Rise of crimes and violence against trans women needs urgent attention

On January 1, 2019, a body of a trans woman was found along Jalan Batu Nilai in Klang. Preliminary reports show that she had sustained a number of injuries on her knees, ankle and other parts of the body. The death of the woman raises serious concerns and suspicion. A suspect has been arrested and remanded in connection to the case. He claims that the victim had jumped out of a moving vehicle upon being confronted about stealing the suspect’s handphone.

We are extremely concerned over the rise in cases of violence and crimes against trans women in Malaysia. Including this case, at least 3 cases of murder have been reported between November 2018 and January 2019. 2 of which took place in Klang. This brings the cases of reported murders of trans women to a total of 18 cases since 2007, averaging at 1.5 cases a year.

In many of the reported cases of murder of trans women, the victims often suffer excessive and extreme violence or torture. Based on the 18 reported murders of trans women in Malaysia, the victims were subjected to torture, 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, shot, mutilated, etc.

The brutal and excessive violence or torture has to be looked at closely. The elements of torture in these crimes suggest a number of things, including increased rage or hate by perpetrators against trans women, impunity enjoyed by people who commit violence against trans women, amongst others.

We welcome the swift actions by the police, and we look forward to a thorough, unbiased and objective investigation. It is imperative that the police corroborates the evidence and thoroughly investigate the case to ensure justice for victims and their loved ones.

Reported cases of murder of trans women in Malaysia between 2007 and January 2019

Year

Number of reported cases murder of trans women

2007

1

2008

1

2009

2

2010

1

2011

1

2012

1

2013

2

2014

0

2015

0

2016

1

2017

4

2018

2

2019

1

Address stigma, stereotypes and misconceptions against trans women to increase access to justice

Stigma, stereotypes and misconceptions against trans women increase and justify violence against trans people. Stereotypes and misconceptions such as trans people being unnatural, immoral or against religions and laws give the impression to others that they have the right to violate and abuse trans people.

People commit crimes against LGBTIQ persons because social stigma and discriminatory laws protect the abusers. Our society not only denies the rights of trans women but also target them through laws. When the laws target trans women, this forces them to live in the margins and become resigned to a life of discrimination, violence, abuse and neglect. Therefore, those who abuse trans women often do so because they know they can get away with it. All of which reinforces the culture of impunity.

In addition, these stereotypes and stigma often disadvantage trans women, effectively hindering a thorough and unbiased investigation, ultimately denying access to justice. In many cases of violence and crimes against trans women, trans women are not only blamed but are seen as the guilty party. The stigma and stereotypes in relation to trans women also often allow for absurd defence by the perpetrators. Some common narratives include narratives that position perpetrators as acting or reacting out of self-defence, to protect themselves from theft/crime, repulsion, or rejection of sexual advancements. This plays into the stereotypes of trans women being criminals and immoral, often resulting in lack of adequate penalties against perpetrators for the violence and crimes committed.

Perpetrators must be held accountable. However, punishment alone will not resolve this systemic issue. Perpetrators, and society in general,  should be provided with adequate support and information on gender and sexuality to ensure meaningful change in attitudes, behaviour and understanding of diversity. Education and efforts to dismantle legal and non-legal barriers experienced and create an inclusive and affirming environment are extremely critical in reducing crimes, violence and discrimination against trans people and marginalized communities.

Need for proactive preventive measures

With the rising cases of violence and murder against trans women specifically, and LGBT people in general, the police have a critical role to play in reversing this trend.

Firstly, we call for the police to introduce a guideline on handling, documenting and analyzing cases of murder and crimes in relation to trans people and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer people (LGBTIQ+). Documentation and analysis of the cases of crimes and violence against trans women and LGBTIQ+ people are important to develop an understanding of the trend of the violence and to design specific interventions.

Our documentation and reported cases of murders show that gangsters, vigilante groups, intimate partner, clients of sex workers, strangers (often young persons) are the perpetrators of violence and crimes. Based on the cases, the perpetrators are all cisgender men across a wide age spectrum. This shows us that there is a critical need to address toxic masculinity and increase gender education in our society. Our documentation also shows communities and areas that are more vulnerable to crimes and violence. For example, trans women sex workers have increased vulnerabilities due to their increased exposure to diverse types of people. The emergence of vigilante groups, which often operate under the guise of residential patrol groups, for example, Kedah has also increased cases of violence against trans women.

It is important to note that cases of violence and crimes experienced by trans women are not reported or under-reported. This correlates with the trust deficit in the police, the perpetrator prey/victim dynamics between police and trans women, and lack of protection for trans people. The general lack of confidence in the police to swiftly and thoroughly investigate cases often prevents trans women from seeking justice, report cases, and in some cases, come forward as witnesses. Thus, it is extremely important for the local police departments to engage with the affected communities and bridge this trust deficit in order to efficiently ensure safety and security for all. We also call for the police to engage trans women communities in Klang, Kedah and other hotspots that have recorded a high number of cases of violence and crimes against trans women.

