Preliminary analysis: LGBTphobia in Malaysia 15th General Elections (GE15)

This GE15, Justice for Sisters monitored LGBTphobia throughout the elections. LGBTphobia refers to the expression of anti-LGBT position, narrative and sentiments targeting LGBTIQ people, people who are perceived as ‘LGBT supporters’ and non-LGBTIQ people. It also refers to mistreatment and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics. 

The LGBTphobia manifested, among others, as follows 

  • Linking Pakatan Harapan (PH) and MUDA with LGBT people, issues, and rights. Some key narratives were
    • Normalization of ‘LGBT’ under the PH administration, 
    • Anwar supports LGBT people and issues as he has called for the repeal of Section 377, 
    • PH will legalize ‘same-sex marriage’, 
    • A vote for PH is a vote for liberalism, communism, LGBT, etc. 
    • LGBT conspiracy within MUDA

  • Triggering panic over LGBT activism and advocacy by human rights defenders (HRD). This includes engagement with government agencies in relation to discrimination faced by trans people, LGBT people exercising their fundamental rights to assembly, association and expression guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and international human rights law 
  • Content on the dangers of ‘LGBT’. These are largely anti-LGBT content and posts, revolving around how religion does not accept LGBT people, and LGBT people are driven by lust, among others.   

This preliminary analysis will cover 4 areas that we monitored 

  • Anti-LGBT elements in campaign materials. e.g. campaign videos, infographics 
  • Discriminatory remarks against LGBTQ+ people in their speeches 
  • LGBTphobia against political parties during GE15 campaign period by other political parties & linked groups & individuals 
  • Does their manifesto address the marginalization faced by LGBTIQ+ people? 

1. Anti-LGBT elements in campaign materials. e.g. campaign videos, infographics 

Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional campaign materials explicitly included anti-LGBT positions. 

At least 3 anti-LGBT  infographics or communication materials were released by Barisan Nasional 

  • 2 visuals on PH’s liberal administration recognizes or supports LGBT issues and people. 
  • use of semburit in infographic in reference to Azmin Ali 

Perikatan Nasional’s campaign video presented at its candidate announcement event included LGBT-related chants from the 2018 women’s march, which was mischaracterized as an LGBT march by conservatives due to visibility of rainbow flags and LGBTIQ inclusion in the march. 

In addition, Harakah Daily, PAS’ media channel, consistently published articles and visuals targeting PH for supporting LGBT people and issues from early/mid-October 2022. This includes the ‘normalisasi LGBT era kerajaan PH’ campaign. On 28 October 2022, Mujahid and Amanah took legal action against PAS’ accusations. 

2. Discriminatory remarks against LGBTQ+ people in their speeches 

Barisan Nasional,  Perikatan Nasional, Pejuang and Pakatan Harapan made discriminatory remarks. It is important to note that the severity of the speeches vary 

  • Perikatan Nasional is the biggest offender. The anti-LGBT speech came from PAS through various speeches shared on social media. As stated above, PH was accused of being communists and LGBT sympathisers or supporters. Most notably, on 6 November, Mohd Razman from PAS alleges that Anwar Ibrahim has an LGBT agenda, which includes the legalization of ‘same-sex marriage’. Razman is under police investigation for making those allegations following police reports lodged by PH component parties. PH has also taken legal action against him. 

3. LGBTphobia against political parties during GE15 campaign period by other political parties & linked groups & individuals 

Pakatan Harapan (PH) and MUDA were subjected to LGBTphobia before and during the GE15 campaign period by Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional and Pejuang online and offline.

PH lodged police reports and took legal action against linkages with LGBT people made by Perikatan Nasional. In addition, in a now-deleted tik tok post, PN supporters were seen shouting ‘hapus LGBT’ at PH supporters on nomination day.

Pejuang in several Twitter posts, called for Anwar Ibrahim to denounce LGBT people. Following the publication of an article by an anonymous former Pejuang cyber trooper alleging Mahathir’s team of attempting to commission a fake sex video between an Anwar lookalike and another man to end his political career, Pejuang claims that the article is an attempt to defame Mahathir in a 17 November tweet. 

Similarly, fake LGBT accounts that purportedly support PH (e.g. kelab pelangi) and deceptive content that shows LGBT people throwing their support behind PH emerged on social media platforms.

Aside from social media posts claiming that there is an LGBT conspiracy within MUDA and vilifying Syed Saddiq for being an LGBT ally, MUDA also experienced at least 3 banner drops from 2 – 16 November, according to social media posts. 

4. Do manifestos by political coalitions address the marginalization faced by LGBTIQ+ people? 

Only the Socialist Party’s manifesto offers protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. 

[SUMBER PRU15 TERKINI] PANDUAN MENGUNDI BAGI GOLONGAN LGBTIQ+ DI MALAYSIA

Justice for Sisters telah menerbitkan beberapa sumber maklumat dalam BM & Bahasa Inggeris untuk membantu pengundi LGBTIQ dan pelbagai gender untuk membuat keputusan bermaklum menjelang pilihan raya akan datang. Baca, muat turn dan kongsi!

Sumber 1: Panduan untuk pengundi LGBTIQ+ di Malaysia

Klik di sini untuk membacanya

Sumber 2: Apakah yang perlu diketahui golongan LGBTIQ+ menjelang PRU15

Sumber 3: PENDIRIAN GABUNGAN & PARTI POLITIK BERKENAAN ISU & HAK GOLONGAN LGBTIQ+ DI MALAYSIA

Sumber 4: BAGAIMANAKAH PERASAAN GOLONGAN LGBTIQ TERHADAP POLITIK DI MALAYSIA?

[UPDATED GE15 RESOURCES] Elections guides for LGBTIQ+ voters in Malaysia

Justice for Sisters has developed a few resources in English & BM to help LGBTIQ and gender-diverse voters make informed decisions this general election. Read, download and share!

Resource 1: A guide for LGBTIQ+ voters in Malaysia

Click here to check out the guide

Resource 2: What should LGBTIQ+ persons in Malaysia know & do ahead of GE-15?

Resource 3: Political coalitions & parties’ positions on issues & rights of LGBTIQ+ people in Malaysia

Resource 4: How do LGBTIQ+ people feel about politics in Malaysia?

REXKL Halloween raid warrants a review of joint raids & discriminatory laws

As we approach General Election 15 (GE15), we are once again seeing political LGBTphobia at the centre of Malaysian politicking and as an election tactic. Justice for Sisters (JFS) and the undersigned organizations are deeply concerned by the raid on a Halloween-themed party on the night of Saturday, 29 October, conducted by Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI), and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL). 

At least 24 people were arrested on various grounds at the Halloween party, including: 

  • 18 gender-diverse persons who are under investigation for male person posing as a woman; 
  • 2 persons who are under investigation for encouraging vice;  
  • 2 persons who are under investigation for indecent acts in public place; 
  • 2 persons who tested positive for THC, a compound found in marijuana or cannabis. 

The raid took place against a backdrop of increasing anti-LGBT sentiments as political campaigning for GE15 picks up momentum. With the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) accusing Pakatan Harapan of ‘normalising LGBT’ during its 22 months in government, and Amanah retorting with defensive and reactionary statements as well as legal actions, LGBT people are trapped in the middle of this political mud-slinging, and increasingly face precarity over their safety, well-being, and future in this country. Many of our surveys continue to show trends of self-censorship in relation to self-expression, thoughts and association with LGBT issues; migration; fear of discrimination and violation of privacy; and a widening institutional trust deficit. 

We, the undersigned, civil society organisations observe a number of concerning issues, which must be immediately addressed by SUHAKAM and the incoming government:

  1. The human rights impact of joint raids involving state Islamic Departments 

Through its monitoring of joint raids involving State Islamic Departments, JFS has observed high levels of human rights impacts through these raids. This includes the violations of privacy, equality, and freedom of expression, where Muslim persons are especially victimised by the law and excessive state intervention into people’s private lives is legitimised. 

The criminalisation of LGBT persons and non-recognition of trans and gender-diverse persons under state Syariah and federal laws increase their vulnerability to trumped-up charges, arbitrary arrest and detention, inhumane and degrading treatment, and violence with impunity by state actors during these joint raids. Documentation shows that transgender and gender-diverse persons experience humiliating and degrading treatment at the hands of authorities when they are segregated based on gender as per identification card and when urine tests are conducted. Their right to privacy is violated when their name and personal details are read aloud. 

Moreover, there is a disparity in the enjoyment and protection of human rights on the basis of religion, where Muslims are more vulnerable to additional and punitive measures under the state Syariah Criminal Offences Act or state enactments. 

