Tiada akses kepada keadilan bagi LGBT dalam sistem perundangan

Kes sebatan dua orang wanita di Terengganu pada 3hb September merupakan satu titik hitam yang traumatik bagi rakyat Malaysia, terutamanya individu LGBT dan golongan wanita.

Justice for Sisters telah mengikuti perkembangan kes ini sejak awal dan telah turut hadir di mahkamah pada 3 September sebagai pemerhati selain memberi sokongan kepada kedua-dua wanita tersebut. Walaupun tidak mengenali mereka, kami hadir sebagai tanda solidariti kerana kami yakin bahawa apa yang berlaku kepada mereka adalah satu bentuk penindasan. Tidak dapat dibayangkan segala tekanan dan kesukaran yang terpaksa dihadapi oleh mereka dalam mengharungi proses hukuman.

Antara isu yang dibangkitkan adalah kedua-dua wanita tersebut mempunyai tempoh 14 hari untuk membuat rayuan, namun sekiranya mereka tidak mempunyai akses kepada sokongan perundangan yang menjaga hak dan kepentingan mereka, bagaimana boleh mereka melakukan rayuan tersebut?

Menurut laporan Harian Metro pada Julai 2018, kedua-dua wanita mengaku tidak bersalah pada hari sebutan kes. Susulan itu, tarikh baru bagi sebutan semula kes ditetapkan untuk serahan dokumen dan lantikan peguam. Kedua-duanya diikat jamin dengan RM 3,000 seorang. Apabila seseorang itu tidak mengaku bersalah mereka dilepaskan dengan ‘bond’ mahkamah sebagai jaminan yang mereka akan menghadiri perbicaraan seterusnya.

Akses kepada sokongan perundangan adalah satu perkara yang sangat kritikal bagi semua orang, terutamanya individu LGBT dalam kes-kes sebegini. Mengikut pengalaman Justice for Sisters dalam memberikan sokongan perundangan kepada individu-individu LGBT, terutamanya individu transgender, kami dapati amat sukar sekali untuk mendapatkan khidmat peguam apabila hendak mempertahankan diri di mahkamah. Kami juga pernah berdepan situasi di mana individu-individu wanita transgender yang pada mulanya tidak mengaku bersalah terpaksa mengaku salah akibat ketiadaan peguam yang memahami dan menghormati anak guamnya, atau mampu memberi nasihat guaman yang betul.

Berdasarkan pengalaman kami, kedua-dua wanita tersebut yang pada mulanya tidak mengaku bersalah mungkin tidak dapat mencari peguam syariah untuk mewakili mereka lalu menukar pengakuan mereka kemudian.

Terdapat banyak perkara yang menafikan atau menidakkan keadilan bagi individu LGBT termasuk kesukaran untuk mendapat akses kepada peguam syariah yang menghormati hak kemanusiaan anak guamnya. Selain itu, individu LGBT juga mungkin tidak mendapat sokongan daripada kawan-kawan dan keluarga malah mengalami penyisihan, reaksi negatif serta tekanan daripada stigma masyarakat dan sensasi media massa.

Penting untuk dinyatakan bahawa bantuan kerajaan melalui Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan (YBGK) dan Jabatan Bantuan Guaman tidak memberi perkhidmatan peguam syariah secara percuma untuk kes-kes jenayah syariah. YBGK hanya menyediakan bantuan guaman bagi kes-kes sivil dan kes-kes cerai percuma untuk golongan berpendatan rendah.

Kedua, harus diingati bahawa bukan semua peguam, terutama peguam syariah, mahu mengambil kes berkenaan isu-isu LGBT. Realitinya agak mustahil untuk mencari peguam syariah untuk mewakili individu LGBT dan mempertahankan haknya. Justice for Sisters sendiri sudah banyak kali mengalami kesukaran dan buntu dalam cubaan mendapatkan peguam syariah yang berani mewakili kes-kes individu LGBT, dan pada masa yang sama menghormati identiti klien LGBT. Apabila peguam tidak menghormati identiti  anak guam mereka, ini meningkatkan lagi ketidakyakinan pada keadilan dalam sistem perundangan syariah di Malaysia.

Jika ada peguam yang sudi mewakili individu LGBT, nasihat guaman mereka selalunya adalah agar anak guam mereka mengaku bersalah supaya kes tidak berlarutan. Ada kalanya, sudah wujud prasangka dan prejudis terhadap individu LGBT sebelum menilai kes terlebih dahulu. Peguam-peguam syariah juga tidak terbuka kepada hujah dan dalil yang lebih progresif dan berasaskan prinsip-prinsip hak asasi manusia.

Artikel 5 dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan Malaysia menetapkan bahawa setiap rakyat Malaysia mempunyai hak untuk dibela oleh peguam pilihannya. Adalah tidak memadai jika hak itu wujud sekadar tulisan teks dalam Perlembagaan. Justeru, kerajaan bertanggungjawab untuk memastikan akses kepada peguam bagi semua jenis kes di bawah mahkamah syariah.