Crimes and violence towards trans women and LGBTQ people are rising at an alarming rate. The murder of the trans woman on New Year’s Day is a reminder of the realities that trans people live in and the urgency to amplify efforts in addressing violence and crimes against trans and LGBTQ people. These crimes and violence have an overarching impact on the safety, security and well-being of all persons, more so trans people. These continuous traumatic events of violence and crimes, if not addressed with an evidence and rights-based approach, will further isolate trans and LGBTQ people and increase the trust deficit in police and the government.

Endorsed by:

  1. Justice for Sisters
  2. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  3. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
  4. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  5. Malaysian Design Archive (MDA)
  6. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  7. People Like Us, Hangout (PLUHO)
  8. Pelangi Campaign
  9. Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
  10. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  11. Tenaganita
  12. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
  13. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
  14. Perak Women for Women (PWW)
  15. Seksualiti Merdeka
  16. Queer Lapis
  17. PT Foundation

Annex 1

Documented cases of violence and crimes based on gender identity, gender expression and actual or perceived sexual orientation

No Year Details State
1 2012 and 2013 A group of gangsters in Pahang, physically assaulted over 13 trans women with steel chains, helmets and steel bars in a spate of attacks, resulting in serious injuries. Based on media reports and I am Scared to be a Woman, a report by Human Rights Watch, one woman being ‘beaten into a coma’ and some received between 18 and 78 stitches as a result of the assault. Pahang
2 2015 A trans woman human rights defender was attacked in the vicinity of her home Kuala Lumpur
3 June 2017 A young person in Penang died as result of physical assault and torture by a group of former schoolmates. The perpetrators had previously bullied the victim in school due to his ‘effeminate’ gender expression Penang
4 2017 A Thai trans woman was stabbed multiple times by a client in Penang Penang
5 January 2017 – January 2018 At least 12 cases of break ins and property destruction by persons in residential areas, strangers or unknown perpetrators; physical attacks, humiliation and torture by vigilante groups disguised as community policing or residential groups

Skuad Badar Sungai Petani emerged on social media platforms, urging religious authorities to take action on trans women. We have also received information that this group has harassed, detained and attacked the trans women in the community, including shaving the heads of trans women in their custody

Multiple states in Malaysia
6 March 2018 Attacks and harassment of a few Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) volunteers by a few individuals for allegedly being LGBT supporters after the Women’s March on 10th March 2018 Kuala Lumpur
7 August 2018 A trans woman in Seremban was severely assaulted by a group of men resulting in serious injuries to spleen, spinal cord, rib bones, amongst others. Negeri Sembilan
8 December 2018 A video of two gay men assaulted by a group of men for allegedly being intimate in a car went viral on social media platforms Selangor

 

TDOR: Ending gender based violence against transgender & gender diverse persons in malaysia

Today, on transgender day of remembrance (TDOR), we remember transgender and gender diverse persons who have died due to gender based violence and hate. Transgender and gender diverse persons are disproportionately vulnerable to gender based violence due to multiple factors, including lack of protection, recognition of transgender persons and gender diverse populations, access to information regarding gender identity, among other factors.

Globally, between October 2017 and September, a total of 2018,369 trans and gender-diverse people were reportedly killed. This is an increase of 44 cases compared to last year’s reported numbers cases. This brings to a total of 2,982 trans and gender diverse people of cases of murder reported in 72 countries between January 2008 and September 2018.

However, these are only the reported numbers. Many cases are not reported or misreported. Case in point, the murder trial of a trans woman involving two Chilean tourists that concluded recently on 2 November 2018. Media reports of the trial show that the victim, a trans woman was misgendered throughout the trial. When trans people are misgendered (use of wrong gender markers), it not only strips away trans people’s dignity and right to self-determination, but it also makes it challenging to document and collate cases of crimes against trans people.

In Malaysia, between 2007 and November 2018, at least 14 cases of murder involving trans women as victims were reported. The most recent case reported was in November this year, where a trans woman was allegedly murdered by her partner. The perpetrator has been charged with murder and awaits trial early next year. He was not represented by a lawyer.

While some these cases are investigated, often they are not classified and analyzed correctly using a gender and rights based lens. They are seen, as isolated cases, which result in lack of specific interventions or solutions to the gender-based violence, hate crimes and transphobia experienced by trans people. Consequently, these experiences of violence and crimes by trans people remain invisible, become prolonged and cyclic.

According to the facts of the recent case, an altercation between the perpetrator and victim occurred concerning jealousy and money related issues, which escalated to the death of the woman after the perpetrator, strangled her. Similar cases involving trans women have been documented and reported in the past. In 2016, a trans woman was found murdered after an altercation with allegedly her boyfriend.

Rising hate crime and speech

Hate crimes and speech towards transgender people online and offline are on the rise and correlate. The increase of hateful and discriminatory speech in Malaysia emboldens the perpetrators and vigilante groups to carry out acts of violence against transgender persons with impunity.

In August 2018, a trans woman in Negeri Sembilan was assaulted by a group of men, including youths, resulting in serious injuries, including broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. Justice for Sisters also received complaints of harassment of trans women by vigilante groups in Kedah. While these are enough to ring alarm bells, we believe there are many other cases of hate crimes.

Recent trends to of boycotts and protest against transgender women entrepreneurs on social media are also a point of concern. In October 2018, a few trans women entrepreneurs were prevented from participating in an expo in Perak due to protest by local groups. This further demonstrates the shrinking spaces and the escalation of violence towards trans people.