During joint raids, attendees are typically segregated based on religion and gender as per identification card. Muslim persons are often singled out and face additional charges under the Syariah Criminal Offences Act or Enactments, typically over personal acts that are not criminal in nature. For example, during the recent Halloween raid, Muslim gender-diverse persons and those who appeared to express themselves through gender-fluid or non-stereotypical expressions were singled out and faced additional criminal charges. This raises concerns over the hyper-criminalization and regulation of gender expressions and identities of Muslim persons in Malaysia. 

In Malaysia’s 2018 CEDAW review of the status of women’s rights, the CEDAW Committee expressed concern “.. about the existence of a parallel legal system of civil law and multiple versions of syariah law, which have not been harmonised in accordance with the Convention, as previously recommended by the Committee…, which leads to a gap in the protection of women against discrimination, including on the basis of their religion.” This legal discrepancy applies not just to Malaysian women, but also to trans and gender-diverse persons who also face similar vulnerability to violations by state authorities and lack of protections from harm, as evidenced most recently by the Halloween-party joint raid.

  1. The use of discriminatory and vague laws in restricting Freedom of Expression and Assembly, safeguarded under the Federal Constitution and international human rights law  

At least four Federal and state syariah laws, which disproportionately affect marginalized populations, were used in the Halloween raid: 

  • Male person posing as a woman [Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act]
  • Indecent acts in public place [Section 29 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act]
  • Encouraging vice [Section 35 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act]
  • Self-administration or consumption of substance [Section 15 (1) (a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act]

Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act criminalises “any male person who poses as a woman or wears women’s attire for immoral purposes…” (Section 28). The term “immoral purposes” is not defined, and therefore acts as a catch-all term that enables arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement in the larger effort to criminalise LGBT personhood. 

Section 28 inherently discriminates against persons based on gender. Specifically, it restricts freedom of expression in relation to gender and reinforces gender stereotypes and gender binary roles by dictating how a person can express their gender identity and themselves. It is important to note that in the context of the Halloween party, the clothes worn by those arrested may not reflect their gender expression or actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Their clothes may express and manifest a character, idea, or the person’s own unique creative expression of themselves in relation to the theme of the party.  

In 2014, the Court of Appeal found a similar provision, Section 66 of the Negeri Sembilan Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment unconstitutional, as it violated personal liberties, equality before the law, prohibition of gender based discrimination, freedom of expression and freedom of movement guaranteed under the FC. The decision was set aside by the Federal Court in 2015 on technicality in an appeal by the state of Negeri Sembilan. However, in a different case in 2017, the panel of Federal Court judges on that case opined that the Federal Court had made an error in its decision on Section 66. 

Similarly, the use of Section 29 or ‘indecent act in public places’ and Section 35 or “encouraging vice” against four others are not only vague and arbitrary, but their use also violate freedom of expression, assembly, and association under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution; and right to privacy and right to live with dignity under Article 5. The terms ‘indecent act’ and  ‘vice’ are also not defined under the Syariah Criminal Offences Act. Based on JFS monitoring and documentation, “encouraging vice” has been used especially against organisers of events that are perceived to be attended by transgender or LGBT persons. 

Meanwhile, Section 15 (1) (a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which criminalises self-administration or consumption of substances, must be reviewed in line with international human rights law. 

It is important to note the criminalisation of drug use and possession for personal consumption as well as unnecessary urine tests at raids result in adverse harms, abuse of power, and violations of human rights. At the same time, raids often use drugs as pretext to allow for abuse of power and moral policing. People who test positive are often subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, trumped-up charges, coercive medical treatment, and humiliating and degrading treatment. Although in many instances those who test positive use such drugs for recreational reasons, they end up being remanded or facing harsh sentences as a cautionary tale, despite posing no threat to others because of their recreational drug use. 

In June 2022, UN special rapporteurs and experts called on the international community to bring an end to the so-called “war on drugs” and promote drug policies that are firmly anchored in human rights. 

In line with the principle of harm reduction and human rights framework, the police must take measures towards reducing harms, including harms that result from criminalization and drug policies that do not respect human rights. 

  1. Unaddressed LGBTphobia in the media and social media 

Consistent with our previous media monitoring, the standards of media in relation to reporting on raids and LGBT-related issues remain poor, especially among Malay-language media. We observe the continued use of derogatory and sensational terms in articles and headlines, including pondan, wanita jadian, lelaki berperwatakan perempuan. Golongan pelbagai gender or golongan rencam gender (gender-diverse people or persons) is an affirming and respectful term for gender diverse persons. There are some good practices among English-language media, which featured views and voices questioning the raid and human rights violations caused by the raid. For example, the Rakyat Post and Malay Mail both published articles that featured concerns by online users, civil society organisations, and political entities. 

The comments by online users show an alarming state of LGBTphobia in Malaysia, raising concerns over discrimination and harassment against those who attended the Halloween party on the basis of their gender expression, actual or perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity. 

Recommendations

We recommend SUHAKAM work with other entities on the following actions:

  • In the spirit of upholding the rule of law and equality before the law (Article 8, FC), it is critical for SUHAKAM and the incoming government to immediately review joint raids involving the state Islamic Departments given their extensive and discriminatory human rights impacts. Even in the context where raids are conducted in full compliance of police Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), the involvement of state Islamic Departments in joint raids legitimises moral policing, abuse of power, and victimisation of Muslims under the law. 
  • Undertake a comprehensive human rights impact assessment of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act and Enactments and a review of Act and Enactments’ compatibility with the Federal Constitution and international human rights law
  • Together with Malaysian AIDS Council and other human rights groups, work with PDRM on measures towards decriminalising drug use and ensuring human rights-based drug policies
  • Together with the Election Commission and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), engage with LGBT human rights groups to monitor, respond and encourage reporting of LGBT related discrimination online, offline and in the media. 

By Justice for Sisters 

Endorsed by:

  1. Kemban Kolektif
  2. Legal Dignity
  3. JEJAKA
  4. KRYSS Network 
  5. PLUHO, People Like Us Hang Out!
  6. Transmen of Malaysia
  7. A Spec Malaysia
  8. People Like Us Support Ourselves (PLUsos)
  9. Women’s March Malaysia (WMMY)
  10. Amnesty International Malaysia 
  11. SEED Malaysia 
  12. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)  
  13. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  14. Queer Malaysian Indians (QMI)
  15. Queer Lapis
  16. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  17. L-INC Foundation
  18. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus 
  19. Empower Malaysia
  20. ILGA Asia
  21. Freedom Film Network (FFN)

Appendix: Human rights articles 

Right Federal Constitution (FC)Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD)
Equality Article 8 (1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.

Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 7 All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Article 3. Every person has the right of recognition everywhere as a person before the law.  Every person is equal before the law. Every person is entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Privacy The Federal Court case of Sivarasa v Badan Peguam Malaysia & Anor[1] held that the right to personal liberty under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution includes the right to privacy.Article 12No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.Article 21. Every person has the right to be free from arbitrary interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence including personal data, or to attacks upon that person’s honour and reputation. Every person has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Freedom of expression 10. (1) Subject to Clauses (2), (3) and (4)—(a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression; (b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms;Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.Article 23 Every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information, whether orally, in writing or through any other medium of that person’s choice.
Freedom of assembly Same as above Article 20 (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.Article 24.Every person has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Brief media analysis – transmasculine person performing umrah in Mecca 

Justice for Sisters monitored news reports regarding a transmasculine person who was performing umrah in male prayer garb or ihram in Mecca. In total, 46 English and Malay articles published between 12 – 17 August 2022 were reviewed. 

The media monitoring and analysis identified 5 harmful practices by the media 

  1. Doxxing (non-consensual disclosure of personal information), outing, and witch-hunting
  2. Misgendering and use non-respectful terms
  3. Biased perspectives and the lack of rights-based approaches
  4. Lack of fact-checking 
  5. Reductive approaches to discrimination faced by trans people 

Brief analysis 

Table 1: Number of articles reviewed between 12 – 17 August 2022 in relation to the transmasculine person performing umrah in Mecca 

Language Number 
English 15
Malay 31
Total 46

Consistent with our other media analyses, there is a stark difference in how the news was covered in Malay and English language media, particularly: 1) number of articles and frequency of their release, 2) source of the articles, and 3) how the news was reported. 

Of the 15 English articles, 2 were from Bernama, and 10 were sourced by Bernama. Only 3 were original articles. 

Of the 31 Malay articles, 2 articles were from Bernama, and only 2 articles were sourced by Bernama. A story by Harian Metro was republished in Merdeka times. Between 12 and 17 August, they published 8 articles in total; the highest number of original articles by a media outlet on this issue. 

