Justice for Sisters is elated by the historic judgment by Justice Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus, Justice Aziah Ali and Justice Lim Yee Lan that declared Section 66 of the Negeri Sembilan Syariah Enactment as unconstitutional with Article 5(1), 8(1), 8(2), 9(2) and 10 (1)(a). We applaud the judges for taking a bold step in protecting and promoting human rights of all people, regardless of gender identity and gender expression. We are excited by the positive and overarching impact that the judgment will have in the promotion and protection of human rights for all in Malaysia.
“This is indeed a joyous moment for the transgender community, especially the transgender community in Negeri Sembilan, as they have directly experienced the violent impact of Section 66. Section 66 has created severe trauma and distress to the community, as it was continuously used to harass, humiliate, suppress gender identity of transwomen and violate them in the most inhumane and uncompassionate ways. Justice for Sisters commends the resistance of the Negeri Sembilan sisters in leading this challenge for 4 years,” says thilaga of Justice for Sisters.
However, Section 66 is only one out 14 state syariah laws that criminalize gender identity and gender expression.
A survey conducted by Justice for Sisters found 37 out of 76 transwomen had been arrested because of their identity and attire. 23 out of the 37 transwomen had been arrested more than one time. 25 out of 37 transwomen who had been arrested had been subjected to physical, emotional and sexual violence by the state religious authorities, police and local municipal council. State authorities continue to act with impunity, as the law blatantly discriminates and violates the rights of transgender persons.
I am Scared to be a Woman, a report launched by the Human Rights Watch in 2014 further illustrates the multiple forms of violence and discrimination faced by transgender persons, including lack of access to employment, education, and the right to live with dignity, manifestations of the criminalization of gender identity.
We understand that while section 66 is now unconstitutional and void, it will take time to change the hearts and minds of people. However, we are encouraged by the positive changes in the media and solidarity by people regardless of gender identity and gender expression.
“Public education and awareness is key in changing public opinion and perception towards transgender persons. Justice for Sisters is happy to dialogue and have meaningful discussions with government agencies with our experts from the medical field to further explain issues pertaining to transgender persons,” says Nisha Ayub of Justice for Sisters.
We encourage all people to continue to speak up against injustice, oppression and inequality against humanity in solidarity.
Resistance is fertile
Council raises concern transgender persecution may increase discrimination
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2012 – 12:47
by Hamzah Nazari
A RECENT case in Negri Sembilan where four transgender persons lost their case when challenging a ban on Muslim men dressing and posing as women could spark a witch-hunt by the authorities against the community, the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) said.
“We don’t want these things to happen again in other states,” said MAC media and communications head Azahemy Abdullah, when commenting on an earlier MAC statement backing the cause of the four transgender persons.
“While MAC respects the decision of the Negri Sembilan Syariah Court, we firmly believe that every Malaysian is entitled to equal protection and dignity under the country’s constitutional rights,” said Azahemy.
“We fear that this judgment could lead to increased stigma as well as acts of persecution and discrimination by authorities, especially from the enforcement officials of the religious department.”
However, practising Syariah Court lawyer Fakhrul Azman Abu Hasan said Syariah Courts prosecuting transgender persons was not a new trend.
“The syariah law is very clear. A man cannot act as a woman and a woman cannot act as a man,” he said.
He said the Syariah Court prosecution and judges had to act according to the law but usually opt to send transgender Muslims for counselling.
“They give chances, arrange for an Ustaz to give lectures on why they are born as men and women.”
“Most will plead guilty and not contest it. They will pay the fine,” he said.
Fakhrul Azman said transgender persons could challenge the law by claiming it was against human rights in the Federal Court, or by getting their plight to be heard in Parliament.
If they were to win in court, he said the law would be deemed void, but added that this would be difficult as, unlike in European countries, morality is taken as law in Malaysia.
“They (Europeans) do not take morality as law, but in Asian and Muslim countries, they do.”
“The law has been enacted by parliament. If the law is there, the judges have to follow,” he said.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said transgender Muslims were treated well in the past and there was no reason as a matter of policy why they should be persecuted or prosecuted now.
He quoted Teh Yik Koon’s essay, “The Male To Female Transsexuals In Malaysia: What Should We Do With Them?” in which the writer claimed that transgender persons, commonly known as ‘Mak Nyahs’ in Malaysia, had a better standard of living during the colonial days and that there were less sex workers then compared to now.
Many were Mak Andams (bride’s attendants), joget dancers, cooks or artistes.
He said in an interview with a 63-year-old ‘Mak Nyah’, it was related that during the colonial days, they were left undisturbed.
Lim said Malaysians must ask themselves why people who are different and who are at the margins of society could not be accepted.
“Why can’t we accept them as who they are with compassion, and liberal and progressive ideals, rejecting extremism?” he asked Lim said: “Human beings should be treated equally, and the principle of nondiscrimination is paramount in this respect.
“Individuals should have the right to make their own choices relating to gender identity,” he said.
It is a sad fact that transgender people world over continue to suffer from persecution and discrimination, as is the case in Malaysia today. Although there has been progress in many parts of the world for the recognition and protection of rights for gay and lesbian people, the transgender community continue to report higher levels of abuse, harassment, vilification and bullying all over the globe. We call on the Government of Malaysia to respect the human rights of all its people and repeal discriminatory laws which have repeatedly targeted transgender citizens.