TDOR reminds us of the impact of marginalization and multiple forms of oppression that trans and gender-diverse people face daily. Together we can change this situation and dismantle oppression. Together we are in solidarity with trans and gender diverse people everywhere resisting and dismantling oppression.

Tiada akses kepada keadilan bagi LGBT dalam sistem perundangan

Kes sebatan dua orang wanita di Terengganu pada 3hb September merupakan satu titik hitam yang traumatik bagi rakyat Malaysia, terutamanya individu LGBT dan golongan wanita.

Justice for Sisters telah mengikuti perkembangan kes ini sejak awal dan telah turut hadir di mahkamah pada 3 September sebagai pemerhati selain memberi sokongan kepada kedua-dua wanita tersebut. Walaupun tidak mengenali mereka, kami hadir sebagai tanda solidariti kerana kami yakin bahawa apa yang berlaku kepada mereka adalah satu bentuk penindasan. Tidak dapat dibayangkan segala tekanan dan kesukaran yang terpaksa dihadapi oleh mereka dalam mengharungi proses hukuman.

Antara isu yang dibangkitkan adalah kedua-dua wanita tersebut mempunyai tempoh 14 hari untuk membuat rayuan, namun sekiranya mereka tidak mempunyai akses kepada sokongan perundangan yang menjaga hak dan kepentingan mereka, bagaimana boleh mereka melakukan rayuan tersebut?

Menurut laporan Harian Metro pada Julai 2018, kedua-dua wanita mengaku tidak bersalah pada hari sebutan kes. Susulan itu, tarikh baru bagi sebutan semula kes ditetapkan untuk serahan dokumen dan lantikan peguam. Kedua-duanya diikat jamin dengan RM 3,000 seorang. Apabila seseorang itu tidak mengaku bersalah mereka dilepaskan dengan ‘bond’ mahkamah sebagai jaminan yang mereka akan menghadiri perbicaraan seterusnya.

Akses kepada sokongan perundangan adalah satu perkara yang sangat kritikal bagi semua orang, terutamanya individu LGBT dalam kes-kes sebegini. Mengikut pengalaman Justice for Sisters dalam memberikan sokongan perundangan kepada individu-individu LGBT, terutamanya individu transgender, kami dapati amat sukar sekali untuk mendapatkan khidmat peguam apabila hendak mempertahankan diri di mahkamah. Kami juga pernah berdepan situasi di mana individu-individu wanita transgender yang pada mulanya tidak mengaku bersalah terpaksa mengaku salah akibat ketiadaan peguam yang memahami dan menghormati anak guamnya, atau mampu memberi nasihat guaman yang betul.

Berdasarkan pengalaman kami, kedua-dua wanita tersebut yang pada mulanya tidak mengaku bersalah mungkin tidak dapat mencari peguam syariah untuk mewakili mereka lalu menukar pengakuan mereka kemudian.

Terdapat banyak perkara yang menafikan atau menidakkan keadilan bagi individu LGBT termasuk kesukaran untuk mendapat akses kepada peguam syariah yang menghormati hak kemanusiaan anak guamnya. Selain itu, individu LGBT juga mungkin tidak mendapat sokongan daripada kawan-kawan dan keluarga malah mengalami penyisihan, reaksi negatif serta tekanan daripada stigma masyarakat dan sensasi media massa.

Penting untuk dinyatakan bahawa bantuan kerajaan melalui Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan (YBGK) dan Jabatan Bantuan Guaman tidak memberi perkhidmatan peguam syariah secara percuma untuk kes-kes jenayah syariah. YBGK hanya menyediakan bantuan guaman bagi kes-kes sivil dan kes-kes cerai percuma untuk golongan berpendatan rendah.

Kedua, harus diingati bahawa bukan semua peguam, terutama peguam syariah, mahu mengambil kes berkenaan isu-isu LGBT. Realitinya agak mustahil untuk mencari peguam syariah untuk mewakili individu LGBT dan mempertahankan haknya. Justice for Sisters sendiri sudah banyak kali mengalami kesukaran dan buntu dalam cubaan mendapatkan peguam syariah yang berani mewakili kes-kes individu LGBT, dan pada masa yang sama menghormati identiti klien LGBT. Apabila peguam tidak menghormati identiti  anak guam mereka, ini meningkatkan lagi ketidakyakinan pada keadilan dalam sistem perundangan syariah di Malaysia.

Jika ada peguam yang sudi mewakili individu LGBT, nasihat guaman mereka selalunya adalah agar anak guam mereka mengaku bersalah supaya kes tidak berlarutan. Ada kalanya, sudah wujud prasangka dan prejudis terhadap individu LGBT sebelum menilai kes terlebih dahulu. Peguam-peguam syariah juga tidak terbuka kepada hujah dan dalil yang lebih progresif dan berasaskan prinsip-prinsip hak asasi manusia.

Artikel 5 dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan Malaysia menetapkan bahawa setiap rakyat Malaysia mempunyai hak untuk dibela oleh peguam pilihannya. Adalah tidak memadai jika hak itu wujud sekadar tulisan teks dalam Perlembagaan. Justeru, kerajaan bertanggungjawab untuk memastikan akses kepada peguam bagi semua jenis kes di bawah mahkamah syariah.

