Raped and beaten for her gender identity, refugee's story of survival

Eliana Rubashkyn has just become one of New Zealand's newest citizens, after a six-year journey fraught with harassment, prejudice and violence.

A refugee from Colombia, the 29 year-old came to New Zealand after being persecuted and assaulted, first in Colombia and then in Hong Kong.

Ms Rubashkyn is intersex; she was born with extra sex chromosomes and has both male and female physical traits.  

Her parents chose to raise her as a boy, but she identified as female, and her differences made her the target of bullying, discrimination and hate crimes.

She fled Colombia after being stabbed, planning to study in Asia.

However, as she had undergone hormone treatments, she was so unrecognizable that authorities in Hong Kong didn't believe she was the person in her ID photo.

With her passport confiscated, she was sent to live in a shipping container in a makeshift shelter on the outskirts of Hong Kong.

While there, Ms Rubashkyn was harassed and assaulted for being intersex, culminating in a vicious gang rape that put her in hospital.

She spoke to Newshub Nation about the traumatic events.

"Yes one night I was raped in that house by several men Muslim men. I was horribly beaten, it was incredibly painful.

“The way they raped me, de-humanised, disrespected, treat me like a toy. They destroy my spirit, they destroy everything I am, they destroy everything my peace my mind, my mental health. Everything."

She spent three weeks in hospital, where she had surgery and was treated for infection. She still needs more surgery to repair the physical damage.

With no passport, she was considered stateless. She had nowhere to call home, and no citizenship rights anywhere.

The United Nations asked New Zealand to accept her as an emergency refugee, and she was taken to the Mangere Resettlement Centre.

She is the first emergency refugee case to be resettled for her gender identity in New Zealand.

Usually, to become a citizen you need to have been in New Zealand for five years and have lived here for the majority of that time.

So far this year, 9000 people have been granted citizenship in New Zealand. Only 47 were approved under exceptional circumstances - less than 1 percent.

Ms Rubashkyn is one of them. It means she is entitled to work and has started a job in a pharmacy.

"That makes me feel respected. That makes me feel useful because there's many times in life that I feel useless"

Another happiness is her husband, Itamar. He came to New Zealand to be with her after meeting online. They've been married for three years, but he’s still waiting for his residency application from 2016 to be assessed.

Ms Rubashkyn says her family has been "running from hate" for generations,

"My mum is a refugee, my great-grandmother was a refugee. I am a refugee. I'm running away from hate and discrimination and a lack of understanding of gender diversity. My mum ran away from anti-semitism, my great grandmother ran away from anti-semitism. We are running away from hate because we just want to be loved."

Watch the video for the full story.

Newshub Nation.

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