Open letter: Education institutions must be safe spaces for all students

YBhg. Dato’ Sri Alias Bin Haji Ahmad – Secretary-General, Ministry of Education Malaysia

YBhg. Dato’ Suriani bt Dato’ Ahmad – Secretary-General, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development

Tan Sri Razali Ismail –  Chairperson, SUHAKAM

Datuk Paul Low – Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department

We, the undersigned, strongly object the ‘Back to the Fitrah: Menyantuni LGBT Kembali ke Jalan Allah’ forum slated to take place on 24th March 2018 in University of Science Malaysia (USM) featuring two panelists, and the overall trend of increasing anti-LGBT programmes in educational institutions. In March earlier this year, USM also released a poster and short video competition inviting submissions on ‘menyantuni golongan LGBT’ (evangelizing with the intention to change one’s sexual orientation and gender identity) open to students of USM and the general public .

We are extremely concerned by the overall harmful impact of such programmes, which aim to change one’s sexual orientation and gender identity using a dakwah (missionary) approach. Despite claims of ‘menyantuni’ or ‘politely approaching’ LGBT persons, many documented cases have shown that such attempts resulted in an invasion of privacy, increase of lack of personal security and safety, increase of targeting and harassment of persons based on gender expression and actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, increase of isolation, all of which can have severe long term impact on the students academic performance, health and well-being.

Conversion, reparative or rehabilitation and efforts to change sexual orientation and gender identity have been rejected by all major national mental health organizations due to the lack of evidence that support the efficacy of these efforts or therapies, and its harmful impact. There are many forms of rehabilitation, reparative or conversion therapy, including medical and religious methods, all of which are harmful. In fact, a few countries, including Malta and parts of Canada have introduced laws to ban conversion therapy given the harm it has caused not only on LGBTIQ persons, but also the people around them.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health,  Dainius Pūras, during his country visit to Malaysia between November and December 2014 expressed concerns over the “so-called “corrective therapies” practiced by state agencies.

“Such therapies are not only unacceptable from a human rights perspective, but they are also against scientific evidence, and have a serious negative impact on the mental health and well-being of adolescents. State-led programs to identify, “expose”, and punish LGBT children have contributed to a detrimental educational environment where the inherent dignity of the child is not respected, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is encouraged.”

It is therefore extremely disconcerting to witness the University’s continued endorsement of these programmes given the glaring harm on LGBTI persons. USM also organised a similar panel in March 2016. On both occasions, panelists comprised  individuals that promote the very harmful view that LGBT persons can be ‘cured’ through rehabilitation, reparative and conversion therapy. Such biased programmes are part of a rising trend in educational institutions, where anti-LGBT campaigns, harmful information that reinforce the ‘balik ke pangkal jalan’ or ‘return to the right path’ rhetoric, and rehabilitation, reparative and conversion therapy for LGBT persons are disseminated and promoted.

Such programmes create a toxic and unsafe environment for all students and staff, LGBTI and gender diverse persons in particular, and run counter to the aim of such institutions that are supposed to provide an open learning environment for all. We believe programmes like this will perpetuate toxic masculinity which enables, justifies and perpetuates the mistreatment, bullying and discrimination of LGBTI persons with impunity.

Research and recent cases reported in the media show educational institutions are unfortunately a site of violence for many students, especially for LGBTI and gender diverse persons. On the record: violence against LBT persons in Malaysia and I am scared to be a Woman, two reports on the violence and situation of LBT persons document cases of expulsion; drop out due to bullying; lack of interest to attend school because of a lack of freedom to express and be themselves compounded by non inclusive and discriminatory school policies and practices; sexual harassment and violence; physical, verbal and emotional violence; isolation among others.

“I quit school at age 11 because people around me were always bullying me. I was stressed. I felt like I was going to explode.”

