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.
- All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
- Biawak Gemok
- Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
- Knowledge and Rights for Young People through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
- Pelangi Campaign
- Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
- PLUHO, People Like Us, Hang Out!
- SEED Malaysia
- Seksualiti Merdeka
- Shhdiam, queer band
- Sisters in Islam
- SUARAM Malaysia
- Transmen of Malaysia (TOM)
- Azwan Ismail, feminist activist
- Chong Yee Shan, academic
- Ezrena Marwan, graphic designer
- Ineza Roussille, feminist activist
- Jac SM Kee, feminist activist
- lean, feminist activist
- Pang Khee Teik, SM co-founder
- Dr Subatra Jayaraj, feminist activist
- Suguna, secretary PSWS
- Suri Kempe, feminist activist
- thilaga, feminist activist
- Timothy Philipp Gan, academic
- Vizla Kumaresan, feminist activist & clinical psychologist