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Eliana Rubashkyn

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Eliana Rubashkyn

Eliana Rubashkyn
Born (1988-06-25) June 25, 1988
Bogotá, Colombia
Occupation Pharmacist, Chemist, Human Rights Advocate
Website .orgsoyeliana

Eliana Rubashkyn (born June 25, 1988) is a Colombian - New Zealand pharmacist, chemist and blog activist, well known internationally for being the first transgender woman recognised under international law as a woman without gender reassignment under the UN's 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a declaration that relates to the worlds stateless and refugees.[1] Her case caught international media attention after being detained at Hong Kong International Airport due to the lack of congruence with her gender identity and her passport photo.[2][3][4]

Personal life

Eliana Rubashkyn was born in Colombia to Ukrainian Jewish parents who had moved there in the 70s.

Having already obtained her degree in Pharmacy at the National University of Colombia,[5] Rubashkyn is currently living in Auckland.

Because her gender identity in Colombia was met with little acceptance from society, she decided to start her transition in Taiwan after being granted a scholarship in Taipei Medical University. Within a year, the hormonal transition changed Rubashkyn's physical appearance and the Taiwan Immigration authorities required her to update her passport at the closest Colombian consulate in order to allow her to renew her masters studies for a second year. She travelled to Hong Kong in order to do so, however when she arrived at Chek Lap Kok's immigration, she was detained for over 8 months as her appearance did not match her passport[6][7]

Facing deportation, she suffered much mistreatment in Chep Lap Kok Airport detention center, yet with the support of Amnesty International and the UNHCR, she was granted refugee status. This, however, led to Rubashkyn becoming a de facto stateless refugee, and because Hong Kong is not a current signatory of the refugee convention of 1951, she was not recognised as refugee and her citizenship was withdrawn. In 2013 the UN sent a petition to the international community to find a third country to resettle her, due to the lack of protection for LGBT people and refugees in that particular special administrative region of China.[3][8]

Rubashkyn also suffered torture in Kowloon's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she was placed in restrains, and made to endure different abusive treatments.[9][10]

Her case caught international attention particularly in Southeast Asia and Colombia where the transgender people still suffer persecution for their gender identity. Her case was also given attention in New Zealand, a country renowned for their stance on equality for the LGBT community.[11][12][13]

On December 16, 2013, the UN set a resolution in Rubashkyn's case recognising her as woman under the UNHCR refugee system. Under this recognition, she became the first transgender person recognised as a woman in the Peoples Republic of China and Hong Kong without having undergone sex reassignment surgery.[14][15]

Finally, in May 2014, New Zealand accepted Rubashkyn's case as a refugee and granted her asylum[16] extending her a universal recognition of her gender, making her case the first in the world where the new gender of a transgendered person is recognised internationally.[17][18]

The CNN story about her struggle and a short documentary about her life in Hong Kong won an award at 26th GLAAD awards in May 2015.[19]

She married an Israeli man in Auckland on 2 June 2015,[20] but she was forced to use her birth name rather than Eliana on the registration.[21]


  1. ^ Human Rights Campaign 2014. "Hong Kong recognized Trans woman without Sex reassignment Surgery". 
  2. ^ "Misunderstood and stateless in Hong Kong: A transgender woman's nightmare". CNN International. Retrieved 2014-09-05. 
  3. ^ a b "Transgender Refugee goes through hell in Hong Kong". UNHCR. Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  4. ^ "Hong Kong is 'hell' Transgender postgrad student-turned-refugee struggles to be recognised as a woman". Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  5. ^ The New Zealand Herald
  6. ^ "The Colombian transgender woman stranded in Hong Kong". Revista Semana. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  7. ^ "Transgender refugee goes through hell in Hong Kong to be recognised as woman". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  8. ^ "Stuck in limbo the tragic story of the transgender refugee Eliana Rubashkyn". Time Out Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  9. ^ "Toilet depravation torture". Miinhui - Torture in the health system in Hong Kong. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  10. ^ "Torture in a Psychiatric Hospital in Hong Kong". Apple Daily. Retrieved 2015-03-01. 
  11. ^ "Cơn ác mộng của người chuyển giới ở Hong Kong". Hot News Vietnam. Retrieved 2014-05-20. 
  12. ^ "Transgender refugee stranded in Hong Kong describes struggle to be recognized as woman". Shanhaiist. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  13. ^ "La historia de Eliana, la joven transgénero que está atrapada en Hong Kong". Diario El País. Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  14. ^ "Transexual reconocida como mujer en China". Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  15. ^ "行街紙隱去性別未變性博士准住女病房". Apple Daily Hong Kong. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  16. ^ "En libertad la transgénero presa en Hong Kong". Revista Semana. Retrieved 2015-01-05. 
  17. ^ "Eliana Rubashkyn. First case of International gender recognition trough asylum". Fundacion Triangulo. Retrieved 2015-02-01. 
  18. ^ "Transexual colombiana atrapada en Hong Kong recibe refugio en Nueva Zelanda". RCN. Retrieved 2015-02-01. 
  19. ^ . GLAAD Retrieved 2015-07-06. 
  20. ^ Tan, Lincoln (2 June 2015). "Transgender refugee set to wed". The New Zealand Herald. 
  21. ^ Tan, Lincoln (4 June 2015). "Past 'haunts' transgender wedding day". The New Zealand Herald. 
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