– Azlene, a trans woman in Kuantan recalls her experiences in school in the mid 90s, I am scared to be a woman

“We met in May 2000 … we were talking on the phone everyday. My friends from my school knew about it because when they attend events, they could see it, right. And then they started asking, ‘What’s going on? Are you going out with this girl? Are you dating this girl? What’s going on?’ … ‘Like, you do know that it is wrong, right? It is against the religion.’ And these were not just Muslim people telling me, because I have a fair bit of friends of different religions and races and beliefs, and they all said the same thing. ‘Stacy, it is wrong. What the hell is wrong with you?”

– Stacy, a bisexual woman recalls an intervention by her school friends based on an assumption that she is in a ‘lesbian relationship’. Stacy also experienced isolation as a result. On the record: violence against LBT persons

The brutal assault and torture that led to the death of a 19 year old young person in Penang by schoolmates who used to bully him in school based his gender expression and perceived sexual orientation and gender identity is an alarm bell that rings loud and clear, and serious efforts must be taken to create a diverse and inclusive society and end bullying based on gender.

Just two weeks ago, the CEDAW committee in its Concluding Observations to Malaysia recalled General Recommendation No. 36 (2017) on the right of girls and women to education and recommended that Malaysia:

36. (e) Adopts anti-bullying policies based on alternative strategies to address bullying, such as counselling services and positive discipline, and undertake awareness-raising measures to foster equal rights for LBTI students.

Many good practices on actual inclusion of LGBTI and gender diverse persons in all levels of education are available. The From Insults to Inclusion report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) offers many tools, good practices and recommendations to create an inclusive environment in educational institutions. The report makes 6 recommendations:

  1. Analyse the situation
  2. Develop a policy framework that supports inclusion
  3. Mainstream diversity and inclusion in curricula and learning materials
  4. Support teachers to deliver inclusive education and effective responses to bullying, violence and discrimination
  5. Promote safe and inclusive school cultures and environments. This includes fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion and respect; identifying hotspots for bullying; links to counselling, health, or other support services are made available in ways that respect students’ right to privacy and confidentiality.
  6. Build a stronger evidence base on what works

We believe in the right to self-determination and bodily autonomy, and people should be free to express themselves and be who they are, without it affecting their access, opportunities and right to an education. We call on and strongly urge the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and SUHAKAM to assess the harm and impact of these programmes; promote diversity, inclusion and respect; and immediately end all anti-LGBT activities and rhetoric.

Ends/-

Endorsed by

Groups

  1. Justice for Sisters
  2. PELANGI — Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative
  3. Transmen of Malaysia
  4. Queer Academics, Students and Supporters Alliance (QUASSA)
  5. Sisters in Islam
  6. Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)
  7. Diversity
  8. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
  9. Celebrating Identities
  10. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita

Individuals

  1. Suri Kempe, feminist activist
  2. Manis Chen, trans woman, activist
  3. Vizla Kumaresan, Clinical Psychologist and feminist activist
  4. Teoh Han Hui, feminist and digital activist
  5. Timothy Philipp Gan, academic and social activist
  6. Dorian Wilde, feminist activist
  7. thilaga, feminist researcher and activist
  8. Dr Subatra Jayaraj, Sexual & Reproductive Health and feminist activist
  9. Mohani Niza,  editor
  10. Siti Kasim, human rights lawyer and activist
  11. Jac sm Kee, feminist activist
  12. Dr Joseph N. Goh, academic
  13. Jeremy Kwan, social activist

 

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Siasat Keganasan Terhadap Peserta Perarakan Hari Wanita dan Hentikan Segala Bentuk Keganasan Berunsur anti-LGBT, identiti gender dan ekspresi gender

Justice for Sisters mengutuk sekeras-kerasnya serangan dan gangguan yang dilakukan oleh beberapa individu terhadap beberapa sukarelawan Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) selepas Women’s March Malaysia atau Perarakan Wanita Malaysia pada 10 Mac 2018 kerana dianggap sebagai penyokong LGBT. Kejadian tersebut berlaku di hadapan Balai Polis Dang Wangi.