Perlaksanaan hukuman sebatan

Sepertimana yang telah berlaku pada 3 September 2018, jam 10 pagi, dua orang wanita disebat 6 kali setiap seorang di depan khalayak. Hukuman itu dilaksanakan oleh pegawai Jabatan Penjara daripada Kajang dan Pengkalan Chepa.

Banyak yang perlu diteliti dalam kes ini. Pertama, walaupun hukuman dijatuhkan oleh Mahkamah Tinggi Syariah Terengganu, perlaksanaan sebat dikendalikan oleh pegawai Jabatan Penjara daripada Kajang, Selangor dan Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan. Jabatan Penjara terletak di bawah kuasa kerajaan pusat. Persoalannya, apakah peranan kerajaan pusat dalam perlaksanaan hukuman tersebut?

Sebatan dan pengaiban terhadap kedua-dua wanita tersebut adalah zalim dan satu bentuk penyeksaan. Cara pengendalian kes mereka, bermula dengan penangkapan sehinggalah hari ni setelah hukuman dilaksanakan, amat tidak berperikemanusiaan. Mereka diaibkan begitu teruk sehingga video yang menunjukkan mereka diserbu media tersebar luas di media sosial. Malah istilah keji seperti ‘pasangan songsang’ digunakan oleh media untuk merujuk kepada mereka. Ada juga yang membuat perbandingan antara sebatan di penjara sivil dan sebatan mengikut syara’ tanpa memahami impak psikologi yang dialami kedua-dua mereka dan impak hukuman sebatan secara umum. Kesemua ini meningkatkan lagi trauma dan stigma terhadap mereka.

Ada pula pihak yang menyuarakan sokongan terhadap hukuman sebatan tersebut dengan menyatakan hukuman ini ialah satu bentuk rahmat daripada Allah. Kerajaan Negeri Kelantan dan Pahang kini juga bercadang untuk memperkenalkan hukuman sebat untuk individu LGBT di negeri masing-masing.

Kami bimbang dengan cara pemikiran sebegini. Masyarakat Malaysia harus memandang serius penerimaan dan normalisasi keganasan sebagai satu bentuk pengajaran dan rahmat dari Tuhan. Kita tidak boleh menjustifikasikan pengaiban, penyeksaan, dan keganasan di atas nama agama dan Tuhan. Pengaibkan dan kebencian terhadap kedua-dua wanita tersebut adalah perbuatan manusia yang lahir daripada perasaan prejudis. Ia bertentangan sama sekali dengan prinsip-prinsip yang diketengahkan semua agama yang menekankan keadilan sosial dan kasih sayang.

Sebagai masyarakat madani kita harus memastikan perkara ini tidak lagi berterusan. Kita haruslah menghentikan semua bentuk hukuman sebat kerana hukuman ini tidak berfaedah kepada sesiapa dan ternyata ia  adalah satu betuk penyeksaan semata-mata.

Wanita tak mengaku cuba lakukan seks sejenis https://www.hmetro.com.my/mutakhir/2018/07/355808/wanita-tak-mengaku-cuba-lakukan-seks-sejenis

 

Terengganu public caning marks one of the most degrading and cruel forms of sentencing in Malaysia’s history

KUALA TERENGGANU, 3 September — Malaysia’s first public caning held in a courtroom at the Terengganu Syariah High Court today marks a dark chapter in this nation’s history. The harsh sentence of six strokes carried out in a public courtroom demonstrated abhorrently little regard for the dignity of the two women who were sentenced under Section 30 and 59(1) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Takzir Terengganu).

The caning proceeded despite huge protests by diverse actors in civil society, and clear recommendations by human rights and legal advocates to end the practice of whipping and caning in the criminal justice system as they are forms of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

What transpired today was a spectacle executed in front of more than 100 attendees who gathered in the courtroom to witness the event. The women were hounded by the media the moment they arrived at the Terengganu Syariah High Court. Leading up to the execution, news circulated on social media with some parties calling on members of the public to attend the session in support of state action against the LGBT community. This included incitement by the state government agency, Institut Modal Insan Terengganu Sejahtera (i-MITS) for mass attendance as a sign of “anti-LGBT solidarity”.

The lead up to, and unfolding of this event, signal an alarming increase in the targeting of marginalised individuals. It also signals the state’s complicity in inciting public participation in violence, and the normalizing of violence as a form of education.

Presiding judge, Amarul Azmi, told the courtroom that the execution was intended as a reminder and deterrent to members of society. This was reiterated by the Terengganu executive councillor in charge of syariah implementation, Saiful Bahri Mamat, at a press conference later.

They added the execution was to demonstrate to the public how syariah caning is supposedly ‘kinder’ compared to caning executed under civil law. Remarks by the judges and state exco that the syariah caning is not intended to cause pain or harm the women is in direct contradiction to the degree of humiliation they faced today from the orchestrated spectacle, and the resulting psychological and emotional impact. The state’s actions here are responsible for the violence of the trauma, and humiliation caused on the two women as well as the society at large.