The reports by Bernama are

  • Stern action awaits woman who performed umrah in men’s ihram clothing – Idris (12 August 2022)
  • Tindakan tegas kepada wanita tunai umrah pakai ihram lelaki – Idris (12 August 2022)
  • Woman performing umrah in men’s ihram clothing a senseless act – Penang Mufti (13 August 2022)
  • Tindakan wanita berpakaian ihram ketika umrah tidak berakal (13 August 2022)

All Bernama articles misgendered the person and took a punitive tone. 

As illustrated in chart 1, more original articles were published by the Malay media compared to English media. The three original articles in the English language are 

  • (Video) Twitter User Exposes Ex-GF Performing Umrah Dressed As Male (12 August 2022, Hype)
  • Woman in male ihram attire? Minister calls for investigation (13 August 2022, New Straits Times) 
  • Doxxing is a crime in Malaysia, except for when it targets the LGTBQ community (14 August, Coconuts.co)

Harmful practices 

1. Doxxing (non-consensual disclosure of personal information), outing, and witch-hunting

Harian Metro’s media standard in relation to LGBTIQ issues is not only poor, but also harmful. Its reporting has consistently placed LGBTIQ and gender diverse persons at various forms of harm. 

In Nur Sajat’s case, Harian Metro irresponsibly published ‘exposés’ of her location, resulting in increased stress and safety issues for her and her family members. 

In this recent 2022 case, Harian Metro published a story on 14 August exposing the person’s self-determined name and other personal details, including employment history. Following which, 3 of its 4 subsequent reports included his self-determined name. 

Against the backdrop of calls for stern actions against him, on 16 August, Harian Metro reported that they awaited the person’s arrival at the airport. However, the reporters were unable to identify him. They further speculated that his absence at the airport confirms rumours that he could have returned early by transiting via a neighbouring country, 

…Ketiadaannya itu seakan mengesahkan khabar angin yang mendakwa dia sudah pulang lebih awal dengan transit di negara jiran sebelum menaiki penerbangan ke Malaysia…

Harian Metro’s persistence in exposing the person is worrying. 

Their attitude and standards are similar to many anti-LGBTQ media globally. In 2010, a Ugandan publication published a number of articles outing or exposing LGBTQ persons in Uganda. As a result, many were subjected to violence and murder of LGBTQ persons based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. In a court case, the Ugandan courts held that the media threatened the applicants’ rights to human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment, as well as their right to privacy of the person and home. The Court issued the injunction sought by the applicants, restraining the respondents from publishing more information about the identities and addresses of Ugandan gays and lesbians.

In a survey conducted by Justice for Sisters on the impact of COVID 19 on LGBTQ+ persons in Malaysia, 121 (55%) of 220 respondents expressed that media sensationalism resulted in increased stress. 86 (39%) reported 1 or more forms of discrimination and/or violence due to media sensationalism. Only 13 respondents (6%) said that media sensationalism has no impact on them.

2. Misgendering and using non-respectful terms

39 of 40 articles misgendered the person. Bernama’s poor use of language was reproduced in at least 10 other articles in the English media, some of which have previously adopted higher media standards when it comes to reporting LGBTIQ related news. Examples include The Malaysian Insight, The Vibes and Malaysiakini, among others. 

The articles used the following terms to describe the person:  

  • variations of ‘wanita berpakaian ihram lelaki’, 
  • ‘wanita berperwatakan lelaki yang memakai ihram’, 
  • ‘wanita’, 
  • ‘pengkid’* 
  • ‘lelaki jadian’ – used by Harian Metro.  
  • ‘woman who performed umrah dressed in ihram clothing for men’, 
  • ‘another local woman’, 
  • ‘tomboy’, 
  • ‘a female pilgrim from Malaysia performed the umrah wearing male ihram attire’
  • ‘ex-girlfriend performing Umrah dressed as male’

Only one article used the term transgender man to refer to him. 

Pengkid and tomboy are colloquial terms. While some people do self-identify as tomboy or even pengkid, many tend to stay away from these terms because of its pejorative connotation. In addition, some of these terms are used expansively to describe gender diverse persons, trans mascluline and trans men, creating confusion between gender idenitty, gender expression and sexual orientation. 

Many of the articles also referenced Nur Sajat and the controversy surrounding her pilgrimage in 2020. Her deadname was included in most of the articles. In an Utusan Malaysia article, ‘pondan’ was used in reference to Nur Sajat. 

Pondan is an umbrella term used for queer men and trans women. Due to its expansive usage and pejorative connotation, trans women communities introduced the term mak nyah in the 80s to create a distinction between trans women and gay men. Mak nyah is a combination of mak (mother) and nyah (short for nyonya or nona). 

It is important for the media to use formal language, instead of colloquial, outdated and pejorative  terms. We recommend the media to use the following respectful and affirming terms for trans and gender diverse people:

  • transgender or trans man (lelaki transgender atau trans) refers to a person assigned female at birth by others, but self-identifies as a man;
  • trans masculine person refers to a spectrum of trans persons who identify along the masculine spectrum; 
  • transgender or trans woman (perempuan or wanita transgender atau trans) refers to a person who was assigned male at birth by others, but self-identifies as a woman;
  • gender diverse people (golongan pelbagai gender atau rencam gender) is an umbrella term used for non-binary, gender non-conforming, and others who do not fall squarely into the man woman binary. 

In instances where the media is not sure of the person’s gender identity, it should use gender neutral language such as person or individual. E.g. person who performed umrah in men’s ihram clothing. In addition, the media could also use gender neutral pronouns – they/them. 

For more information, please refer to  the following media guide by GLAAD https://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender

3. Biased perspectives and the lack of rights-based approaches

Of the 40 articles, only one article featured civil society voices, who provided lived experiences of trans people, raised concerns over the harms and danger the person is subjected to as result of the doxxing and outing, and ways forward in ensuring trans people are able to practice their faith safely. 

In the rest of the articles, no other views aside from the punishment and rehabilitation perspectives were featured. 

In summary, 39 of the 40 articles featured 

  • Summary of the exposé, doxxing and outing via Twitter
  • Statement by the Minister and Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister Department on Religious Affairs
  • Statement by the Mufti Penang 
  • Statement by the Mufti Pahang 
  • Statements by Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (YADIM)
  • Media conference by Persatuan Pengendali Umrah, Haji Dan Ziarah Perak (PUHAZ) 
  • Interviews with women who were allegedly scammed by the person and the woman who outed him on social media 

In general, the Minister, the Muftis, YADIM and PUHAZ called for stern action so that it becomes a deterrent to others. In some articles, the state actors called for an investigation of the person and the travel agency by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), Ministry of Home Affairs and state-level Islamic departments. PUHAZ, in a media conference, acknowledged that it is not illegal to perform the pilgrimage without the support of a travel agency. However, supported stren actions by the government. 

The comments made by some of the abovementioned actors were biased and extreme in nature. The person’s action was described as an ‘insult or a mockery to islam’ and a ‘mockery to Malaysia’s positive image in the global arena, especially among Muslim countries.’ They also claimed that ‘his umrah is invalid’ and ‘if he does not repent he will suffer in hell and in the afterlife’. His action of performing umrah was also characterized as ‘munafik’ (false believer) and ‘kafir’ (infidel or non-believer). 

A Sinar Harian article on 12 August 2022 included several biased tweets by online users who were questioning the person’s sanity and calling for actions to be taken against the person, all of which constructed and reinforced a punitive discourse of the matter at hand. The same article also suggested that he ‘lied about his gender identity,’ without any analysis or understanding  of the challenges faced by trans people in Malaysia due to non-recognition of their gender identity and other forms of institutional and societal discrimination. 

4. Lack of fact-checking 

A Berita Harian article published on 15 August 2022 featured the following quotes by YADIM, which claims that trans and gender diverse people need to be educated and guided as they experience internal conflicts about their gender identity. Berita Harian did not fact check the inaccurate and biased statement.

“Istilah kecelaruan jantina itu sendiri menunjukkan kumpulan ini mempunyai konflik dalaman diri yang perlu ditangani secara komprehensif tidak sekadar membabitkan tindakan perundangan tetapi sebaliknya secara pendidikan dan bimbingan berterusan.” 

“The term gender confusion or disorder in and of itself shows that this group of people have internal conflicts about themselves that should be dealt with comprehensively, and just through legal actions but also education and continuous guidance” 

It is important to note that trans and gender diverse people are not confused or experience a form of disorder due to their gender identity. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed the classification of disorder in relation to trans people in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD+11). WHO removed the classification as ‘trans-related and gender diverse identities are not conditions of mental ill-health, and that classifying them as such can cause enormous stigma.’

Likewise, the American Psychology Association (APA) removed the classification of ‘gender disorder’ and replaced it with ‘gender dysphoria’ to remove stigma and ensure access to healthcare for trans people. 

In August 2022, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health in an official document stated that “Do not consider homosexuality, bisexuality or being transgender a disease,” and “homosexuality cannot be ‘cured’, does not need ‘to be cured’ and cannot be changed”.

