We, members of civil society, are deeply concerned about the developments surrounding Nur Sajat’s case. On 8 September 2021, Nur Sajat was arrested by the Thai Immigration Department following a request by the Malaysian authorities. These dangerous developments, taking place against the backdrop of growing restriction of freedom of religion and increasing anti-LGBTQ sentiments, have a wide ranging impact on all people, not just Sajat and LGBTIQ persons.
Since the exposé by Harian Metro on 20 September 2020, several state actors have responded with alarming alacrity. Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department Director Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan stated that PDRM is working with the Foreign Ministry and the Attorney-General’s Chambers to extradite Nur Sajat. According to a PDRM media statement, Nur Sajat is wanted for the following charges:
- Deriding verses of Al-Quran or Hadith (S. 9 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment)
- Obstructing public servant in discharge of his public functions (S. 186 of the Penal Code)
- Using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty (S. 353 of the Penal Code)
We note that Nur Sajat was earlier reported of being charged under Section 10 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment for insulting islam. However, the PDRM reported that she is wanted for Section 9 instead of Section 10 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment.
The latter two charges are allegedly related to a scuffle that took place on JAIS premises, when JAIS officers proceeded to arrest her after taking her statement. Nur Sajat reported that she was violently pinned down and handcuffed. Nur Sajat also made a police report against the JAIS officers on January 13. However, the status of the investigation remains unknown.
In a communication to the Malaysian government on Nur Sajat’s case (JUA MYS 4/2021), UN Special Mandate holders stated that, “Ms. Sajat cannot be discriminated against and be restricted in the exercise of her right to freedom of religion or belief solely based on her gender identity. As provided in Article 29(2) of the UDHR, in the exercise of one’s rights and freedoms, one shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society, none of which is negatively impacted in regard to the activities of Ms Sajat.”
In this communication the government was asked to provide the following information:
- What steps have been taken to guarantee Ms Nur Sajat’s right to freedom of religion or belief without discrimination and harassment by non-state actors and State agents.
- The measures taken by the Government to protect Ms Nur Sajat and her family from further intimidation, harassment or pressure and to ensure their safety.
- What measures are planned or implemented to combat the growing pattern of incitement to violence?
The Permanent Mission of Malaysia replied on 24 March 2021 by saying that they have “transmitted the Joint Urgent Appeal (JUA) to the urgent attention of relevant Malaysian authorities.”
Wide Ranging Impact
Since the release of the Harian Metro expose, various state actors have expressed restrictive measures against trans and LGBTQ persons, which have been gradually escalating since the introduction of fatwa prohibiting trans people’s rights to self-determination and bodily autonomy in 1982.
- The Perlis Fatwa Committee released a fatwa, titled Hukum Berinteraksi Dengan Mukhannath (Pondan/Mak Nyah/Bapuk/Pengkid/Tomboi/Transgender) or a guide on interaction with mukhannath (Pondan/Mak Nyah/Bapu /Pengkid/Tomboy/Transgender), which considers transgender and LGBQ people in general as fasik or someone who violates Islamic law because of their gender identity and gender expression as well as perceived sexual orientation. The committee’s views on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation is inaccurate, not evidence and rights based and most importantly extremely harmful. Among the harmful things in the fatwa are prohibition of transgender people from entering mosques and performing haj and umrah because of their gender identity.
- YB Nik Abduh (MP Bachok, Kelantan) called for more state-sponsored rehabilitation programmes for LGBT persons in Parliament on 21 September 2021. Rehabilitation or conversion practices are widely discredited because of its long lasting harmful impact not just on LGBTIQ persons but also people who are connected to them.
This comes after the Prime Minister, in answering a question in parliament, noted that the government has rolled out a range of activities to ‘bring LGBT people back to the right path’.
The continuous and escalating anti-LGBT sentiments in Malaysia is extremely concerning.
A Suhakam study on the discrimination against transgender people based in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor found that 72 of 100 respondents thought of migrating to countries with better legal protection, legal gender recognition, accepting environment, among others. 54 respondents said that they don’t feel safe living in Malaysia. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, between 2017 and 2018, over 50% of people who sought asylum in Australia were reportedly Malaysians. ’LGBT’ and discrimination on the grounds on ethnicity and religion are two of the four main reasons cited by the Malaysian applicants. Other reasons include domestic violence and family pressure.
