Keadilan untuk Sameera – Pastikan siasatan yang teliti dan mereka di sebalik pembunuhan Sameera dibawa ke muka pengadilan

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Kami seperti yang tertera di bawah amat sedih berikutan pembunuhan kejam Sameera Krishnan, seorang wanita transgender atau mak nyah muda pada 23 Februari 2017 sekitar jam 3.30 pagi di Kuantan, Malaysia. Sameera bukan sahaja diserang dengan pisau dan ditetak pada bahagian tangan, kaki, kepala, serta kaki, dia juga ditembak sebanyak tiga kali. Sameera bekerja sebagai seorang penjual bunga di Kuantan dan dikenali oleh keluarga serta rakan-rakannya sebagai seorang yang lemah lembut dan rendah hati. Pengebumian Sameera telah disempurnakan pada Jumaat, 24 Februari, yang juga merupakan tarikh lahirnya.

Kami mengalu-alukan siasatan pembunuhan tersebut oleh pihak polis yang dilakukan secara segera, dan berharap pihak polis akan menerbit hasil siasatan ini kepada orang awam. Kami berharap keadilan dapat dilaksanakan untuk Sameera. Pembunuhan yang tidak berperikemanusiaan ini telah dikenalpasti berhubung dengan sebuah kes yang masih berterusan melibatkan Sameera di mana pada Februari 2015, Sameera telah diculik dan dirogol oleh beberapa orang samseng. Sameera telah ditetapkan untuk muncul di mahkamah pada bulan hadapan sebagai saksi utama kes ini.

Sementara kita menunggu siasatan dan motif pembunuhan tersebut dikenalpasti pihak polis, adalah penting untuk mengakui bahawa wanita trans menghadapi jenayah kebencian dan keganasan yang melampau dan luar biasa berdasarkan identiti gender mereka. Antara sebab berlakunya keganasan sebegini termasuklah kekurangan perlindungan undang-undang, penganiayaan, persepsi negatif masyarakat terhadap individu trans, diskriminasi, dan sebagainya.

Antara 2007 dan 2016, sekurang-kurangnya 10 kes pembunuhan telah dilaporkan oleh pihak media. Dalam 10 kes-kes ini, wanita-wanita trans telah menghadapi keganasan yang melampau termasuklah dipukul dengan tukul sehingga mati, dicekik, ditikam berkali-kali, diserang secara fizikal, ditolak keluar bangunan, dilemaskan dalam kolam takungan air dan sebagainya. Walau bagaimanapun, kebanyakan kes jenayah kebencian dan keganasan terhadap golongan trans tidak dilaporkan dan tidak didokumentasikan.

Laporan media dan misgendering

Misgendering, iaitu penggunaan nama atau kata ganti nama atau rujukan lain yang tidak mencerminkan identiti gender seseorang, terhadap Sameera telah menerima kritikan meluas masyarakat dan aktivis trans termasuklah kumpulan seperti Persatuan Tamil Thirunangai Malaysia. Pihak media telah menunjukkan ketidakpekaan dan sikap tidak hormat terhadap Sameera dan individu trans lain, tidak memedulikan langsung trauma dan kehilangan yang dihadapi oleh ahli-ahli keluarga serta individu-individu tersayang Sameera.

Beberapa laporan media tentang pembunuhan Sameera terutamanya sekali artikel-artikel berbahasa Melayu merujuk kepada Sameera dengan terma-terma negatif yang mengaibkan dan tidak menyenangkan seperti ‘pondan’, ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’, ‘lelaki transeksual’ dalam tajuk dan kandungan artikelnya.

Walaupun beberapa media seperti Harian Metro telah menukar perkataan ‘pondan” (terma yang mempunyai konotasi negatif terhadap wanita trans dan lelaki gay cisgender, terutamanya yang disifatkan sebagai ‘lembut’) dalam tajuk artikel mereka kepada “Mak Nyah” (terma yang sesuai untuk merujuk kepada wanita trans), terma tersebut tidak digunakan secara konsisten, menyeluruh dan memuaskan. Sebagai contoh, artikel Harian Metro tersebut yang bertajuk ‘Mak Nyah maut ditembak, ditetak’ masih mengandungi konsep salah ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’ dalam kandungan artikelnya. Wanita trans bukan ‘lelaki yang berperwatakan perempuan’. Hal ini menunjukkan kurang pemahaman tentang identiti gender dan kepelbagaian gender. Tambahan pula, Mutiara FM, sebuah stesen radio tempatan, dalam rancangan paginya merujuk kepada Sameera sebagai seorang lelaki trans sambil menggelakkan identiti gendernya.