5. Reductive approaches to discrimination faced by trans people 

An article by Hype published on 12 August 2022 reported the ‘expose’ by the twitter user. The piece begins by making reference to Nur Sajat’s umrah incident in 2020, where she faced a series of violations of privacy, doxxing and threats for posting photos of her performing umrah, The writer goes on to reduce the incident, as ‘drama,’ illustrating the lack of understanding and dismissive attitude towards the discrimination and barriers faced by trans people

… the queer entrepreneur (Nur Sajat) later apologised for causing drama.

The article misgenders the person in the recent incident by referring to him as an ‘ex-girlfriend performing umrah dressed as male’, ‘tomboy’, ‘woman’ and ‘her’.

The Penang Mufti’s characterization of the person’s action to perform umrah in male ihram as ‘popularity seeking behaviour at the expense of the religion’, also trivialises trans people’s desire to practice their faith as who they are. 

Good practice 

A Coconuts.co article published on 16 August 2022 was the only good practice that we could find. The article featured voices of civil society groups, namely Justice for Sisters and Sisters in Islam. The article unpacked doxxing and trans people’s increased vulnerability to it. In contrast to the other news reports, it humanised trans people as people of faith, just like others. 

Recommendations 

We call the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia to promote the highest standards in media by: 

  • Reviewing current guidelines for media on ethical and responsible reporting and adopt a progressive and rights based code of conduct which harmonises standards across the various media spectrum; 
  • Undertaking gender and rights based media training with Bernama and other media agencies in order to prevent media sensationalism and the use of non-respectful terms, misgendering and other harmful reporting standards in relation to LGBTIQ and gender diverse people;
  • Engaging constructively with Justice for Sisters and other media monitoring groups to develop the code of conduct and to create effective awareness amongst media practitioners on ethical and responsible reporting in relation to LGBTIQ and gender diverse persons;
  • Establishing the Malaysian Media Council, as an independent self regulatory body, that would meet the demands of the fast evolving media industry and harmonise the regulatory frameworks covering print, broadcast and digital media as well as provide the public an avenue to register disputes and seek resolution. 

We further call on the media to:

  • Ensure rights-based media reporting and factual accuracy of information to prevent exacerbation of harmful impact on LGBTIQ persons as well as others;
  • Avoid sensational reporting by featuring lived experiences of affected persons and relevant experts
  • Avoid intruding on the privacy and respect the dignity of LGBTIQ and gender diverse persons in the course of reporting;
  • Take reasonable and credible steps to avoid causing or contributing to substantial prejudice, harm or risk to safety of LGBTIQ and gender diverse persons.

media analysis: Setting higher media standards among Malaysian media in reporting monkeypox & its prevalence among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM)

Justice for Sisters’ media monitoring on monkeypox and its prevalence among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) has identified several issues of serious concern. These include:

  1. Stigmatized translation and summarization
  2. Lack of fact checking 
  3. Biased statements by experts
  4. The use of stigmatizing language and terminologies

These issues were found in the following articles 

Identified issues 

#1. Stigmatized translation and summarization 

The following original statement by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) was summarized and translated into ‘… amaran agar golongan mengurangkan kegiatan seks songsang’ in the Cacar monyet: Amaran WHO buat golongan gay article (July 28, 2022, Harakah Daily). 

“For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed,” Tedros said. (Washington Post, July 28, 2022) 

The use of amaran falsely indicates a stern warning from the WHO. This could lead to disproportionate and unnecessary panic and alarm within the public, which in turn heightens stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ persons. English reports on the same news uses less alarming language: 

  • WHO recommends gay and bisexual men limit sexual partners to reduce the spread of monkeypox (CNBC, 27 July 2022) 
  • WHO recommends gay and bi men reduce number of sex partners during monkeypox outbreak (Insider, 28 July 2022)

Suggested language:  ‘mengurangkan bilangan pasangan seksual, menimbang semula hubungan seks dengan pasangan baharu, dan bertukar maklumat supaya mudah dihubungi, sekiranya perlu.’

The same news, reported in Berita Harian, sourced by the Agency, uses better translation. For example, it uses gesa (urge) instead of amaran (warn) –  WHO gesa golongan homoseksual had aktiviti seksual (Berita Harian, 28 July 2022). 

“Pertubuhan Kesihatan Sedunia (WHO) semalam menggesa golongan homoseksual yang menjadi kumpulan paling terjejas akibat virus cacar monyet supaya mengehadkan pasangan seksual mereka ketika peningkatan kes itu di seluruh dunia.”

Suggested language:  “WHO mengeluarkan nasihat kesihatan awam atau umum khusus bagi golongan gay untuk mengambil langkah berjaga-jaga berikutan kes cacar monyet yang dilaporkan dalam kalangan golongan gay.”

#2. Lack of fact-checking 

The Pengamal seks sejenis risiko tinggi kena cacar monyet article(July 28, 2022, Utusan Malaysia) claims that monkeypox can spread through sperm. 

Ini kerana kata beliau (pakar virologi Universiti Malaya (UM), Prof. Dr. Sazaly Abu Bakar), jangkitan cacar monyet boleh menular melalui cecair, air liur atau dalam sperma mereka yang mempunyai penyakit seksual iaitu sama seperti penularan asal jangkitan kes HIV. (July 28, 2022, Utusan Malaysia) 

WHO in its advisory has noted that monkeypox is not categorized as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), although many reported cases are related to sexual contact. It is also undetermined if semen and vaginal fluid can transmit the virus even if fragments of the virus are found in the semen sample. WHO is reportedly looking into reports on the presence of monkeypox in semen, and the possibility of it being transmitted through sexual intercourse. However, they stress skin to skin and skin to mouth contacts remain the most frequent mode of transmission

#3. Biased statements by experts 

The Pengamal seks sejenis risiko tinggi kena cacar monyet, article (July 28, 2022, Utusan Malaysia) features a virologist from University Malaya. The expert’s expression of concern over bisexual people, queer men and MSM in heterosexual marriages potentially infecting their family members and children places judgement and blame on gay, bisexual and LGBTQ persons for the spread of monkeypox, reinforcing stigma against them. The expert and article could have instead provided practical protection measures and cited the public health advisory by WHO released on 18 July.  

The statements also lack nuance and analysis of the impact of existing marginalization, criminalization and stigma against LGBTQ persons on their increased vulnerability, as well as low access to life-saving information and services. 

Sazaly berkata, golongan LGBT yang mengamalkan seks sejenis dan bertukar-tukar pasangan perlu berhati-hati dengan mengambil langkah perlindungan selain memastikan pasangan tidak ada jangkitan…. Lebih risau kalau mereka sejenis kelompok ‘dua alam’. Mereka ada keluarga, ada anak-anak, bila dah terkena jangkitan melalui seks sejenis, dia akan menjangkiti pasangan dan anak-anak. (July 28, 2022, Utusan Malaysia) 

#4. The use of stigmatizing language and terminologies 

There were many stigmatizing terms and language in both articles. This includes 

Stigmatizing terms and language Recommended terms and  language
Kegiatan seks songsang The use of ‘songsang’ and ‘kegiatan’ implies consenting sexual acts and relationships between LGBTQ persons as ‘unnatural’ or ‘abnormal’. In contrast, sexual acts between heterosexual people are not described as ‘kegiatan seks antara individu heteroseksual’ Hubungan seks antara lelaki;Hubungan seks antara perempuan; Hubungan seks antara pasangan heteroseksual;Seks secara anal;Seks oral, atau sebagainya.
Lesbian, gay, biseksual, transgender, pelik (LGBTQ+) Lesbian, gay, biseksual, transgender, queerQueer should be maintained as queer in BM as queer is not only a terminology to describe identities, but it is also an academic field of study. Queer is used as an umbrella term for LGBTI+. It is also used by those who do not fit into the LGBT or exist outside of the woman-man, masculine-feminine binary. 
Mereka sejenis kelompok ‘dua alam’.Biseksual 
Pengamal seks sejenisThe use of ‘pengamal’ or ‘practitioner’ reduces LGBTQ persons to sex and sexual acts, instead of acknowledging the identities of LGBTQ persons, which make up a spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identities. It also sexualizes and eroticizes LGBTQ persons. Individu gay, lesbian, biseksual, transgender, queer 
Kelompok lelaki yang mengamalkan seks sesama sejenisThe use of ‘seks sejenis’ and ‘lelaki yang mengamalkan seks sesama sejenis’ are stigmatizing Lelaki yang melakukan/mengadakan hubungan seks dengan lelaki lain 

Good practices

We commend media outlets for publishing articles that shed light on increasing stigma against LGBTQ and other populations. For example, the Malaysian Insight republished an article by AFP,  ‘LGBT community confronts ‘excruciating’ monkeypox – and its stigma’ on 30 July 2022. This article features voices of LGBTQ persons and groups, and highlights the impact of stigma on access to life-saving information and services, and ultimately LGBTQ persons’ ability to take protection measures for themselves and their partners. 

