Leven Woon | October 18, 2012
Some 21 local and regional rights groups have hit out at the Seremban High Court verdict last week.
PETALING JAYA: A Seremban High Court’s verdict last week against four Muslim transgenders dressing up in women’s clothes has drawn flak from local and regional rights groups.
In a joint statement endorsed by 21 NGOs, including Indonesia’s Arus Pelangi, Cambodia’s League for Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, the Philippines’ Gender and Development Advocates, Burma’s Human Rights Education Institute and Thailand’s Anjaree Lesbian Group, they described the court’s decision as “regressive”.
“We believe as fellow citizens, irrespective of race or religion, transgender people are equally entitled to all the constitutional rights that are enjoyed by other Malaysians.
“We believe the judge’s ruling is a regressive step and adversely affects the human rights of all Malaysians,” they said.
The statement was also supported by local Islamic Renaissance Front, Malaysia Civil Liberties Movement, Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (Komas), Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas), Tenaganita, Seksualiti Merdeka and others.
The groups said they were “distraught and disheartened” with the verdict of Justice Siti Mariah Ahmad who held that Section 66 of the Syariah Criminal (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment 1992, excludes the transgender fundamental liberties under the constitution.
“We are saddened to hear that the court has ruled in favour of the state and its officials, thus condoning discrimination and violence on grounds of gender identity,” they said.
The rights advocates also said that the court had failed to consider the medical evidences, such as the fact that the four transgenders had been diagnosed with “Gender Identity Disorder”.
Citing a statement by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), they said medical experts agreed that laws and policies that discriminate people with “Gender Identity Disorder” or a similar term “Gender Dysphoria” should be repealed.
They said transgender people were often subjected to various forms of violence, stigma and discrimination, such as name calling, bullying, or in some cases families disown them.
“Portrayal of transgender people as deviants and threat to public morality in the mainstream media too contributes to the stigma, discrimination and violence that are faced by the transgender community,” they added.
Last week, the Seremban High Court delivered a blow to the four who filed a judicial review seeking to declare Section 66 of Syariah law as ultra vires with fundamental liberties guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.
Siti Mariah had said the four Muslim transgenders are subjected to Syariah law and hence the Federal Constitution should be exempted under this case.
On Monday, NGO Sisters In Islam had called for a comprehensive review on Syariah criminal law.