PARAMARIBO--The court has spoken. A woman who was born a man should be able to change her gender at the Census Office. A judge in Paramaribo granted this request of transgender woman Yvanna Hilton on Wednesday, putting aside objections religious organisations have voiced on the matter.

Hilton initiated the court proceedings about a year ago after she underwent a sex change operation, but the Census Office CBB refused to formally change her gender. She hired Audrey Tjong A Sie to drag the office to court. On Wednesday the judge agreed that it was her right, and ordered the Census Office to make a note in its registers about her amended sex, the same way a note would be made to any other change in her life.

While it could be considered a victory for transgender people, Hilton appeared calm when asked by journalists for a reaction. She said she had more or less expected the Judge to side with her. Her attorney was a bit more surprised. “It still has to fully dawn on me. I had somewhat expected that this would not be possible in Suriname; the judge has chosen to guarantee a basic human right,” said Tjong A Sie.

Hilton’s case had triggered the ire of religious leaders who warned that if the judge granted her request it would be like “opening the floodgates for more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Suriname.” The Association of Pentecostal Churches in Suriname VVPES held a protest march on December 12 to voice its objections; a few thousand people attended. The Suriname Islamic Association SIV also spoke out against Hilton’s goals.

Evangelical pastor and VVPES Chairman André Misikaba said on Wednesday that he was surprised by the judge’s ruling. He said the church would accept the verdict, but would continue to encourage following God’s word. “I hope that this is not the beginning of a move to force the church to do things that are against the word of God,” he said.

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