Recommendations 

We recommend the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communication to publish a media advisory to eliminate stigma and improve media reporting in relation to monkeypox and its prevalence. 

We further recommend the Ministry of Health to 

Background 

On 23 July 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox as a global emergency. Reported numbers show higher prevalence among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men because of sexual contact, although the infection are not limited to certain populations. It is important to note that monkeypox is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), although many reported cases are related to sexual contact.  

Infections have been in babies and others have been reported. Experts have also raised concerns over monkeypox outbreaks in prisons and detention centers.

Facts by World Health Organization (WHO)

  • monkeypox spreads physical contact with someone who has symptoms. Rashes, body fluids (such as fluids, pus, or blood from skin lesions), and scabs are particularly infectious.
  • The condition can be spread from one person to another through close physical contact, including sexual contact. However, it is currently unknown whether it can be spread through sexual transmission (for example, through semen or vaginal fluids). However, direct skin-to-skin contact with lesions during sexual activities can spread the virus.
  • The virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to the fetus through the placenta, or through contact of an infected parent with the child, during or after delivery, through skin-to-skin contact.

WHO has also cautioned against racist, LGBTphobic, and other forms of stigmatizing sentiments in relation to monkeypox. WHO has advised changing the name of the disease to reduce stigma.  

‘Lightyear’ censorship shines light on discrimination in Malaysia

On June 14, Malaysia was named among 14 countries that will not be allowing the screening of the Toy Story franchise spinoff ‘Lightyear’, due to depiction of a relationship between two queer women characters and a brief kiss that they share. 

According to Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board (LPF), Lightyear was approved with a conditional PG13 rating, meaning the movie is not suitable for children below 13 years old. According to reports, “LPF ordered that the scenes and dialogues found to contain elements promoting LGBT lifestyle which violated key aspects of the Guidelines on Film Censorship 2010 be cut and muted.” LPF maintains that they merely asked for cuts and did not intend to ban the entirety of the film. Disney’s refusal to comply with the order resulted in the ban. 

This follows a long trend of censoring LGBT content in films and TV series based on the Guidelines on Film Censorship, Home Ministry 2010. The Guidelines prohibit ‘homosexual and unnatural sex scenes’, ‘scenes of men and women or homosexuals embracing in a provocative manner’, and ‘scenes that depict transgender behaviour and lifestyle’.

LPF’s framing of the issue parallels the Malaysian Government’s harmful and discriminatory attitude towards LGBTIQ persons. Malaysia claims to accept and embrace diversity, but requires LQBTIQ persons to comply with state-imposed binary rules in relation to gender and sexual orientation. Any refusal by LGBTIQ persons to comply is met with punitive measures. Further, the burden is entirely misplaced on LGBTIQ persons for not complying, and not the state or society for their discriminatory attitudes. 

The censorship by LPF and calls for censorship by conservatives were centered around two main points, namely: 1) promotion of ‘LGBT lifestyle’ is against ‘our culture’ 2) the film or animation has a negative impact on children.  

1) Promotion of ‘LGBT lifestyle’ is against ‘our culture’ 

The framing of the very existence of LGBTIQ persons as a form of ‘promotion of LGBT lifestyle’ is deeply troubling and completely misleading. Firstly, it denies LGBTIQ people their right to freedom of expression, equality and non-discrimination, among others. Secondly, it disregards the overwhelming and homogenous promotion of heterosexual lifestyle in Malaysia, reinforces gender stereotypes, and contributes to gender-based discrimination. 

LGBTIQ persons are increasingly depicted as ‘repentant’ or ‘cured’ persons in the media. Television series such as ‘Suamiku Lelaki Pendosa’ (2022) and ‘Suamiku Encik Sotong’ (2014) emphasize misinformation as well as harmful narratives and stereotypes by portraying LGBTIQ persons’ existence as unnatural and sinful, and that their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression must or can be changed through marriage or repentance. 

Such portrayals that promote the notion that being heterosexual and cisgender is the only way of being whole and good, reinforce discriminatory attitudes and practices not only towards LGBTIQ and gender-diverse persons, but also cisgender heterosexual persons for not abiding by the strict gender constructs. This is expressly prohibited under Articles 2 and 5 of the UN Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which call for non-discrimination and elimination of gender stereotypes, respectively. 

According to international human rights law, ‘sex’ as a ground of discrimination subsumes discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, as the binary assumption of sex results in discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. CEDAW General Recommendation No. 28 makes specific references to sexual orientation and gender identity, and the state’s obligation in adopting an intersectional framework in addressing violence against women. 

In Malaysia’s last CEDAW review, the CEDAW Committee recommended that Malaysia “… undertake awareness-raising measures to eliminate discrimination and negative stereotypes against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women.” LPF’s actions to order cuts and to mute scenes featuring queer women are at odds with the recommendation to Malaysia. 

Instead of promoting harmful gender stereotypes, the LPF should consider the impact of positive and inclusive portrayals of LGBTIQ persons in film and media. A study by GLADD and Procter & Gamble on ‘LGBTQ Inclusion in Advertising and Media’  shows that non-LGBTQ people who are exposed to LGBTQ media images are more likely to demonstrate increasing levels of acceptance and comfortability towards LGBTQ people. The study also shows that businesses benefit from the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in media and advertising. 

2) The film or animation has a negative impact or are not appropriate for children  

The inclusion of diversity and positive media representation of LGBTIQ persons does not make children LGBTIQ persons. Diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) are normal occurrences in life. Instead, the censorship, suppression and demonisation of LGBTIQ identities coupled with the overprotection of children have a harmful effect on the right to identity and self-determination of children, as articulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). 

Plenty of research, including Suhakam’s study with transgender persons in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor show that LGBTIQ persons are aware of their sexual orientation and gender identity in their chilldhood. Many children, in fact, articulate and express their identities to their family members. However, acceptance of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression by their family members and others remains an issue. 

A Justice for Sisters interview with nine LGBTIQ and gender diverse children shows 7 of 9 children and young people face challenges expressing themselves at home, in school and in public places. A 15-year-old queer child from the East Coast shared that the anti-LGBT sentiments conveyed through religious classes detered her from expressing herself; two people who came out to their unsupportive family members were asked to  change; and another person was subjected to ‘religious intervention’ by a teacher in school and unable to find support and redress. This directly speaks to Suhakam’s recommendation that LGBTI children lack a redress mechanism in school to discuss the unique issues that they face. 

As a signatory to the CRC, Malaysia must take measures to protect and promote the rights of all children, including LGBTI children, as guided by the Convention. General Comment No. 14 on the best interest of the child, acknowledges that 

“Children are not a homogeneous group and therefore diversity must be taken into account when assessing their best interests. The identity of the child includes characteristics such as sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion and beliefs, cultural identity, personality. Although children and young people share basic universal needs, the expression of those needs depends on a wide range of personal, physical, social and cultural aspects, including their evolving capacities. The right of the child to preserve his or her identity is guaranteed by the Convention (art. 8) and must be respected and taken into consideration in the assessment of the child’s best interests.” 

Further, children come from diverse family backgrounds, not just heterosexual and cisgender families. Based on anecdotal evidence, children with LGBTIQ parents and family members also face increased stress as a result of the anti-LGBTQ environment that they live in and their inability to talk about their parents and family members with others due to fear of discrimination, violence and worse, separation of families.

What poisons the minds of children and others across age groups is intolerance, bigotry and violence against LGBTIQ persons. The media almost exclusively portrays LGBTIQ persons in the context of arrest, being hounded or lined up for questioning by authorities, handcuffed, caned, covering their faces from media sensationalism. This portrayal has a negative impact on LGBTIQ persons across age groups. 

A 2011 survey with 222 LGBTIQ respondents in Malaysia shows the following impact because of the increasing anti-LGBT sentiments: 

  • 60% feel an increased sense of stress and mental health burden 
  • 48% toned down their ‘queerness’ to avoid problems 
  • 44% reduced LGBT related social media postings 
  • 41% feel an increased of discrimination and violence 
  • 39% have thought of or made plans to migrate or seek asylum  
  • 28% feel an increased sense of fear of being in public spaces

Specifically, media sensationalism, anti-LGBT statements by politicians, hate speech online, and proposed anti-LGBT amendments significantly cause minority stress and direct discrimination among LGBTIQ and gender diverse persons. 