Misgendering yang konsisten dan sengaja merupakan satu bentuk keganasan kerana hal ini mejatuhkan martabat serta maruah diri individu transgender. Selain itu, misgendering juga mempunyai kesan jangka panjang yang mendalam terhadap keyakinan diri individu-individu transgender. Kami menggesa orang ramai untuk menggunakan istilah yang tepat dan tidak mempunyai konotasi negatif seperti mak nyah, trans woman, perempuan atau wanita transgender, dan transgender women. (Sila lihat analisa media dan panduan media terbitan Justice for Sisters)

Keganasan yang dialami oleh individu-individu trans tidak berlaku secara tiba-tiba dan merupakan simptom atau kesan daripada peminggiran dan halangan-halangan yang dihadapi mereka. Adalah penting untuk kita menghapuskan semua bentuk stigma dan diskriminasi yang dihadapi oleh individu-individu trans yang terus meletakkan mereka dalam situasi-situasi yang berisiko tinggi.

Semua orang, tanpa mengira identiti jantina perlu dilindungi daripada keganasan. Kami menggesa pihak berkuasa dan media untuk melayan individu trans dengan hormat dan bermaruah. Kami juga menggesa pihak polis segera membawa para penjenayah di sebalik pembunuhan Sameera ke muka pengadilan.

Disokong oleh: (menurut abjad)

  1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  2. Association of Women Lawyers Malaysia (AWL)
  3. Community Development Centre (CDC)
  4. HAKAM, National Human Rights Society
  5. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
  6. Justice for Sisters (JFS)
  7. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  8. Tirunangai Uthavi Karagal
  9. The G-Blog
  10. Transmen of Malaysia (TOM)
  11. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  12. PELANGI — Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative
  13. Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
  14. Persatuan Tamil Thirunangai Malaysia
  15. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
  16. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia
  17. Pertubuhan Kebajikan Sinar Pelangi (PKSP)
  18. PT Foundation
  19. Seksualiti Merdeka
  20. SEED Malaysia
  21. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  22. Suaram Malaysia
  23. Voice of Community (VOC)
  24. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  25. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
Terminologi

Jantina atau seks yang diberikan ketika lahir –   Identiti yang diberikan mengikut alat kelamin, selalunya perempuan, lelaki, dll. Walau bagaimanapun, jantina atau seks merujuk kepada kombinasi kromosom, organ seksual dan reproduktif luaran dan dalaman, ciri-ciri seks sekunder serta komposisi hormon.

Identiti gender – Identifikasi peribadi (contohnya: perempuan, lelaki, gender fluid atau queer, dsb) berdasarkan cara kita melihat dan mengenali diri sendiri. Selalunya, identiti gender diberikan ketika lahir adalah tekaan berdasarkan alat kelamin luaran. Akan tetapi, identiti gender dan seks adalah dua perkara berbeza, dan tidak perlu sepadan, konsisten atau selari.

Cisgender – identiti gender dan jantina/seks yang diberikan ketika lahir ‘sepadan’

Transgender – identiti gender dan jantina/seks yang diberikan ketika lahir ‘tidak sepadan’

Trans -singkatan bagi transgender

Trans woman, mak nyah, wanita atau perempuan transgender – identiti gender individu transgender itu perempuan, atau mengenali dirinya sebagai seorang perempuan

Trans man, lelaki transgender – identiti gender individu transgender itu lelaki, atau mengenali dirinya sebagai seorang lelaki

Gender queer – seorang yang tidak mengenal pasti dirinya dengan mana-mana gender, semua gender, kombinasi gender, dan sebagainya

Untuk maklumat lanjut sila lihat gender bear

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Justice for Sameera – Ensure thorough investigation & hold perpetrators accountable

c5bfqnnvmaavyrwWe, the undersigned, are deeply saddened by the senseless murder of Sameera Krishnan, a young transgender woman on 23rd February 2017 at about 3:30 a.m. in Kuantan, Malaysia.  Not only was she attacked with a knife and slashed in the hands, arms, head and legs, she was also shot three times. Sameera worked as a florist in Kuantan and is described by family and friends as a soft-spoken and a down-to-earth person. Her funeral was held on Friday, 24th February, which happened to be her birthday.