Serangan ini merupakan satu lagi petanda bahawa trend perilaku intimidasi, diskriminasi serta keganasan terhadap atau atas andaian orientasi seksual, identiti gender, penglibatan dengan LGBT, liberalisme dan hak asasi manusia di Malaysia kian menular. Insiden-insiden juga jelas menunjukkan impunity (kekebalan) atau perlindungan yang dinikmati individu dan kumpulan anti-LGBT selain sikap tidak peduli terhadap kesan tindakan keganasan mereka.

Hal ini jelas dalam video terbitan kumpulan itu sendiri yang mereka terbitkan di media sosial. Jelas kelihatan kumpulan tersebut berasa tindakan intimidasi serta serangan secara lisan dan fizikal berdasarkan andaian tentang penglibatan orang awam dengan golongan LGBT, liberalisme dan idea lain adalah tindakan wajar dan akan mendapat perlindungan pihak berkuasa.

Penting untuk ditekankan, kejadian tempoh hari berlatarbelakangkan suasana di mana berlaku peningkatan aktiviti, ungkapan, tindakan mengkambinghitam, menakut-nakutkan serta retorik anti- LGBT yang disokong oleh kerajaan. Selain itu, hak asasi manusia, feminisme, dan semua yang dianggap sebagai ‘liberal dan pluralistik’ juga ditentang hebat. Kejadian baru-baru ini menunjukkan kumpulan pelaku menyahut pandangan kerajaan berkenaan liberalisme, pluralisme serta LGBT, dan bertindak menggunakan keganasan lantas mengancam keselamatan awam.

Hakikat bahawa kumpulan pelaku tersebut berani menyerang orang awam di hadapan sebuah balai polis sambil merakam serangan mereka dan kemudian menerbit video tersebut di media sosial satu petanda serius impunity, kebebasan dan keyakinan yang dirasai golongan ini dalam tindakan anti-LGBT, homofobia, transfobia, diskriminasi, intimidasi dan keganasan di Malaysia.

Sememangnya, terdapat peningkatan kumpulan anti-LGBT di Malaysia. Pada tahun 2012 dan 2013, sekumpulan samseng di Pahang, menyerang lebih 13 wanita transgender atau mak nyah dengan rantai besi, topi keledar dan batang besi dalam sebuah siri jenayah kebencian yang mengakibatkan kecederaan serius kepada wanita-wanita transgender berkenaan. Berdasarkan laporan media dan laporan Human Rights Watch “I am scared to be a woman,”seorang wanita telah ‘dipukul sehingga koma’ dan ada yang menerima 18 hingga 78 jahitan akibat serangan tersebut. Pada tahun 2018, Skuad Badar Sungai Petani muncul di platform media sosial, mengeluarkan ancaman untuk menangkap mak nyah dan mencukur kepala mereka. Kami juga mendapat maklumat bahawa kumpulan ini telah menggangu, menangkap dan menyerang wanita transgender di komuniti tersebut. Tambah lagi, wanita transgender yang ditangkap dicukurkan kepala mereka.

Kesemua ini adalah bentuk intimidasi dan ugutan serius yang mewujudkan rasa ketakutan dan kebimbangan terutamanya dalam kalangan golongan terpinggir.

Di samping itu, Justice for Sisters dan organisasi lain di Malaysia juga telah mendokumentasi sekurang-kurangnya 12 kes pecah masuk dan kemusnahan harta benda oleh pengganas dan pelaku yang tidak dikenalpasti di kawasan kediaman mangsa; serangan fizikal, penghinaan dan ugutan penyeksaan oleh kumpulan ‘vigilante’ yang seringkali menggunakan nama ‘Pengawal Keamanan’ atau kumpulan “Pengawal Rukun Tetangga” pada tahun 2017 dan 2018.