Recommendations 

We recommend: 

  • LPF to review the Film Censorship Guideline 2010 by engaging LGBTIQ human rights groups and media watchdogs both in Malaysia and abroad to strengthen human rights standards in relation to representation of LGBTIQ persons in films, media and advertising. Despite MCMC’s punitive measures against the depiction of LGBTIQ persons, the MCMC’s Content Code–a voluntary and self-regulatory Code that sets out guidelines and procedures for good practice and standards of content disseminated for public consumption by service providers in the communications and multimedia industry–unlike the Censorship Guidelines adheres to human rights standards. The Code includes ‘sexual orientation ‘and ‘gender’ as protected grounds of discrimination.
  • Suhakam and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner to address the censorship and discrimination that results in deprivation of human rights of LGBTIQ persons across age groups in line with international human rights law. 

Globally, many companies and countries are introducing LGBTIQ affirming policies that are resulting in increased positive representation of LGBTIQ persons in all sectors. This plurality, diversity and inclusion is not a threat to society. Our collective ability to uphold the dignity and rights of marginalized and diverse groups benefits everyone. 

Penganiayaan berterusan terhadap Nur Sajat menandakan peningkatan ekstremisme yang semakin membimbangkan di Malaysia

Kami, kumpulan masyarakat sivil, memandang serius perkembangan kes Nur Sajat. Pada 8 September 2021, Nur Sajat ditahan oleh Jabatan Imigresen Thailand berikutan permintaan pihak berkuasa Malaysia. Perkembangan berbahaya ini di sebalik pembatasan kebebasan beragama yang semakin meningkat dan peningkatan sentimen anti-LGBTQ, mempunyai kesan yang luas kepada semua orang, bukan sahaja kepada Sajat dan individu LGBTIQ.

Sejak pendedahan oleh Harian Metro pada 20 September 2020, beberapa pelaku negara memberikan respon yang membimbangkan. Pengarah Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah Bukit Aman, Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan telah menyatakan bahawa PDRM sedang bekerjasama dengan Kementerian Luar Negeri dan Jabatan Peguam Negara untuk membawa pulang Nur Sajat. Menurut sebuah kenyataan media oleh PDRM, Nur Sajat dikehendaki atas tuduhan-tuduhan berikut:

  • Mempersendakan Islam (S. 9 Enakmen Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah Selangor)
  • Menghalang penjawat awam pada menjalankan kerja-kerja jawatannya (S. 186 Kanun Keseksaan)
  • Menggunakan kekerasan jenayah untuk menakutkan pegawai awam daripada menjalankan kewajipannya (S. 353 Kanun Keseksaan)

Terdahulu Nur Sajat dilaporkan dituduh di bawah Seksyen 10 Enakmen Jenayah Syariah Selangor untuk menghina Islam. Akan tetapi, PDRM melaporkan bahawa Nuru Sajat dikehendaki di bawah Seksyen 9, dan bukan Seksyen 10 Enakmen Jenayah Syariah Selangor. 

Dua pertuduhan terakhir adalah berkaitan dengan pergelutan fizikal yang berlaku di JAIS, selepas pegawai JAIS menangkap Nur Sajat setelah mengambil keterangannya. Nur Sajat melaporkan bahawa dia ditahan dan digari secara kasar. Nur Sajat juga membuat laporan polis terhadap pegawai JAIS pada 13 Januari. Bagaimanapun, status siasatan tersebut masih tidak diketahui.

Dalam satu komunikasi kepada kerajaan Malaysia berkenaan kes Nur Sajat (JUA MYS 4/2021), pemegang Mandat Khas PBB menyatakan bahawa, “Cik Sajat tidak boleh didiskriminasi dan dihalang daripada mempraktikkan haknya kepada kebebasan beragama atau kepercayaan semata-mata berdasarkan identiti gender. Seperti yang diperuntukkan dalam Perkara 29(2) UDHR, hak dan kebebasan seseorang hanya boleh dikenakan batasan seperti ditentukan oleh undang-undang semata-mata untuk tujuan mendapatkan pengiktirafan dan penghormatan atas hak dan kebebasan orang lain serta untuk memenuhi syarat moral, ketenteraman awam dan kesejahteraan umum yang adil dalam masyarakat demokratik, tidak terkesan secara negatif oleh aktiviti Cik Sajat.”

Dalam komunikasi ini, kerajaan diminta untuk memberikan maklumat berikut:

  • Langkah-langkah yang telah diambil untuk menjamin hak Cik Nur Sajat terhadap kebebasan beragama atau kepercayaan tanpa diskriminasi dan gangguan oleh pelaku bukan negara dan pelaku negara.
  • Tindakan yang diambil oleh kerajaan untuk melindungi Cik Nur Sajat dan keluarganya daripada ugutan, gangguan atau tekanan lebih serius serta untuk memastikan keselamatan mereka.
  • Apakah tindakan yang dirancang atau dilaksanakan untuk memerangi pola hasutan terhadap keganasan yang semakin meningkat?

Permanent Mission of Malaysia pada 24 Mac 2021 telah menjawab komunikasi tersebut dengan menyatakan bahawa mereka telah “mengirimkan Permohonan Segera Bersama (JUA) untuk perhatian segera pihak berkuasa Malaysia yang relevan.”

Kesan yang meluas 

Sejak pendedahan Harian Metro, pelbagai pelaku negara telah mengambil peluang ini untuk mengenakan pelbagai kengkangan terhadap individu transgender dan LGBTQ, yang secara bertahap meningkat sejak pengenalan fatwa  pada tahun 1982 yang memberi kesan kepada hak individu trans ke atas penentuan nasib sendiri dan otonomi badan.

  • Jawatankuasa Fatwa Perlis mengeluarkan fatwa, bertajuk Hukum Berinteraksi Dengan Mukhannath (Pondan / Mak Nyah / Bapuk / Pengkid / Tomboi / Transgender) atau panduan interaksi dengan mukhannath (Pondan / Mak Nyah / Bapu / Pengkid / Tomboy / Transgender), yang menganggap individu transgender dan LGBQ secara umum sebagai fasik atau seseorang yang melanggar undang-undang Islam kerana identiti gender dan ekspresi gender serta anggapan orientasi seksual. Pandangan jawatankuasa berkenaan identiti gender, ekspresi gender dan orientasi seksual adalah tidak tepat, tidak berdasarkan bukti dan hak, dan yang paling penting ialah ianya sangat berbahaya. Antara perkara berbahaya dalam fatwa adalah larangan individu transgender daripada memasuki masjid dan menunaikan haji serta umrah oleh sebab identiti gender mereka.
  • YB Nik Abduh (MP Bachok, Kelantan) mencadangkan lebih banyak program pemulihan yang ditaja oleh kerajaan bagi individu LGBT di Parlimen pada 21 September 2021. Amalan pemulihan atau penukaran tidak berasaskan fakta dan ditolak secara meluas kerana kesan buruk yang berpanjangan terhadap bukan sahaja individu LGBTIQ tetapi juga individu dalam lingkungan mereka.

Hal ini menyusul jawapan Perdana Menteri di Parlimen, di mana beliau menyatakan bahawa kerajaan telah melancarkan pelbagai kegiatan untuk membimbing  golongan LGBT ‘kembali ke pangkal jalan’.

Sentimen anti-LGBT yang berterusan dan meningkat di Malaysia adalah amat membimbangkan.

Kajian Suhakam berkenaan diskriminasi terhadap individu transgender di Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor mendapati bahawa 72 daripada 100 responden pernah terfikir untuk berhijrah ke negara-negara yang mempunyai perlindungan undang-undang yang lebih baik, pengiktirafan gender yang sah, persekitaran yang menerima mereka, antara lain. 54 responden mengatakan bahawa mereka tidak rasa selamat tinggal di Malaysia. Menurut Kementerian Dalam Negeri, antara 2017 dan 2018, lebih 50% orang yang meminta perlindungan politik di Australia dilaporkan adalah rakyat Malaysia. ‘LGBT’ dan diskriminasi atas dasar etnik dan agama adalah dua daripada empat sebab utama yang dikemukakan oleh pemohon Malaysia. Sebab-sebab lain termasuklah keganasan rumah tangga dan tekanan keluarga.

Kami mahu mengingatkan kerajaan bahawa dalam usaha Malaysia untuk mendapatkan kerusi di Majlis Hak Asasi Manusia, Malaysia telah membuat beberapa janji semasa sesi berjanji Majlis Hak Asasi Manusia pada 8 September 2021. Malaysia mengulangi komitmennya secara tegas untuk memajukan hak asasi manusia. Sejajar dengan ini, kerajaan Malaysia haruslah menghormati prinsip non-refoulement (larangan pemulangan semula pencari suaka ke negara asal di mana mereka rentan terhadap pencabulan hak asasi manusia) dan hak Nur Sajat untuk mencari suaka.