We welcome the prompt investigation of the murder by the police, and look forward to the outcome of the investigation, and justice being served. Sameera’s murder is allegedly linked to a previous case that involves her abduction and rape by a couple of gang members in February 2015. The case is still on going, and Sameera was set to appear in court next month.

As we await the outcome of the investigation and the motives of the murder by the police, it is important to acknowledge that transgender women often experience brutal and extreme forms of violence due their gender identity. Compounding the violence is the lack of protection, persecution of trans people, the negative perception of transgender persons in society and discrimination among other things.

Between 2007 and 2016, at least 10 cases of murder have been reported in the media. However, many other cases of hate crime and violence are unreported and undocumented.  In these 10 cases, the trans women were subjected to brutal violence, including being beaten to death with a hammer, strangled, gagged, stabbed multiple times, physically assaulted, pushed from a building, drowned in a water retention pond, etc.

Media reporting and misgendering

The misgendering of Sameera received wide criticism by the public and transgender activists as well as groups, including the Malaysian Tamil Trans Women Association. The media showed gross insensitivity and disrespect towards transgender persons, and complete disregard to the trauma and loss faced by Sameera’s family members and loved ones.

Several media reports of her murder, especially articles in the Malay language misgendered Sameera as ‘pondan’, ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’, ‘lelaki transeksual’,‘transgender in woman’s attire’, and ‘transvestite’ in their headlines or article. While some media, including Harian Metro changed their headlines from “Pondan” (negative term used against trans women and cisgender gay men, especially effeminate gay men) to “Mak Nyah” (an acceptable colloquial term to describe transgender women) there was a lack of consistency and meaningful effort in these changes. For example, an article by Harian Metro entitled ‘Mak Nyah maut ditembak, ditetak’ still contained ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’ (man with women characteristics) in its article. In addition, Mutiara FM, a local radio station in a morning programme, referred to Sameera as a transgender man, and laughed at her gender identity.

Consistent and intentional misgendering is a form of violence, and it degrades and dehumanizes transgender persons. In addition, misgendering has adverse and long lasting impact trans people’s self-esteem. We urge everyone to use accurate, affirming and respectable terms such as “mak nyah“, trans woman, “perempuan” or “wanita transgender“, and transgender women.  (See media analysis and media guides by Justice for Sisters)

The violence experienced by transgender persons does not happen in vacuum, and it is symptomatic of the marginalization and lack of inclusion of trans people in society. It is important that we dismantle all forms of stigma and discrimination faced by transgender persons that continues to place trans people in vulnerable situations.

All persons, regardless of gender identity should be protected from violence. We urge the authorities and the media, especially journalists and editors to treat trans people with respect and dignity, and bring the perpetrators of Sameera’s brutal murder to justice.

Terminologies

Assigned sex at birth – identity assigned based on genitals, typically, female, male, etc. however, sex or sex characteristics refer to a combination of chromosomes, internal and external sexual organs, secondary sex characteristics, and hormones.

Gender identity – personal sense of identification (typically, girl, boy, gender fluid or queer etc.) based on how one feels and sees themselves. Typically, gender identity is also assigned at birth according to genital based on assumption. However, gender identity and sex are two separate things, and do not have be consistent, aligned or match.

Cisgender – a person whose sex assigned at birth ‘match’ their gender identity

Transgender – a person whose sex assigned at birth ‘does not match’ their gender identity

Trans woman – a transgender person whose gender identity is a girl/woman

Trans man – a transgender person whose gender identity is a boy/man

Gender queer – a person identifies as neither girl/woman or boy/man, non-binary, combination of gender categories or other forms of gender identity

See gender bear for more information

Endorsed by:  (in alphabetical order)

  1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  2. Association of Women Lawyers Malaysia (AWL)
  3. Community Development Centre (CDC)
  4. HAKAM, National Human Rights Society
  5. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
  6. Justice for Sisters (JFS)
  7. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  8. Tirunangai Uthavi Karagal
  9. The G-Blog
  10. Transmen of Malaysia (TOM)
  11. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  12. PELANGI — Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative
  13. Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
  14. Persatuan Tamil Thirunangai Malaysia
  15. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
  16. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia
  17. Pertubuhan Kebajikan Sinar Pelangi (PKSP)
  18. PT Foundation
  19. Seksualiti Merdeka
  20. SEED Malaysia
  21. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  22. Suaram Malaysia
  23. Voice of Community (VOC)
  24. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  25. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)

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Brief media analysis – Sameera’s case #justiceformeera

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Justice for Sisters conducted a brief media analysis on 15 articles published between 22 and 24 February 2017 in relation to Sameera’s murder. The analysis is limited to articles in English and BM. However, many Chinese language and Tamil language media reported the news as well.