Pada tahun 2017 dan 2018 berlaku pelbagai gangguan terhadap sekutu LGBTIQ dan pembela hak asasi manusia yang menyokong golongan LGBT secara terbuka. Hal ini termasuklah aduan kepada agensi kerajaan atas tindakan like paparan pro-LGBT di laman media sosial, dituduh dan didakwa menghalang tugas pihak berkuasa semasa serbuan dijalankan; diejek dengan panggilan hinaan; ancaman fizikal dan seksual, dan lain-lain.

Kami menggesa orang ramai menolak keganasan terhadap peserta Women’s March Malaysia dan terus belajar dan mendidik antara satu sama lain mengenai gender, seksualiti dan kepelbagaian dalam masyarakat majmuk Malaysia. Dalam mendukung semangat Perarakan Wanita di Malaysia tempoh hari, kita mesti terus memperkasa dan menerima golongan terpinggir dalam masyarakat sebagai lambang kepelbagaian dan perpaduan.

Kami menggesa pihak polis, Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia (SKMM) dan Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia (SUHAKAM) untuk menyiasat serangan ini dengan segera supaya keganasan seperti ini tidak dinormalisasikan di Malaysia. Ia adalah pencabulan hak asasi manusia yang serius, termasuk hak untuk hidup, hak kebebasan dan hak keamanan. Trend peningkatan keganasan ini mesti ditangani dengan rundingan dan kerjasama daripada kumpulan hak asasi manusia LGBT.

Kami juga menggesa UMNO untuk menyiasat perkara ini memandangkan hubungan kumpulan pelaku dengan parti politik tersebut. Menjelang pilihan raya akan datang, kami menggesa parti politik henti mempergunakan isu dan golongan LGBT untuk memenangi undi. Golongan LGBT juga adalah pengundi, dan kami menggesa parti-parti politik untuk menumpukan perhatian terhadap diskriminasi, keganasan, peminggiran yang dihadapi oleh rakyat, dan mencadangkan penyelesaian yang bermakna untuk menangani isu-isu mereka.

Kami menggesa agar kerajaan dengan segera menghentikan semua bentuk kegiatan anti-LGBT, termasuklah retorik dan ucapan, kerana kita sudah menyaksikan kesan negatif dan memudaratkan kepada bukan sahaja terhadap individu LGBT malah semua yang disyaki orientasi seksual, identiti gender, eskpresi gender, ciri-ciri seks dan penglibatan mereka dengan individu atau isu LGBTIQ.

Aktiviti anti-LGBT yang disokong atau dibiayai oleh kerajaan harus dihentikan serta merta atas implikasi negatif dan kemudaratan yang teruk. Hal ini juga melanggar hak perlembagaan kami untuk hidup bebas daripada keganasan dan bermaruah.

HARI WANITA SEDUNIA 2018 #WanitaBangkit#WomensMarchMY (4)

Investigate attacks against Women’s March Malaysia participants & end all forms of anti-LGBT and gender based violence

Justice for Sisters strongly condemns the attacks and harassment of a few Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) volunteers by a few individuals for allegedly being LGBT supporters after the Women’s March on 10th March 2018. The incident took place in front of the Dang Wangi police station.

The attack is another indication of an alarming and escalating trend of intimidation, discrimination and violence based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, association with LGBT, liberalism, human rights, among others in Malaysia recently. They also clearly demonstrate the high level of impunity enjoyed by anti-LGBT groups and persons, and serious lack of sense of repercussion stemming from their acts of violence.

The attackers felt entirely protected and justified to verbally and physically intimidate and attack random persons in a public space based on a presumed association with LGBT persons, liberalism and other ideas. A self-produced video of the incident uploaded by the attackers provides very clear evidence of this belief and impunity.

Importantly, this is also happening against the backdrop of increasing state sponsored anti-LGBT activities, speech, scapegoating, fear-mongering and rhetoric as well as an increasing climate of repression towards human rights, feminism, and all things that are deemed ‘liberal and pluralistic’. This indicates that the attackers are reproducing and echoing the government’s position on liberalism, pluralism and LGBT, and are doing so in ways that are violent and threatening to the safety of everyday members of the public.

