Malaysia’s transgender lose court battle over dress.

Alisha Hassan | 11 October 2012 | Comments (0)

KUALA LUMPUR: Anger, frustration. Cheers and praise. The two different reactions here in Malaysia on Thursday as a court upheld a ban on Muslim men wearing women’s clothes. A group of transgender Malaysian activists had pressured for the removal of the dress codes in the country in an effort to push freedom of expression.

But the court dismissed an attempt by a group of transsexuals to challenge a law that bars Muslim men from wearing women’s clothes.

“This is yet another dark day for the Malaysia gay and transgender community,” activist Monim Atef Aziz told after the court refused to hear the case.

The High Court in Seremban rejected a bid by four Muslim transsexuals who were born male to declare the Shariah law unconstitutional.

The group of transgender activists were arguing that the country’s constitution is responsible for upholding freedom of expression and forbid discrimination based on gender.

The court said that the law cannot go over Shariah law, or Islamic law.

Malaysia has a population of around 30 million people, of which around two-thirds are Muslim.

The four transgender citizens, who are in their 20s and work as bridal makeup assistants, local reports said, were “disappointed and distraught” following the verdict, said their lawyer, Aston Paiva.

It was the latest setback for the Malaysian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, who in recent months has been forced to face government attempts to curtail what officials have called a “disease.”

Earlier this month, the ministry of education created a new seminar to enable school counselors to be “the frontlines to curb the spread of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) phenomenon among students,” Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi.

In order to create more action against the LGBt community, he said “the counselors should have the knowledge and understand the LGBT symptoms to advise students involved.

“These counseling teachers, if they have the skill, understand the phenomenon can help to motivate, instil awareness among students and bring them back to the right path,” he told a press conference after opening a seminar to help parents “deal with LGBT.”

Zarkashi added that the responsibility “to contain the LGBT symptom should not be burdened on certain parties only, but had to involve all quarters.”

Last month, the government held a seminar in order to “educate” parents to notice LGBT “symptoms” as they continue to push against the community.

The Teachers Foundation of Malaysia has organized 10 seminars in the country to assist teachers and parents in spotting the signs of homosexuality in their children and students.

According to one handout delivered to participants, signs of homosexuality in boys may include “preferences for tight, light colored clothes and large handbags,” local media reported.

Last month, Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom said that same-sex marriages would “erode the family institution” and called on Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds to protest against gay rights in the country.

It was the latest attack on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the country.

He was commenting on the recent wedding reception of Malaysian gay Christian pastor Ngeo Boon Lin and his musical producer husband, American Phineas Newborn III, who were married in New York last year.

The minister said that even the Christians in the country prohibited such practices.

“The reception portrayed Malaysian society as confused. It’s clear their motive was to fight for gay rights,” he said.

For the country’s lesbian and gay population, the struggle for rights is an uphill battle. With the country’s legal code based largely on the British system that was implemented last century during its occupation of Malaysia, and coupled with the growing power of Islamic clerics, creating openness and dialogue is often difficult.

But couples like Rina and Youssra are beginning to see changes in everyday perception towards their relationship.

“First it was our friends who were a little taken aback by our getting together, but they came around,” continued Rina. “Now we can go to a number of clubs in KL and elsewhere, spend time on the beach and not be bothered, because we see that once people learn about us and see us, it is different.”

Much to the continued frustration of the community, the government continued its anti-gay strategy on last Tuesday, arguing that the country’s constitution does not give LGBT rights.

Deputy Minister Mashitah Ibrahim told the Dewan Rakyat that the federal constitution does not protect gay rights in the country.

Mashitah said that Article 8 of the constitution, which talks about equality, has never been interpreted to mean sexual preference and only applies to gender.

“Article 8 of the Federal Constitution says there must be no discrimination of citizens in terms of religion or sex. ‘Sex’ has never been interpreted to mean sexual orientation; it has always been interpreted to mean either male or female, and they are [the only ones] protected by the constitution,” said Ibrahim.

Clause 1 of Article 8 states that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”. Clause 2 states that “there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender.”

She said this in reply to a supplementary question from Ngeh Khoo Ham (DAP-Beruas) during question time this morning.

Ngeh had asked whether it was right for the government to respond to the LGBT issue based on religious doctrine.

The deputy minister had earlier said that the government is serious in tackling the issue of LGBT as it went against the constitution of the country, which states that Islam is the official federal religion.

She said that through the many government initiatives, including rehabilitation and other programs, “many have returned to the path,” an idea that has LGBT activists angered.

“We see that LGBT happens following what is happening in Europe. It is not only individual but a movement. They are being mobilized to come out, as if they have been oppressed, on the excuse that their human rights have been taken away,” she added.

The LGBT community in Malaysia has repeatedly told that they fear for their safety often after repeated government attempts to curtail their basic rights.

One activist and lesbian told recently that “while society is becoming more tolerant to gay people, the government is doing the opposite.”



2 thoughts on “Malaysia’s transgender lose court battle over dress.

  1. says:

    “Malaysia’s transgender lose court battle over dress.
    | justiceforsisters” Automatic Blinds was in fact quite compelling and enlightening!

    In todays world honestly, that is quite hard to deliver.

    Thank you, Rosario

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