Perlaksanaan hukuman sebatan

Sepertimana yang telah berlaku pada 3 September 2018, jam 10 pagi, dua orang wanita disebat 6 kali setiap seorang di depan khalayak. Hukuman itu dilaksanakan oleh pegawai Jabatan Penjara daripada Kajang dan Pengkalan Chepa.

Banyak yang perlu diteliti dalam kes ini. Pertama, walaupun hukuman dijatuhkan oleh Mahkamah Tinggi Syariah Terengganu, perlaksanaan sebat dikendalikan oleh pegawai Jabatan Penjara daripada Kajang, Selangor dan Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan. Jabatan Penjara terletak di bawah kuasa kerajaan pusat. Persoalannya, apakah peranan kerajaan pusat dalam perlaksanaan hukuman tersebut?

Sebatan dan pengaiban terhadap kedua-dua wanita tersebut adalah zalim dan satu bentuk penyeksaan. Cara pengendalian kes mereka, bermula dengan penangkapan sehinggalah hari ni setelah hukuman dilaksanakan, amat tidak berperikemanusiaan. Mereka diaibkan begitu teruk sehingga video yang menunjukkan mereka diserbu media tersebar luas di media sosial. Malah istilah keji seperti ‘pasangan songsang’ digunakan oleh media untuk merujuk kepada mereka. Ada juga yang membuat perbandingan antara sebatan di penjara sivil dan sebatan mengikut syara’ tanpa memahami impak psikologi yang dialami kedua-dua mereka dan impak hukuman sebatan secara umum. Kesemua ini meningkatkan lagi trauma dan stigma terhadap mereka.

Ada pula pihak yang menyuarakan sokongan terhadap hukuman sebatan tersebut dengan menyatakan hukuman ini ialah satu bentuk rahmat daripada Allah. Kerajaan Negeri Kelantan dan Pahang kini juga bercadang untuk memperkenalkan hukuman sebat untuk individu LGBT di negeri masing-masing.

Kami bimbang dengan cara pemikiran sebegini. Masyarakat Malaysia harus memandang serius penerimaan dan normalisasi keganasan sebagai satu bentuk pengajaran dan rahmat dari Tuhan. Kita tidak boleh menjustifikasikan pengaiban, penyeksaan, dan keganasan di atas nama agama dan Tuhan. Pengaibkan dan kebencian terhadap kedua-dua wanita tersebut adalah perbuatan manusia yang lahir daripada perasaan prejudis. Ia bertentangan sama sekali dengan prinsip-prinsip yang diketengahkan semua agama yang menekankan keadilan sosial dan kasih sayang.

Sebagai masyarakat madani kita harus memastikan perkara ini tidak lagi berterusan. Kita haruslah menghentikan semua bentuk hukuman sebat kerana hukuman ini tidak berfaedah kepada sesiapa dan ternyata ia  adalah satu betuk penyeksaan semata-mata.

Wanita tak mengaku cuba lakukan seks sejenis https://www.hmetro.com.my/mutakhir/2018/07/355808/wanita-tak-mengaku-cuba-lakukan-seks-sejenis

 

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Terengganu public caning marks one of the most degrading and cruel forms of sentencing in Malaysia’s history

KUALA TERENGGANU, 3 September — Malaysia’s first public caning held in a courtroom at the Terengganu Syariah High Court today marks a dark chapter in this nation’s history. The harsh sentence of six strokes carried out in a public courtroom demonstrated abhorrently little regard for the dignity of the two women who were sentenced under Section 30 and 59(1) of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Takzir Terengganu).

The caning proceeded despite huge protests by diverse actors in civil society, and clear recommendations by human rights and legal advocates to end the practice of whipping and caning in the criminal justice system as they are forms of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

What transpired today was a spectacle executed in front of more than 100 attendees who gathered in the courtroom to witness the event. The women were hounded by the media the moment they arrived at the Terengganu Syariah High Court. Leading up to the execution, news circulated on social media with some parties calling on members of the public to attend the session in support of state action against the LGBT community. This included incitement by the state government agency, Institut Modal Insan Terengganu Sejahtera (i-MITS) for mass attendance as a sign of “anti-LGBT solidarity”.

The lead up to, and unfolding of this event, signal an alarming increase in the targeting of marginalised individuals. It also signals the state’s complicity in inciting public participation in violence, and the normalizing of violence as a form of education.

Presiding judge, Amarul Azmi, told the courtroom that the execution was intended as a reminder and deterrent to members of society. This was reiterated by the Terengganu executive councillor in charge of syariah implementation, Saiful Bahri Mamat, at a press conference later.

They added the execution was to demonstrate to the public how syariah caning is supposedly ‘kinder’ compared to caning executed under civil law. Remarks by the judges and state exco that the syariah caning is not intended to cause pain or harm the women is in direct contradiction to the degree of humiliation they faced today from the orchestrated spectacle, and the resulting psychological and emotional impact. The state’s actions here are responsible for the violence of the trauma, and humiliation caused on the two women as well as the society at large.