The caning was executed by officers from the Malaysian Prison Department, an agency under the federal Ministry of Home Affairs. Observing from the courtroom public gallery, it was evident that the strength of caning of the two women differed, as one person was clearly caned harder than the other.

State exco Saiful Bahri Mamat acknowledged there was noticeable discrepancy in the caning, but said issues surrounding the execution was under the jurisdiction of the Prison Department. This raises serious concerns regarding the uneven and unacceptable standards for accountability in the execution of justice under the syariah legal system and the legal justice systems in this country. .

Saiful said today’s execution should pave the way for future canings under syariah law. He did not rule out the use of public caning in other cases, and the sentence can be carried out in any location determined by the court as outlined by section 125 of the Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment 2001.

The judge and the state exco emphasized that the two women had pleaded guilty and accepted the punishment, as they did not file an appeal within 14 days, indicating their sincerity and sense of repentance. It is vital to note that the two women had no legal representation, which grossly impacts on the protection of their right to fair trial and justice and the resulting long-term impact.

Despite this critical lack, the court proceeded with the execution which is now the most degrading and cruel form of public sentencing in Malaysia’s history. LGBT persons have limited access to redress and justice. Finding a syariah lawyer for LGBT-related cases is extremely challenging. This is compounded by other factors including lack of family support, social stigma and lack of resources due to multiple forms of discrimination.

This case demonstrates multiple failures in the justice system, the complicity and intention by the state to target and persecute already marginalised members of the community, and to create conditions for public acceptance of violent and humiliating treatment cloaked in the ironic language of ‘kindness’ and ‘compassion.’ It sets a dangerous precedent for the increased policing of morality and sexual identities in Malaysia. We call on all members of the Malaysian public to unequivocally reject such a violent trajectory.

We further call on our elected leaders to take immediate and committed action to end and eliminate all forms of state-sanctioned moral policing, erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms, and to cease the cruel, inhumane and degrading practice of whipping and caning in the criminal justice system. The recognition and protection of human dignity is a fundamental principle enshrined in the Federal Constitution, widely ratified human rights instruments, as well as in all religions. There is no justification for the deliberate humiliation, harm and degradation that took place in the Terengganu Court today.

 

  • ENDS//

 

Statement by

Justice for Sisters, LGBT groups and individuals in Malaysia

3 Sept 2018

Press contact:
thilaga: justiceforsisters@gmail.com

 

Does New Malaysia Mean All of Us Without Exception?

On 9 May this year, Malaysians did the unthinkable when they unseated Barisan Nasional, the only political coalition to ever govern the country. Corruption in government had become endemic, ethnic and religious tensions overbearing, laws increasingly repressive. Having had enough of it all, people from all walks of life chose instead Pakatan Harapan, the coalition that promised hope, change and inclusion for everyone. So historic was the outcome of the 9 May general election that it was given the epithet ‘Malaysia Baru’ (New Malaysia).

Familiar wounds for LGBT people

Three months have passed since then, and many marginalised communities are left wondering when the promised change will come. The LGBT community, long persecuted by the previous regime, has not received any respite in Malaysia Baru. Merely weeks into his job, an aide to the newly minted Minister of Youth and Sports was forced to resign when opposition supporters hounded him on social media over his sexuality. His employers, the government, chose not to defend him. Soon after that, two LGBT activists had their portraits removed from a photography exhibition in Penang on the instruction of the new Minister of Islamic Affairs.

Following these events, which were widely reported in the media and fiercely debated on social media, a trans woman in Negeri Sembilan was assaulted by a gang of eight men with wood and pipes. A bar in Kuala Lumpur was then raided by the Federal Territories Religious Department (JAWI), an ‘old Malaysia’ type operation that was defended by the Minister of Federal Territories. In between all these incidents, LGBT people are told over and over again they cannot have the same rights and protection as others in Malaysia–and can only exist in private spaces, leaving LGBT people with no legitimate recourse against the forceful ‘guidance’ of religious authorities.

“The increasing hostility towards our community didn’t come out of sudden. It is a manifestation of decades of neglect and oppression, as well as denial of identity and rights by religious elites and the government. How much violence needs to happen before we do anything to stop this?” states Numan Afifi, community organiser on LGBT and youth rights.

All of this happened within the 100 days of the new administration. And as the fireworks flare this weekend for the country’s first Independence celebration in this new political era, two young women await caning by the Syariah court in Terengganu. The women were detained by religious authorities in April this year and charged for “attempting to have sex”. They were each fined RM3,300 and face six strokes of the rotan (cane). Despite promises to uphold human rights in Malaysia Baru, this inhumane sentence remains imminent for the two women.

“This climate makes LGBT communities feel helpless and threatened, especially with the increase of hate crimes and discriminatory comments. This sentence will only encourage perpetrators and aggressors to continue their hostility, violence and acts of aggression towards the community. Besides that, the recent events will increase Islamophobia and misconceptions regarding Islam among Malaysians, which is already at a worrying state,” says Chong Yee Shan, human rights activist from Diversity Malaysia.