Language Number of articles
BM 10
English 5
Total articles 15

It is extremely important to understand that our gender identity and sex are two different things, and our gender identity is not determined by our genitals. All persons, including cisgender, transgender, gender non-binary, and others are able to express and articulate their gender identity at a young age; some even as young as 4 or 5 years old. It is important to note that gender identity is not a binary, and all forms of gender identities are natural.

Despite the fact that headlines and articles explicitly mentioned that the news involves a transgender person, there were overemphasis and focus on her gender identity, sex assigned at birth and transition.

At least six (6) articles included Sameera’s sex assigned at birth and lived as a woman for the past eight years. An article in Harian Metro includes the fact that she had undergone gender affirmation surgeries at the age of 19. All of these facts are irrelevant to the matter at hand.

Only 4 out of 15 articles used the right term (transgender woman, transgender, and mak nyah) and her name.

Date Title Media Term
23-Feb-17 Transgender woman found dead with gunshot wound The star online Transgender woman
24-Feb-17 Mak nyah mati ditetak, dikebumi di hari jadi Malaysiakini mak nyah
24-Feb-17 Transgender found dead, mutilated The star Transgender
24-Feb-17 Netizens fume over Shameera’s murder as she’s laid to rest on birthday The Malaysian times Transgender

Terms

The reports in Malay language were simply appalling, and lacked basic respect for Sameera and transgender persons in general. Articles by and sourced from Bernama addressed Sameera as ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’ and ‘transgender in woman’s attire’.

The report by News Straits Times used transvestite and male pronouns in the report to refer only to Sameera. The report did not include her name or name as per legal document. The report however, refers to other transgender women as ‘transwomen’ – “… the police are expected to question several transwomen here to shed further light on the matter.”

Terms Number of articles Media Source of article
A transgender in woman’s attire 1 Transgender shot three times and slashed

Free Malaysia Today

Bernama
Lelaki transseksual (Transsexual man) 1 Kes bunuh ‘mak nyah’ masih dalam siasatan

Utusan Malaysia

Pondan, mak nyah yang telah menjalani pembedahan menukar jantina
(Pondan, trans woman that has undergone sex change surgery)*pondan is pejorative term used for gay men, especially effeminate men and trans women.
1 Pondan dibunuh pada hari lahir

Kosmo

Lelaki berperwatakan wanita

(Man behaving as a woman)

4 Mak nyah maut ditembak, ditetak [METROTV]

Harian Metro

Lelaki Berperwatakan Wanita Maut Ditembak

Bernama

Lelaki berperwatakan wanita maut ditembak

Malaysiakini

Lelaki berperwatakan wanita maut ditembak, tetak

Utusan Malaysia

Bernama

 

Bernama

Mak Nyah

(Term used by the Malay trans women community)

4 Mak nyah maut ditembak, ditetak

Berita Harian

Mak nyah mati ditetak, dikebumi di hari jadi

Malaysiakini

Pembunuhan mak nyah masih misteri

Harian Metro

Ajal sehari sebelum hari lahir

Harian Metro

Transgender 2 Transgender found dead, mutilated

The Star

Netizens fume over Shameera’s murder as she’s laid to rest on birthday

The Malaysian Times

Transgender woman 1 Transgender woman found dead with gunshot wound

The Star Online

Transvestite 1 Transvestite found murdered, mutilated near Kuantan shops

News Straits Times

Name

Only 4 out of the 14 articles used Sameera’s name.

7 out 14 articles referred to Sameera by her legal name. Some of these articles mention that she goes by Sameera. However, those articles still use her legal name throughout the article.

Another 4 articles did not refer to her by name. 3 out of the 4 articles referred to her as ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’ and transvestite.

Good practices and examples

A few media showed good examples that can be followed by other media, editors and journalists.

  1. Transgender woman found dead with gunshot wound, The Star Online, 23 February 2017

This article is a good example. However, it is unnecessary to include the following point – “She added that Sameera was born male but had lived as a woman for the past seven to eight years.”

  1. Why transgenders move in groups, Free Malaysia Today, 26 February 2017

In this article transgender activists are interviewed to further understand the issues around safety and security of transgender persons, and impact of the murder of the transgender community as a whole. Brutal and violent incidents like this create adverse impact on the safety, security and freedom of movement of trans people. It is also important for us to understand that these cases are not isolated incidents, and examine the underlying factors and systemic issues that lead to such violence, and place trans people in vulnerable situations.

