PARAMARIBO--The state Suriname has formally filed its appeal against the court ruling that ordered the Civil Registrar to register transgender Yvanna Hilton as a woman. In its filings, the state argues that Suriname does not have legislation that governs transgender matters. “Therefore there is no violation of Hilton’s human rights,” it stated.

Hilton claimed what could be considered a victory for transgender people on January 11, when a judge in Paramaribo sided with her in her quest to have the Registrar change her sex from man to woman.

The transgender woman had initiated the court proceedings about a year ago, after she underwent a sex change operation but the Civil Registrar refused to formally change her gender. She hired Audrey Tjong A Sie to drag the office to court; the judge agreed that it was her right, and ordered the 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. A few days later however the Registrar announced that it would appeal the sentence. The appeal was filed last week.

The appeal also argued that it was Hilton who had voluntarily undergone the sex change operations, without consulting anyone or asking permission from anyone; she should therefore not expect the community to just accept her new gender.

In a reaction, her attorney Tjong A Sie said that ironically enough, the Judge in First Instance has already wiped these arguments off the table. She said that regarding the argument of there being no local transgender legislation, the judge had specified that there are international agreements on these matters that Suriname is signatory to.

The lawyer lamented that the appeal would mean that her client has to languish longer in uncertainty about her identity.

The stance of the Civil Registry had already drawn the ire of Justice and Police Minister Jennifer van Dijk-Silos. When the office announced that it would be appealing the ruling, the Minister also stressed that Suriname was stepping on several international human rights agreements that it is bound to respect. “My Ministry is actively promoting human rights, but then people at Home Affairs are appealing those same rights,” she said, adding that Hilton “feels that she is a woman and I must admit that when I look at her pictures it is a woman I see there. This case regards the integrity of personality.”

Nonetheless, Hilton’s persistence to be formally recognised as what she recognises herself as, made her an unpopular figure in the religious communities. Religious leaders warned that granting her request 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.

VVPES chairman Evangelical pastor André Misikaba said after the ruling that he was surprised by the judge’s decision. 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 to church to do things that are against the word of God,” he said.