Kami meminta kerajaan dan masyarakat untuk menghentikan semua penyiasatan dan gangguan terhadap Nur Sajat, serta menghormati haknya untuk mencari suaka seperti yang dinyatakan dalam Perkara 14 Deklarasi Hak Asasi Manusia Sejagat. Ancaman dan risiko terhadap Nur Sajat kerana identiti gender adalah jelas. Selama bertahun-tahun, Nur Sajat telah mengalami pelbagai bentuk penganiayaan, termasuklah dibuli, penyebaran maklumat peribadi tanpa kebenaran (doxing), gangguan oleh pelaku negara dan bukan negara, yang semakin meningkat dari hari ke hari.

TAMAT/-

Disokong oleh 

  1. Justice for Sisters 
  2. Agora Society
  3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  4. Amnesty International Malaysia
  5. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) 
  6. Center for Independent Journalism
  7. Deaf LGBTIQ community 
  8. Diversity Malaysia
  9. EMPOWER Malaysia
  10. JEJAKA
  11. KRYSS Network 
  12. Legal Dignity
  13. PLUHO (People Like Us Hang Out!)
  14. North South Initiative
  15. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  16. Shh… Diam!
  17. Parti Sosialis Malaysia
  18. PELANGI Campaign
  19. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  20. Our Journey
  21. Transmen of Malaysia
  22. Tenaganita
  23. The KLSCAH Women Division
  24. UMANY
  25. Women’s Center for Change (WCC)

Lampiran 1: Ringkasan aktiviti oleh kerajaan berkaitan dengan isu-isu LGBT seperti yang dinyatakan di Parlimen pada 14 September 2021 oleh Ismail Sabri, Perdana Menteri

  • Pelan Tindakan Sosial Islam, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (PTSI JAKIM) 2019-2025 atau Action Plan on Social aspects of Islam, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (PTSI JAKIM) 2019-2025 dibangunkan untuk menangani masalah sosial di kalangan umat Islam di Malaysia, termasuk isu-isu LGBT. Pelan tindakan telah membawa kepada pembentukan pasukan petugas yang terdiri dari beberapa kementerian dan agensi yang bekerjasama untuk menangani masalah LGBT
  • Program sokongan dan bimbingan. Ini termasuk
  • Mukhayaam atau kem agama, yang bertujuan untuk memberikan “bimbingan rohani dan kesedaran” dan maklumat kesihatan, terutama maklumat berkaitan dengan HIV kepada orang LGBT. Sehingga Jun 2021, sekurang-kurangnya 1,733 orang LGBT telah menyertai kem ini. Hasil dari kem tersebut, 12 NGO komuniti Hijrah atau bekas NGO LGBT yang terdiri daripada orang LGBT Muslim telah ditubuhkan.
  • Menyusuli dan menyokong program melalui sesi atau kelas keagamaan dan dana benih untuk perniagaan oleh jabatan dan majlis Islam negeri, antara lain.
  • Program pendidikan dan advokasi berkaitan dengan isu LGBT, yang merangkumi seminar yang mensasarkan pelajar sekolah dan universiti, kaunselor sekolah, ibu bapa, sukarelawan dan wakil NGO Islam, penyedia kesihatan. Seminar ini memberikan maklumat berkaitan dengan bagaimana menjauhkan diri dari tingkah laku LGBT, bagaimana untuk membantu seseorang untuk meninggalkan tingkah laku LGBT mereka, antara lain. Pada 4 September 2021, Persidangan Pra-Bengkel untuk Kem Agama Nusantara dengan komuniti LGBT dari Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand dan Singapura diadakan.
  • Sumbangan melalui Dana Musa’adah untuk orang LGBT. 525 peserta Mukhayyam mendapat manfaat melalui dana tersebut.
  • Penubuhan pusat sosial. Pusat Khidmat Keluarga dan Sosial Komuniti (PKKSK)  atau Family and social community service center di bawah JAKIM menyediakan kaunseling syariah, terapi psikospiritual Islam dan Ilaj syarie (rawatan Islam). Perkhidmatan ini tersedia di seluruh negara
  • Pembangunan penerbitan oleh JAKIM, yang merangkumi modul Ilaj Wa Syifa (Rawatan dan Pemulihan).

The continuous persecution of Nur Sajat underscores growing extremism in Malaysia

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. 

ENDS/-

Endorsed by 

  1. Justice for Sisters 
  2. Agora Society
  3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  4. Amnesty International Malaysia
  5. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) 
  6. Center for Independent Journalism
  7. Deaf LGBTIQ community 
  8. Diversity Malaysia
  9. EMPOWER Malaysia
  10. JEJAKA
  11. KRYSS Network 
  12. Legal Dignity
  13. PLUHO (People Like Us Hang Out!)
  14. North South Initiative
  15. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  16. Shh… Diam!
  17. Parti Sosialis Malaysia
  18. PELANGI Campaign
  19. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  20. Our Journey
  21. Transmen of Malaysia
  22. Tenaganita
  23. The KLSCAH Women Division
  24. UMANY
  25. 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

Section 9. Deriding etc., verses of Al-Quran or Hadith.

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 .

Section 10. Insulting or bringing into contempt, etc., the religion of Islam.

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.

Penal Code

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.

MEMORANDUM: Anti-LGBT amendments by the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) have wide-ranging impact on all persons in Malaysia

We, the undersigned human rights groups, are deeply concerned over the statement by Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs), following a special task force meeting to address LGBT issues facilitated by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM). The meeting was attended by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Home Ministry, Malaysian Multimedia and Communications Commission (MCMC), and Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM). 

In the statement, the Deputy Minister stated that the task force will: 

  1. Identify problems and constraints faced by authorities in implementing integrated enforcement;
  2. Propose amendments to the Syariah Criminal Procedure (Federal Territories) Act 1997 (Act 560) and the state Syariah Procedure Enactments to allow enforcers to act against Muslim persons who insult Islam and commit Syariah offences by using network facilities, services and applications; and
  3. Develop a comprehensive Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or guideline on procedures to deal with offences in relation to insult of religion and promotion of LGBT lifestyle. 

This memorandum outlines both the concerns with the proposed amendments as well as the problematic and arbitrary methodology used for implementation, the impact on LGBTIQ persons and businesses, the infringement and violation of multiple rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution and international human rights standards, and how they contribute to religious extremism in Malaysia. 

Given the magnitude of harm of the proposed amendments on all persons, the state must cease all plans to move ahead with the amendments. 

Moreover, we are also concerned that prevailing anti-LGBT sentiments by the authorities will be used as a pretext to push through these amendments and bypass responsible law making processes. The State has a duty to explain the full extent and impact of the proposed amendments on all persons before proposing and tabling such amendments. Members of Parliament must call for a cost-benefit analysis and a human rights assessment of the proposed amendments, and insist on public consultations to fully explain the extent of the proposed amendments if the legislature were to proceed with the tabling of the proposed amendments when Parliament reopens.

At a time when Malaysia should be focused on the post-pandemic recovery process, it’s decision makers must focus on legislative amendments that serve and benefit everyone, without further marginalising communities that are already vulnerable.

Proposed amendments on state Syariah Procedure Act and Enactments violate Federal Constitution 

The proposed amendments come after the Federal Court decision on the Selangor state’s competency to enact Section 28 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment, which criminalises sex against the order of nature. In the case, the Federal Court stated: 

  • [74] It is quite clear… Articles 74(3), 75 and 77 (state) that the primary power of legislation in criminal law resides in Parliament. 
  • This is further borne out by the State List in terms of the powers of the State Legislatures to enact criminal laws, namely that the powers are subjected to the preclusion clause in item 1 of the State List and item 9 of the State List.       
  • [81] … it can be postulated that having regard to the preclusion clause in item 1 of the State List, when the two Legislatures (Federal and State) legislate a law concerning the subject-matter of criminal law, and the two laws touch on the same matter, the said laws cannot co-exist even if the said law is said to be against the precepts of Islam.       
  • [87] As suggested during the hearing of this petition and by way of example: corruption and corrupt practices, rape, theft, robbery, homicide (including murder and culpable homicide) are all offences against the dictates, injunctions and precepts of Islam. The existence of the preclusion clause however serves to restrict the States from making laws on these subjects which, as rightly conceded by the respondents, remain within the domain of Parliament to regulate and enact within the general design curated by our Federal Constitution.

Many of the provisions in the state Syariah Criminal Offences Act and Enactments are currently inconsistent with Article 74, 75 and 77 of the Federal Constitution as stated in the Federal Court decision. 

The proposed amendments to the Procedure Act (Act 560) and Enactments will give effect to the state Syariah Criminal Offences Act and Enactments to be expanded to the online sphere. This means that all provisions in the state Syariah Criminal Act and Enactments, such as religious publication deemed against Islamic law–insults against Islam, opinions contrary to fatwas, prostitution, gambling, acts prepatory to sexual intercourse–could be applied in the online space. Consequently, the state Islamic officers are empowered not only to police the online behaviour of Muslim persons, but also to arrest Muslim persons for commiting the above-mentioned offences. 