We recall that in its bid to secure a seat at the Human Rights Council, Malaysia made several pledges during the Human Rights Council pledging session on 8 September 2021. Malaysia reiterated its unequivocal commitment to advancing human rights. In line with this, the Malaysian government must respect the principle of non refoulement and Nur Sajat’s right to seek asylum.
We call on the state and members of the public to end all investigations and harassment against Nur Sajat, and respect her right to seek asylum as stated under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The threats and risks against Nur Sajat because of her gender identity are blatant. Over the years, Nur Sajat has experienced bullying, doxing, harassment with impunity by both state and non-state actors, which have escalated by the day.
- Justice for Sisters
- Agora Society
- All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
- Amnesty International Malaysia
- Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
- Center for Independent Journalism
- Deaf LGBTIQ community
- Diversity Malaysia
- EMPOWER Malaysia
- KRYSS Network
- Legal Dignity
- PLUHO (People Like Us Hang Out!)
- North South Initiative
- Sisters in Islam (SIS)
- Shh… Diam!
- Parti Sosialis Malaysia
- PELANGI Campaign
- Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
- Our Journey
- Transmen of Malaysia
- The KLSCAH Women Division
- Women’s Center for Change (WCC)
Appendix 1: Summary of government activities on LGBT issues (Source: Jawapan bertulis by Ismail Sabri, Prime Minister of Malaysia, Parliament Malaysia, 14 September 2021)
- Pelan Tindakan Sosial Islam, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (PTSI JAKIM) 2019-2025 or Action Plan on Social aspects of Islam, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (PTSI JAKIM) 2019-2025 was developed to address social ills among Muslims in Malaysia, including LGBT issues. The action plan has led to the creation of a task force made up of a few ministries and agencies who are working together to address LGBT issues
- Support and Guidance programmes. This includes
- Mukhayaam or religious camps, which aims to provide “spiritual guidance and awareness” and health information, particularly HIV related information to LGBT persons. As of June 2021, at least 1,733 LGBT people have participated in the camps. As a result of the camps, 12 NGO komuniti Hijrah or ex-LGBT NGOs consiing of Muslim LGBT persons have been established.
- Follow up and support programmes through religious sessions or classes and seed funds for business by the state Islamic departments and councils, among others.
- Education and advocacy programmes in relation to LGBT issues, which includes seminars targeting school and university students, school counsellors, parents, volunteers and representatives of islamic NGOs, health providers. The seminar provides information in relation to how to stay away from LGBT behaviour, how to help someone to abandon their LGBT behaviour, among others. On 4 September 2021, a Pre-Workshop Conference for a Nusantara Religious Camp with LGBT community from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore was held.
- Donations through the Musa’adah Fund for LGBT people. 525 Mukhayyam participants benefited through the fund.
- Establishment of a social center. The Family and social community service center or Pusat Khidmat Keluarga dan Sosial Komuniti (PKKSK) under JAKIM provides syariah counseling, islamic psychospiritual therapy and Ilaj syarie (Islamic treatment). These services are available nationwide
- Development of publications by JAKIM, which includes the Ilaj Wa Syifa (Treatment and Rehabilitation) module.
Appendix 2: Laws
Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995
Any person who derides, insults, ridicules or brings into contempt by his words or acts the verses of Al-Quran or Hadith shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both .
Any person who by words which are capable of being heard or read or by drawings, marks or other forms of representation which are visible or capable of being visible or in any other manner-
(a)insults or brings into contempt the religion of Islam:
(b)derides, apes or ridicules the practice or ceremonies relating to the religion of Islam: or
(c)degrades or brings into contempt any law relating to the religion of Islam for the time being in force in this State
shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.
186. Obstructing public servant in discharge of his public functions.
Whoever voluntarily obstructs any public servant in the discharge of his public functions, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to *two years or with fine which may extend to *ten thousand ringgit or with both.
353. Using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person being a public servant in the execution of his duty as such public servant, or with intent to prevent or deter that person from discharging his duty as such public servant, or in consequence of anything done or attempted to be done by such person in the lawful discharge of his duty as such public servant, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.