The fact that the attackers felt no fear of repercussion from carrying out the attacks in front of a police station and for sharing video documentation evidencing their attack on social media is a serious sign of the impunity that the people who carry out homophobic, transphobic and anti-LGBT discrimination, intimidation, and violence enjoy in Malaysia.

There is a rise of anti-LGBT vigilante groups in Malaysia. In 2012 and 2013, a group of gangsters in Pahang, physically assaulted over 13 trans women with steel chains, helmets and steel bars in a spate of attacks, resulting in serious injuries. Based on media reports and I am Scared to be a Woman, a report by Human Rights Watch, one woman being ‘beaten into a coma’ and some received 18 to 78 stitches as a result of the assault. In 2018, Skuad Badar Sungai Petani emerged on social media platforms, urging religious authorities to take action on trans women. We have also received information that this group has harassed, arrested and attacked the trans women in the community, including shaving the heads of trans women in their custody. These are serious forms of intimidation and torture, and create a sense of fear and terror especially in marginalized populations.

In addition, Justice for Sisters and other groups and individuals have also documented at least 12 cases of break ins and property destruction by persons in residential areas, strangers or unknown perpetrators; physical attacks, humiliation and torture by vigilante groups disguised as community policing or residential groups in 2017 and 2018.

In 2017 and 2018 also saw a range of harassment and violence towards LGBTIQ allies and human rights defenders for expressing support and solidarity publicly, from having complaints being to lodged to state agencies over social media posts, being prosecuted for providing legal support, being subjected to name calling, threats of physical and sexual violence among others

We call on members of the public to denounce the violence towards the Women’s March Malaysia participants, and continue to learn and educate each other on gender, sexuality, intersectionality and diversity among others. In the spirit of the Women’s March Malaysia, we must continue to make visible our diversity and solidarity, and empower and affirm the diverse communities that are marginalized and invisible.

We urge the police, the Multimedia Communications Commission (MCMC) and SUHAKAM to investigate this matter immediately, as these forms of violence cannot be normalized. These are serious forms of human rights violations, including the right to life, liberty and security.

We also call the UMNO to investigate this matter given the attackers’ alleged links to the political party. With the looming elections, we urge political parties stop scapegoating LGBT persons to win votes. LGBT persons are also voters, and we urge the political parties to focus on the discrimination, violence, marginalization faced by people, and propose actual solutions to address these issues, in consultation with LGBT human rights groups.

We urge for the government to immediately end all forms of anti-LGBT activities, rhetoric, speech, as we are already witnessing the harmful impact towards people, not limited to LGBT persons, based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics, or association with LGBTIQ persons. The state sponsored anti-LGBT measures are inherently harmful and violates our constitutional right to live free from violence, and with dignity.

Endorsed by

Groups

  1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  2. Biawak Gemok
  3. Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  4. EMPOWER
  5. Knowledge and Rights for Young People through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
  6. Pelangi Campaign
  7. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
  8. PLUHO, People Like Us, Hang Out!
  9. QUASSA
  10. SEED Malaysia
  11. Seksualiti Merdeka
  12. Shhdiam, queer band
  13. Sisters in Islam
  14. SUARAM Malaysia
  15. Tenaganita
  16. Transmen of Malaysia (TOM)

Individuals

  1. Azwan Ismail, feminist activist
  2. Chong Yee Shan, academic
  3. Ezrena Marwan, graphic designer
  4. Ineza Roussille, feminist activist
  5. Jac SM Kee, feminist activist
  6. lean, feminist activist
  7. Pang Khee Teik, SM co-founder
  8. Dr Subatra Jayaraj, feminist activist
  9. Suguna, secretary PSWS
  10. Suri Kempe, feminist activist
  11. thilaga, feminist activist
  12. Timothy Philipp Gan, academic
  13. Vizla Kumaresan, feminist activist & clinical psychologist

HARI WANITA SEDUNIA 2018 #WanitaBangkit#WomensMarchMY (4)