Continued inhumane and discriminatory form of sentencing against LGBT persons

There are many long-standing questions surrounding the Terengganu case: Should these women even be subjected to such cruel, degrading and inhumane punishment just to be made examples of to others? Did these women have access to legal counsel or aid? Where will the sentence be executed? Will it be carried out in a federal prison? And if so, can the federal authority execute a sentence of caning against a Muslim woman when the Prison Regulations 2000 forbids corporal punishment to be applied to a female prisoner (of any age)? What does this punishment mean in this current state of alarming rhetoric, discrimination, violence against LGBT persons?

Secretary General of PROHAM (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights) Ivy Josiah states, “Caning and whipping must be erased in both the Penal and Syariah Codes as a form of punishment as it against the grain of any religious and human rights principle that the preservation of human dignity is paramount. Otherwise the government’s recent announcement that it will accede to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment appear feeble and insincere. Furthermore, Parliament must put an end to the inconsistency and answer this legal question: Can a federal authority execute a sentence of whipping against a Muslim woman when the Prison Regulations 2000 forbids corporal punishment to be applied to a female prisoner (of any age), or a male prisoner who is more than 50-years-old?”

This issue has also been raised by the CEDAW Committee in its recommendation to the government of Malaysia in the March 2018 review. The Committee called on the government to “[h]armonize Syariah law with section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code to prohibit the whipping of women as a form of punishment;” (para. 24 (e), CEDAW/C/MYS/CO/3-5).

The Terengganu case will be the first time such a harsh punishment is meted out against women since the May general election, in less than six months since this recommendation was received.

“Since the new government, I have noticed increased oppression targeting LGBT persons done in the name of religion. This severe sentence violates the rights of women and is against the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. It should not exist in this era of New Malaysia. This is not only about the caning of the two women who are accused for their sexual orientation, but about violations against humanity and oppression towards another human being,” states transgender rights activist, Nisha Ayub.

The Malaysian Bar Council stated their unreserved opposition to caning and corporal punishment in a recent press statement on this issue, and further notes that this is “a harsh and barbaric form of punishment that causes harmful and long-lasting psychological effects, and has no place in a modern and compassionate society such as ours.” They further call for an “immediate moratorium against all forms of corporal punishment, and to repeal provisions for such punishment in all legislation.”

Caning was executed against a woman for the first time in Malaysia in 2010 under the previous Najib Razak administration, which it did in secrecy and only announced a few days after the fact. This raises concerns over the arbitrary procedures of the Syariah courts and reinforces the widespread belief that Islam discriminates against women. The judge noted that the punishment was meant “to educate and make offenders realize their mistakes and return to the right path.” A similar rationale of setting an example to the larger public was cited in this case during the sentencing. It is reasonable to conclude that women voluntarily submit to caning because they are shamed into submission.

“The only lessons this sentence will send are that it is okay to punish people for being different, to cane adult women for loving each other, to criminalise something that harms nobody, or for the State to tell adults what we can do with our own body. The lessons it will send to the LGBT community is that we don’t belong, we are criminals, we should hide and pretend. But some of us are tired of hiding and pretending. We are not criminals. We are your family members, we are Malaysians, and we belong here as much as the rest, just trying to get by, contribute where we can, find some happiness when we can. I wish Malaysia would stop teaching lessons of hate and division. We should teach lessons of love, respect and equality instead,” states Pang Khee Teik, LGBT rights advocate and co-founder of Seksualiti Merdeka.

Fulfill the commitment of change towards human rights for all

In a memorandum to the Prime Minister and Attorney General on this case, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) urges the government “to review whipping as a form of punishment as it violates international human rights principles which regard whipping and other forms of corporal punishment as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” JAG further notes that “the LGBT are a convenient target to ramp up the Islamic conservative sentiments,” and calls for the new government to “show the political will and courage to once and for all deal with the implications of such intrusive moral policing laws.”

The 2018 COMANGO report endorsed by 52 Malaysian NGOs calls for the government to “eliminate all forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the criminal justice system including the practice of whipping and caning,” and to ratify and accede to the UNCAT as part of this commitment.

Professor Gurdial Singh from the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) also affirms this in a letter to the new Foreign Minister. “Given this initiative,” he said, “it is appropriate and timely that the government announces an immediate moratorium on all forms of caning whether related to Penal Code or Syariah Criminal Offences.” He added that the moratorium on caning will indicate an assured commitment and a necessary first step towards preventing any form of torture by the state.

This resonates with Pakatan Harapan’s commitment in its manifesto “to make our human rights record respected by the world” (Promise 26), as well as with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed’s Independence Day speech guaranteeing “justice for all the people, irrespective of race or religion” and promising “Malaysia will remain strong and progressive whatever the differences, contradictions and suspicions that may arise.”

Malaysia Baru is meaningless without real transformation. This requires courage and commitment by all of us, including those in power. We all have a role to play when a segment of society is being treated unfairly. It is incumbent upon our elected leaders to lead the way in ensuring that the fundamental liberties enshrined in the Federal Constitution guarantee protection for all Malaysians. This in itself should be all the protection we need. Instead, we find ourselves wondering about the well-being of two young and anxious women.

“We should not need to justify our human rights. The two women likely did not have access to reliable and good counsel for their defence. That alone is a travesty of justice no matter the moral ‘rationale’ for the criminalisation of personal sins under Syariah. We have witnessed the denial of access to justice for many others as well. It is time ‘New Malaysia’ stops such injustices if we are indeed in an era of hope,” states Angela M. Kuga Thas, co-founder of KRYSS.

