A young Singaporean couple had their marriage annulled by the Singapore government in a first of its kind case in the country. The couple had married as a heterosexual couple, but the husband of the couple later transitioned to female after their marriage.
According to the article written by Kirsten Han on Quartz, the authorities had already expressed concern about the husband’s non-conformity with gender norms before the marriage. When the couple had applied to get married in 2015, the husband and wife, whose identities have been concealed to protect them, had been together for 8 years.
However, as the husband was already transitioning to become female, he had his name legally changed to a female name. Despite this, the marriage went through because his identity card still stated that his gender was male. A lawyer the couple consulted advised that they could still get married legally in Singapore.
After some intrusive “advice” by the Registry of Marriages, which required the male in the relationship to undertake not to undergo sex change surgery before the marriage and to dress in a more “masculine” fashion on the marriage day itself, the couple were married in October 2015.
That was only the start of their troubles.
The husband underwent a sex change following the marriage, and the couple duly informed the Housing & Development Board (HDB) of the sex change in August 2016.
As HDB’s eligibility criteria requires that state-subsidized flats can only be reserved for married Singaporeans, they were denied the keys to their flats as the same sex couple were now not entitled to be married under Singapore law.
Refusing to be cowed by the bureaucracy, which was denying a flat to a legally married Singaporean couple, they pushed HDB and even the Registry of Marriages for an answer to their dilemma. They received no word for months. Their ordeal lasted from October 2015 to 10 February this year.
On 10 February, they received the bad news. Their marriage had been voided by the government because they “did not intend from the start to live as one man and one woman.”
When contacted, the Ministry of Social and Family Development, which is in charge of marriages, cited the Women’s Charter as the reason behind their voiding of the marriage.
The couple were eventually allowed to purchase a HDB flat, but at half the size they wanted and under the Singles Scheme, which cost them at least $15,000 more than they would originally have gotten it for as a married couple.