video, now being circulated online, where detained immigrants can be heard screaming through the open windows of the detention center. It was an eerie sight — almost uncharacteristic of Japan the international community is familiar with.

CDP Japan, a political website, also published an article recently that detailed how immigration staff is filming naked detainees and throwing sexual advances to women. In at least one instance, a male immigration staff was said to have forcibly entered the showers of female detainees and ordered them to return to their detention rooms wearing only their underwear.

Some detainees who entered the bureau were given the option to be released for two months before their deportation. Others who have been detained for longer periods were not given the same option. Sensing unjust treatment, the detainees staged a protest that lasted for two days. In this duration, they were body slammed, choked, and pushed against the wall.

The offer of provisional release was later on taken back as punishment. The detainees were later on threatened that they will be kept in detention for the rest of their lives and that the only way for them to leave is by catching coronavirus or dead wrapped in a body bag.

The current unstable conditions in the center as well as the coronavirus pandemic compounds with Pat’s problem as a transwoman.

In general, although transgender citizens are allowed to change their sex in legal documents, they first have to be medically diagnosed with a gender identity disorder — a notion that has long been debunked by the World Health Organization and other medical associations in the world. They are also required to go through an irreversible sex-change operation before applying for changes in their legal documents.

Being diagnosed with a mental disorder and going through gender reassignment surgery puts transgender people under scrutiny and mental pressure. In some instances, transgender people in Japan are also humiliated, assaulted, and discriminated against due to their gender identity and expression.

This problematic understanding of sexuality and gender reflects on Pat’s situation. Pat feels that her rights are being violated. She believes that she should be treated just like any other person. She wants to have more than two hours of free time. She needs to have more time to exercise, use her phone to contact her family, shower, and do her laundry. That’s the least this facility can provide for her, she said.

Rallying behind Pato-chan

Nanami published a call to put a spotlight on Pato-chan’s case. There, she detailed the discrimination that Pato-chan is going through and the ways people can help her.

Meanwhile, Smash Nyukan Tokyo, a group of activists protesting the human rights violations in immigration facilities, is staging street actions. On July 10 at 7:00 P.M. (JST), Smash Nyukan Tokyo is expected to stage another protest for Pato-chan and the other detained immigrants in Japan.

Other individuals are also encouraging people to write to Pato-chan. If you wish to do so, you may address your letters to “Patrick Philippine (transgender)” at Tokyo Minato ku kounan 5–5–30, Tokyo Immigration.

Japanese to English translations by Nami Nanami and Alex S. (Tokyo, Japan)

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