We are people first, worthy of dignity and respect. It is time our communities and our country take a step forward and affirm that ‘New Malaysia’ means all of us, without exception.

Statement by

LGBT groups and individuals in Malaysia

2 Sept 2018

Caning for consensual sex acts is a form of torture against lesbian women

Immediately review the court decision and cease implementation of caning

We strongly condemn the punishment meted out by the Terengganu Syarie judge Kamalruazmi Ismail on 12 August 2018 in the case of two women who were convicted for attempted sexual relations. The two women were sentenced to RM 3,300 in fines and 6 strokes of caning. The sentencing of the two women in Terengganu is a gross violation of their dignity and human rights as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, international human rights treaties that Malaysia has ratified and international laws.

The judge fixed 28 August 2018 to carry out the caning sentence, and both women were released on bail for RM 1,500 with two bailors. The two can also be imprisoned for 4 months should they fail to pay the RM 3,300 fine. The two women arrested in April 2018 in Terengganu were convicted under Section 30 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Takzir Terengganu) read together with Section 59(1).

The erroneous and prejudicial sentences meted out by the Terengganu Syarie judge Kamalruazmi Ismail amounts to torture. Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture defines torture as ‘any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes … or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.’[1] In other words, punishment based on discrimination by any public official that results in suffering, mentally or physically is defined here as a form of torture.

The arbitrary arrest and the punishment meted out for consensual sex between adults violate multiple human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), including Article 1 (the right to live with dignity), Article 5 (the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment), Article 12 (right to privacy), Article 13 (freedom of movement).

In the context of Malaysia, the punishments are also violations of the rights enshrined under the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, including Article 5 that protects the right to life and liberty, Article 8 that guarantees equality and non-discrimination based on gender, and Article 9 that guarantees freedom of movement.

The judge was also quoted as saying. “adequate punishment must be meted out so that this becomes a lesson and reminder to not just the two of you, but the members of society.” The role of the court is to ensure justice is served and upheld, not to increase victimisation of persons based on personal prejudice. Punishment cannot be used as lessons for society. Punishment as a means to serve as lessons for others unfairly exploits and burdens the individuals with severe punishments as stand-ins for others. Such prejudicial thinking can dangerously allow for the abuse of power and exploitation of innocent people, perpetuating injustices.

Criminalization of consensual sex between adults is a gross violation of human rights, and Malaysia has been called to review and repeal laws that criminalise LGBTQ persons based on consensual sexual acts in many international human rights fora. Consensual sex acts between adults is not a crime.

The CEDAW committee in its concluding observations to Malaysia in March 2018 called Malaysia to “amend all laws which discriminate against LBTI women, including the provisions of the Penal Code and Syariah laws that criminalise same-sex relations between women and cross-dressing”.

We call for the implementation of the sentence to be reviewed and revoked immediately. We call for SUHAKAM and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to immediately intervene and stop the implementation of the punishments. We are extremely concerned about the impact of the punishment not only on the two women, but also on the LGBTQ population as a whole.

We are also extremely concerned about the escalating attacks and repression against LGBTIQ persons in Malaysia, and the impact of such punishment in this environment. Such punishment will further fuel hatred, discrimination and violence towards LGBTIQ persons with impunity. The new government has repeatedly affirmed that LGBTIQ Malaysians are protected as citizens under the Federal Constitution. This case calls for Pakatan Harapan to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of all persons, including LGBTIQ persons. We call the Pakatan Harapan government to immediately intervene in this matter, and end victimisation and torture against the two women in this case.

Endorsed by:

  1. Justice for Sisters
  2. Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
  3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  4. SAWO (Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group)
  5. Association for Women Lawyers (AWL)
  6. Pelangi Campaign
  7. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Malaysia
  8. PLUsos
  9. PLUHO, People Like Us Hangout!
  10. Malaysian Atheists and Secular Humanists (MASH)

References:

Pasangan lesbian didenda, disebat, 12 August 2018, Sinar Harian

http://www.sinarharian.com.my/edisi/terengganu/pasangan-lesbian-didenda-disebat-1.867672

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/CAT.aspx

Seksyen 30. Musahaqah.

Mana-mana orang perempuan yang melakukan musahaqah adalah melakukan suatu kesalahan dan apabila disabitkan boleh didenda tidak melebihi lima ribu ringgit atau dipenjarakan selama tempoh tidak melebihi tiga tahun atau disebat tidak melebihi enam sebatan atau dihukum dengan mana-mana kombinasi hukuman itu.

Section 30. Musahaqah.

Any female person who commits musahaqah shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to whipping not exceeding six strokes or to any combination thereof.

Seksyen 59. Percubaan.

(1) Mana-mana orang yang cuba-

(a) melakukan sesuatu kesalahan yang boleh dihukum di bawah Enakmen ini atau di bawah mana-mana undang-undang bertulis lain yang berhubung dengan Hukum Syarak; atau                    (b) menyebabkan kesalahan itu dilakukan,

dan dalam percubaan itu melakukan apa-apa perbuatan ke arah pelakuan kesalahan itu hendaklah, jika tiada peruntukan nyata dibuat oleh Enakmen ini atau undang-undang bertulis lain itu, mengikut mana-mana yang berkenaan, bagi hukuman percubaan itu, dihukum dengan apa-apa hukuman yang diperuntukkan bagi kesalahan itu.