  1. Transgender’s mum: Why would anyone do this?, The Malay Mail and Malay Mail Online, 27 February 2017

This follow up piece includes interviews with Sameera’s family members, who shared their trauma, grief and loss following her tragic death. Articles like this are important as they humanize trans people, and give space for marginalized communities to share their pain

media release: Uphold right to identity of transgender persons

The Malaysian transgender community and its allies are appalled and disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeal on 5th January 2017 to retract the High Court order to the National Registration Department (NRD) to change the name, gender marker and last digit of the identification card number of a trans man in his National Registration Identity Card (NRIC). The decision disregards current scientific and medical understanding of gender identity as well as the realities and lived experiences of transgender people. It also displays a wilful ignorance of good practices worldwide with regards to the role of the state in its duty to uphold and protect the rights of transgender persons.

Sex is a biological construct that is usually assigned at birth based on the visible genitalia of a child. However, it comprises other aspects, including chromosomes, gonads, secondary sex characteristics and others. Gender is a personal identity based on one’s experience of one’s own gender. Sex and gender are both basic characteristics of all human beings and do not have be aligned. Legal documents, including the NRIC, bearing gender markers that do not reflect the bearer’s gender identity poses systemic and structural discrimination, which severely impedes their quality of life. For example, this mismatch poses a constant risk of humiliation and harassment to transgender persons from other people or groups.

Seeking evidence of medical intervention in order to legally recognise a transgender person’s gender is not only a backdated practice, but also exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of transgender people and gender identity. Aside from issues of affordability, accessibility to healthcare and legal barriers that impede access to healthcare; fundamentally, gender identity is not determined by our genitals. Withholding legal gender recognition of transgender people except with medical evidence that they have undergone all possible surgical and medical interventions in order to ‘completely’ transition is harmful to well-being of transgender persons, and places trans people at the risk of undergoing unwanted procedures.

On top of that, asking for evidence of chromosomal change is, as quoting Justice S. Nantha Balan who presided over the case at the High Court, “The male XY and female XX chromosome will remain static throughout the individual’s natural life. To insist on the “chromosomal requirement is to ask for the impossible.” Someone who is transgender does not identify with the sex they were assigned with at birth. While there are procedures to closer align external body parts to one’s self-image, science has yet to come up with ways to change one’s gonads or chromosomes. This makes it impossible for Malaysian transgender persons to access their fundamental human right to identity. It is important for the courts and the state agencies to keep themselves updated on current information and scientific knowledge of sex and gender. Our ignorance and lack of understanding cannot perpetuate the marginalization and violence that is so prevalent towards trans people. Most importantly, any discourse of transgender people must be guided by evidence and lived experiences of trans people.

We urge the government, the judiciary and the National Registration Department to look at practices and policy in countries like Malta, Ireland, Colombia, Argentina and Denmark with regards to legal gender recognition. In these countries, legal gender recognition is a simple and hassle-free administrative procedure that legally recognises a person’s self-determined gender with a simple declaration, without any need for medical or psychological intervention or assessments. While this does not solve all the issues that transgender people face in Malaysia, it will significantly improve the quality of life for transgender people in Malaysia. The National Registration Department must review its current practices and policy in order to reduce harm towards trans people and afford transgender people a greater ability to rightfully participate as part of society.

 

MUST READ: High court decision on change of name & gender marker

A recent decision on name and gender change gives new hope. download and read the decision here. HC 2016 Nantha Balan Tan vs NRD

“The Plaintiff has a precious constitutional right to life under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution and the concept of ‘life’ under Article 5 must necessarily encompass the Plaintiff’s right to live with dignity as a male and be legally accorded judicial recognition as a male.” Justice Nantha Balan

Some salient points:

Page 31

Arahan Jabatan Pendaftran Negara Bil. 9/2007 paragraph 5.7.1 states that change in gender marker on identification card is not allowed except with a court order. Four documents that are required to change name and gender on the identification card:

  1. Court order that includes the details of the requested gender
  2. Supporting letter from a government doctor (if available)
  3. Letter to confirm gender affirmation surgeries by the hospital that provided the services
  4. Birth certificate (original and copy)

Arahan Jabatan Pendaftran Negara Bil. 9/2007 paragraph 5.7.1  pindaan jantina dalam kad pengenalan adalah tidak dibenarkan kecuali aas perintah mahkamah. Dokumen yang diperlukan