According to a briefing paper on blasphemy provisions in Malaysian law by Article 19, the following acts have been used to censor and punish expressions in relation to blasphemy/religion online and offline: 

  • Sections 298 and 298A(1) of the Penal Code penalise the insult of any religion; 
  • Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) prohibits, among others, improper use of network facilities or network services; and
  • Sections 3(1) and 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948; 
  • Section 7(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA).

In a report by Article 19 and Civicus, at least nine cases of alleged insults to religion were documented, eight of which were in relation to alleged insults to Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. The cases were investigated under Section 233 of the CMA and Section 298A of the Penal Code.

Article 19 has called for Section 298 and 298A(1) of the Penal Code, the Sedition Act and the PPPA to be repealed and Section 233 to be reformed because these provisions are both inconsistent with international human rights standards, are arbitrary and open to abuse. 

By expanding Act 560 and other state enactments to the online sphere, Muslim persons will be subjected to additional policing and prosecution for the same ‘offence’ under Syariah and civil laws. This violates the rights of Muslim persons to equality before the law as guaranteed under Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution. 

As such, the logical course of action for the Deputy Minister and state agencies would have been to review the compatibility of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act and Enactments with the Federal Constitution and international human rights standards, instead of proposing amendments that conversely fuel more discrimination and violence against the LGBTIQ community and violate the Federal Constitution. 

Arbitrary use of insulting Islam and other provisions 

Based on monitoring of reported cases of alleged insult to Islam, the State has consistently applied an expansive and broad interpretation in identifying what it deems an insult to Islam. Provisions like ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘encouraging vice’ under the state Syariah laws are used arbitrarily and expansively by state Islamic departments against LGBTIQ persons. In Sajat’s case, she was charged for insulting Islam because of gender identity and gender expression, in particular for wearing an abaya at a charity event that she organized for a tahfiz (Islamic) school. Meanwhile, ‘encouraging vice’ has been used against event organisers for organising events for or attended by trans women, restricting the freedom of expression and assembly for both the organisers and attendees. 

These prosecutions reinforce and expand the criminalisation of LGBTQ persons. These cases result in multiple human rights violations, particularly that of freedom of religion and belief, freedom of expression, equality and non-discrimination, right to privacy, right to live with equal dignity and access to economic opportunities, among others. 

Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental right enjoyed by everyone, including LGBTIQ persons. LGBTIQ persons also rightfully believe that they are created in the image of their Creators and are fully accepted for who they are. There are many LGBTIQ persons who are devoted believers of religion. Many are respected imams, pastors and religious leaders who contribute to the ideals of inclusion, non-discrimination and equality within religion and in other spaces. 

Impact of proposed amendments on LGBTIQ persons 

The proposed amendments, which seek to expand the understanding of an ‘insult to Islam’ to include the promotion of a so-called LGBT lifestyle on social media, have been persistently advanced by PAS since 2018. The amendments violate multiple human rights, including: 

  • Freedom of expression and assembly as guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR);
  • Right to privacy, dignity, to be free from violence, and access to justice; 
  • Equality and non-discrimination; and 
  • Freedom of religion and belief. 

The state must correct the misconception that “LGBT people are promoting their ‘lifestyle’ on social media”. What the state deems as ‘lifestyle’ is our very existence as human beings. As human beings, we are entitled to determine who we are and express ourselves accordingly. 

There is overwhelming evidence that affirms the diversity of human gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics and sexual orientation. This diversity is a natural occurrence in life, and it is not an anomaly, deviance, sin or mental illness. Any actions taken to suppress or correct sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics is a form of violence and can amount to torture. 

Similar to a cisgender heterosexual person—who is free to share social media posts about themselves, their relationship, children or cats; and to participate in social media actions to promote human rights—a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer, non-binary person and others across the gender identity and sexual orientation spectrum can also express the same things, as all persons have equal rights to fundamental liberties. It is a double standard to restrict and penalise LGBTQ persons for posting on and participating in social media because of sexual orientation and gender identity. The state must recognise its role in perpetuating this double standard, and address the inequalities and harms caused by it.  

We also wish to clarify that Pride is a global reminder of progress and struggles that LGBTIQ persons have experienced and are still experiencing as a result of discrimination. It is a celebration of equal dignity, the right to self-determination and life, freedom of expression and assembly, which are all guaranteed under Articles 5, 8 and 10 of the Federal Constitution, respectively. LGBTIQ persons in Malaysia especially are deprived of their right to live with dignity because of criminalisation, marginalisation and other forms discrimination that we experience daily. Pride is a reminder to every LGBTIQ person in Malaysia to live with pride, and the progress that we can achieve in doing so.

Chilling effect on rights and opportunities for all persons 

The impact of the proposed amendments goes beyond Muslim persons. These are some of the broader impacts on all persons, specifically LGBTIQ persons regardless of religion: 

LGBTIQ persons already lack access to justice because of criminalisation and the multiple forms of discrimination that they face. The Monitoring Report: LGBTIQ+ Rights in Malaysia documents the challenges faced by Muslim queer women in reporting cases of violence by family members due to fear of prosecution under state Syariah laws. As a result, the women were subjected to forced marriages by their family members. These proposed amendments are concerning as they will further restrict access to justice and isolate LGBTIQ persons. 

The current administration must assess the broader impact of these amendments especially in relation to religious extremism. Malaysia has seen a rise in religious extremism over the past few years, and these proposed amendments may provide leeway for anti-rights and anti-LGBT groups to act with impunity. The current administration’s extreme position on LGBTQ persons reflects poorly on Islam, which in reality acknowledges diversity of gender, sex and sexual orientation. 

  • Loss of economic opportunities & economic marginalization of LGBTIQ persons. The social media space also serves as a space for LGBTIQ persons to circumvent employment discrimination and create economic opportunities for themselves and others, as acknowledged by Datuk Zahidi bin Zainul Abidin, the Deputy Minister of Communication, in a Parliament response on 3 August 2020. Many LGBTIQ businesses employ people from economically marginalised communities, including people living with HIV, single mothers, and other LGBTIQ persons, to uplift them. 

Over the last few years, trans women business owners have been suffering major losses as a result of boycott campaigns, increasing anti-LGBT sentiments, and state prosecution. The proposed amendments will have a negative economic impact on LGBTIQ businesses online and shrink spaces for them to seek economic opportunities. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, where economic stress, mental health and domestic violence are on a rise, it is extremely irresponsible for the current administration to propose these amendments. 

  • Increased hostility and threats against human rights defenders. Over the years, many human rights defenders, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, have been reported to the police and the state Islamic Departments for being associated with LGBTIQ activism or affirming the human rights of LGBTIQ persons.The state has also taken heavy handed actions against human rights defenders for promoting inclusion of LGBTIQ persons and questioning state policies and activities in relation to LGBTIQ persons. Case in point, the organizers of the Women’s March were investigated under the Sedition Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act because of the visibility and presence of LGBTIQ persons. 

These amendments raise many concerns in relation to human rights defenders’ ability to carry out their human rights work, as inclusion of LGBTIQ persons or efforts to hold the state accountable could be deemed as acts against the law. We are concerned that the increasing hostile environment against LGBTQ persons will legitimize use of other laws and punitive measures against human rights defenders. 

In conclusion, we reiterate our call for:

  1. The Prime Minister’s Department to drop the proposed amendments given the adverse impacts on all Muslim persons and LGBTIQ persons in Malaysia. 
  2. Suhakam to carry out a study on the compatibility of the state Syariah Criminal Offences Act and Enactments with the rights protected under the Federal Constitution and international human rights standards set by the United Nations, as articulated in international instruments and conventions. 
  3. Members of Parliament (MP) to call for a cost-benefit analysis and a human rights assessment of the proposed amendments if they are tabled when Parliament reopens. Further, MPs should also call on public consultations to fully explain the extent of the proposed amendments. 

Endorsed by:

  1. Justice for Sisters 
  2. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  3. Amnesty International Malaysia
  4. Association of Women Lawyers
  5. Beyond Borders Malaysia
  6. Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) 
  7. Community Women & Workers Network (CWWN)
  8. JEJAKA
  9. Freedom Film Network
  10. KRYSS Network
  11. Legal Dignity
  12. Lingkaran Islam Tradisional (LIT)
  13. PELANGI Campaign
  14. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (Friends of Women Organisation, Selangor)
  15. PLUHO, People Like Us Hang Out!
  16. The KLSCAH Women Division
  17. Sarawak Women for Women Society
  18. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  19. UMANY