(2) Apa-apa tempoh pemenjaraan yang dikenakan sebagai hukuman bagi suatu percubaan untuk melakukan suatu kesalahan atau untuk menyebabkan suatu kesalahan dilakukan tidak boleh melebihi satu perdua daripada tempoh maksimum pemenjaraan yang diperuntukkan bagi kesalahan itu.

Section 59. Attempt.

1) Any person who attempts-

(a) to commit an offence punishable under this Enactment or under any other written law relating to Hukum Syarak; or

(b) to cause such an offence to be committed,

and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall, where no express provision is made by this Enactment or by such other written law, as the case may be, for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with such punishment as is provided for the offence.

(2) Any term of imprisonment imposed as a punishment for an attempt to commit an offence or to cause an offence to be committed shall not exceed one half of the maximum term provided for the offence.

 

LGBT activists: Silence and censorship perpetuate discrimination and hate

A joint statement by LGBT human rights activists and groups

We welcome the timely meeting between Minister in the PMO Mujahid Rawa and Nisha Ayub on 11 August 2018. The meeting was a crucial and positive first step in showing the government’s openness to dialogue and to create a Malaysia that is inclusive and compassionate. This dialogue is significant as many in Malaysia are not aware of the extent to which transgender persons in Malaysia live with daily experiences of stigma, discrimination, and violence.

The lack of open channels and opportunities to hear LGBT people is in fact what perpetuates the misunderstanding towards people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. The stigma, discrimination, and violence experienced by transgender people have been well documented in multiple reports, including a report by the Human Rights Watch titled “I’m Scared to Be a Woman”.

Nonetheless, we wish the Minister had met with us before he gave the instructions to remove Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik’s portraits from an exhibition at the George Town Festival. Had the Minister met us earlier, he would have understood the intentions of Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik for agreeing to be photographed for this exhibition, and not simply accuse them of ‘promoting LGBT activities’. He could also have avoided some of the harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about LGBT activists that he said during the press conference following the dialogue.

The attempt to define and classify LGBT activists on our behalf is divisive, problematic, and unhelpful. The government has the duty to respect and protect the human rights of all human rights defenders, and create an enabling environment for the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights.

Nisha Ayub is regarded as a respected human rights defender not only in Malaysia, but also globally. Nisha is a Malaysian icon given her immense contribution to human rights. Nisha became an activist after having been subjected to multiple forms of violence based on her gender identity, including arbitrary arrest, detention and imprisonment; misgendering and shaming; hateful, degrading, and violent comments and threats. As an activist, she further experienced multiple forms of erasure and exclusion from Malaysia’s history and narratives, as evidenced by the act of removing her portrait from a celebration of Malaysian patriotism. Amidst the portrait debacle and its ensuing events, she has been receiving an increasing volume of hateful, degrading and violent messages and threats.

Despite Mujahid Rawa’s limited jurisdiction, the call for removal of the portraits also directly affected Pang

Khee Teik, a human rights defender and arts organiser. Like Nisha, Pang had also received thousands hateful and violent comments online. Therefore, we also call Mujahid Rawa to also meet Pang, in order to understand the overarching impact of the state’s policies on all persons regardless of religious background. Pang, in his activism, has attempted to make visible the discrimination, violence and marginalisation faced by LGBT persons. For this he has received public vilification, investigation by the state, loss of employment, and hateful comments and threats, amongst others.

Comments that incite violence and fear of personal safety and security are unacceptable. In the past, the government were silent on the attacks against LGBT persons and in some cases subjected the victims to further persecution. Therefore, we welcome the Minister’s call for no discrimination towards the trans community.

We also acknowledge the homophobic and transphobic reactions of the public towards Mujahid and his statement. This underscores our view that people regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation, can be subjected to transphobia, homophobia and discrimination due to their association with transgender or LGBTIQ persons.

We also urge Malaysians to please listen to LGBT people, to give an opportunity for us to tell you our side of the story, and to stop hateful, degrading and violent comments. These comments have a severe impact on the well-being, safety and security of not just people that are targeted, but the whole LGBT population. In fact, they also create an environment which encourages and overlooks bullying, blackmail, emotional, physical and sexual violence, and other criminal acts carried out towards LGBT persons by various people, including family members. The pervasive level of stigma and discrimination also hinders LGBT from accessing healthcare services, justice, and other fundamental rights. The public does not hear about these because LGBT people have been silenced and erased. Furthermore, those of us who face threats do not feel safe to share our stories.

People who insist that LGBT people are not discriminated in Malaysia make such assumptions precisely because we have not been allowed to talk about our experiences. We encourage people to learn and educate themselves about gender identity and sexual orientation, and to talk to us.

We believe openness and dialogue can have transformative effects. In the spirit of openness, healing and compassion, we call for all relevant government Ministries to meet with LGBT human rights groups. Together we hope to promote a kinder, more compassionate, more democratic Malaysia.

End

LGBT human rights groups of Malaysia