  1. perintah mahkamah yang mengandungi butir-butir pengisytiharan jantina baru pemohon
  2. surat pengesahan doktor kerajaan (jika ada)
  3. surat pengesahan pembedahan penukaran jantina yang dikeluarkan oleh hospital berkenaan
  4. sijil lahir (asal dan salinan)

The courts in Malaysia use Corbett vs Corbett and Bellinger vs Bellinger as precedents. Based on the precedents, four criteria are considered, which includes: chromosomal, gonadal, genital and psychological factors. However, neither chromosome nor genitals determine our gender identity. The current change of name and gender change process is based on operative status and medical intervention.

Mahkamah di Malaysia menggunakan legal precedents Corbett vs Corbett and Bellinger vs Bellinger. berdasarkan dua kes ini, empat kriteria perlua diambil kira: kromosom, gonad (organ reproduktif), genital dan faktor psychology. seperti mana yang kita tahu, kromosom atau genital tidak menentukan identiti gender kita. proses ini berdasarkan status pembedahan dan intervensi perubatan. oleh yang demikian, proses ini terbatas kepada mereka yang sudah menjalani pembedahan.

In addressing the chromosomal criteria, Judge Nantha Balan followed the approach taken by the Family Court in Australia in Attorney General For the Commonwealth v Ken and Others 2003, where “the court emphasized on the importance abandoning the chromosomal factor and highlighting the imperative need to view the matter from the physiological and physiological perspective.”

 

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Justice for all regardless of gender identity

Justice for Sisters is appalled by the news of a trans woman who was fined RM 700 on June 21 for failing to produce her identification card. She apparently stated that she had just been released from jail and suffered from tuberculosis. The Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Nur Farah Adilah Noordin urged the court to impose a heavy sentence to serve as a lesson. The woman was not represented in court.

Access to justice, and the right to redress and remedy are our fundamental human rights guaranteed in several clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution. In 2011, after hearing that ‘an estimated 80% of those tried in court for criminal offences did not have legal representation,’ the Malaysian government launched the National Legal Aid Foundation. Despite this effort, many people continue to be tried in court without representation, and as a result are imposed harsh and sometimes excessive penalties.

Because of their gender identity and the resulting systemic and social discrimination and prejudice, trans people are even more vulnerable and disproportionately face barriers when attempting to access justice. They are arrested more frequently, and hence encounter a higher incidence of trial without representation. Based on media reports and our documentation, at least 63 trans women were arrested between January and May 2016 in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Kedah and Pahang by police and the state religious departments for simply being themselves.

It is extremely distressing that the DPP urged the court to impose a heavy sentence simply to serve as a lesson to the trans woman for failing to produce her IC, while ignoring her reasons. The DPP’s heavy handed recommendations are problematic, and underscore the multiple forms of stigma, discrimination and prejudice that the trans woman was subjected to because of her gender identity, history of being jailed and having a criminal record, history of drug use, and so on.

In Malaysia, the system causes and reinforces the targeting and discrimination trans people. Trans people are not allowed to change their name, gender, and the last digit in their identification card number or in any other legal documents. The government’s refusal to allow trans people to change details in their identification documents to reflect trans people’s authentic identities makes trans persons vulnerable to stigma, discrimination and violence, including denial of employment opportunities, humiliating experiences when forced to use their identification card, and arbitrary arrests, among others.

The imposition of punitive measures increases the challenges and barriers for people, especially transgender persons with criminal records, to reintegrate themselves into society, as they are continuously penalised over non-issues. This has a lasting and negative impact on a person’s wellbeing. In addition, the state must understand and address the barriers that people with criminal records face in securing jobs, finding housing, reconciling relationships with friends and family among others. It is absurd and inhumane to continue penalising and profiting from people who have been failed by the system.

Media

We are further appalled by the continuous misgendering and the use of inaccurate terms by the media, such as Bernama, to address transgender persons. Trans women are not cross dressers. Overwhelming evidence shows that trans people have existed throughout humanity, and gender identity refers to a personal sense of belonging and identification to being a girl/woman, boy/man, neither, both, a combination of gender categories and more. All identities are normal.

The news focused on her clothing and accessories, which was unnecessary and sensationalist. All people, including transgender persons have the right to self-determination to their identity, and freedom of expression. We call on the media to adopt a positive role in the promotion of human rights, and not reinforce prejudices that bar marginalised people from living their lives with dignity.