The caning was executed by officers from the Malaysian Prison Department, an agency under the federal Ministry of Home Affairs. Observing from the courtroom public gallery, it was evident that the strength of caning of the two women differed, as one person was clearly caned harder than the other.

State exco Saiful Bahri Mamat acknowledged there was noticeable discrepancy in the caning, but said issues surrounding the execution was under the jurisdiction of the Prison Department. This raises serious concerns regarding the uneven and unacceptable standards for accountability in the execution of justice under the syariah legal system and the legal justice systems in this country. .

Saiful said today’s execution should pave the way for future canings under syariah law. He did not rule out the use of public caning in other cases, and the sentence can be carried out in any location determined by the court as outlined by section 125 of the Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment 2001.

The judge and the state exco emphasized that the two women had pleaded guilty and accepted the punishment, as they did not file an appeal within 14 days, indicating their sincerity and sense of repentance. It is vital to note that the two women had no legal representation, which grossly impacts on the protection of their right to fair trial and justice and the resulting long-term impact.

Despite this critical lack, the court proceeded with the execution which is now the most degrading and cruel form of public sentencing in Malaysia’s history. LGBT persons have limited access to redress and justice. Finding a syariah lawyer for LGBT-related cases is extremely challenging. This is compounded by other factors including lack of family support, social stigma and lack of resources due to multiple forms of discrimination.

This case demonstrates multiple failures in the justice system, the complicity and intention by the state to target and persecute already marginalised members of the community, and to create conditions for public acceptance of violent and humiliating treatment cloaked in the ironic language of ‘kindness’ and ‘compassion.’ It sets a dangerous precedent for the increased policing of morality and sexual identities in Malaysia. We call on all members of the Malaysian public to unequivocally reject such a violent trajectory.

We further call on our elected leaders to take immediate and committed action to end and eliminate all forms of state-sanctioned moral policing, erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms, and to cease the cruel, inhumane and degrading practice of whipping and caning in the criminal justice system. The recognition and protection of human dignity is a fundamental principle enshrined in the Federal Constitution, widely ratified human rights instruments, as well as in all religions. There is no justification for the deliberate humiliation, harm and degradation that took place in the Terengganu Court today.

 

  • ENDS//

 

Statement by

Justice for Sisters, LGBT groups and individuals in Malaysia

3 Sept 2018

Press contact:
thilaga: justiceforsisters@gmail.com

 

Does New Malaysia Mean All of Us Without Exception?

On 9 May this year, Malaysians did the unthinkable when they unseated Barisan Nasional, the only political coalition to ever govern the country. Corruption in government had become endemic, ethnic and religious tensions overbearing, laws increasingly repressive. Having had enough of it all, people from all walks of life chose instead Pakatan Harapan, the coalition that promised hope, change and inclusion for everyone. So historic was the outcome of the 9 May general election that it was given the epithet ‘Malaysia Baru’ (New Malaysia).

Familiar wounds for LGBT people

Three months have passed since then, and many marginalised communities are left wondering when the promised change will come. The LGBT community, long persecuted by the previous regime, has not received any respite in Malaysia Baru. Merely weeks into his job, an aide to the newly minted Minister of Youth and Sports was forced to resign when opposition supporters hounded him on social media over his sexuality. His employers, the government, chose not to defend him. Soon after that, two LGBT activists had their portraits removed from a photography exhibition in Penang on the instruction of the new Minister of Islamic Affairs.

Following these events, which were widely reported in the media and fiercely debated on social media, a trans woman in Negeri Sembilan was assaulted by a gang of eight men with wood and pipes. A bar in Kuala Lumpur was then raided by the Federal Territories Religious Department (JAWI), an ‘old Malaysia’ type operation that was defended by the Minister of Federal Territories. In between all these incidents, LGBT people are told over and over again they cannot have the same rights and protection as others in Malaysia–and can only exist in private spaces, leaving LGBT people with no legitimate recourse against the forceful ‘guidance’ of religious authorities.

“The increasing hostility towards our community didn’t come out of sudden. It is a manifestation of decades of neglect and oppression, as well as denial of identity and rights by religious elites and the government. How much violence needs to happen before we do anything to stop this?” states Numan Afifi, community organiser on LGBT and youth rights.

All of this happened within the 100 days of the new administration. And as the fireworks flare this weekend for the country’s first Independence celebration in this new political era, two young women await caning by the Syariah court in Terengganu. The women were detained by religious authorities in April this year and charged for “attempting to have sex”. They were each fined RM3,300 and face six strokes of the rotan (cane). Despite promises to uphold human rights in Malaysia Baru, this inhumane sentence remains imminent for the two women.

“This climate makes LGBT communities feel helpless and threatened, especially with the increase of hate crimes and discriminatory comments. This sentence will only encourage perpetrators and aggressors to continue their hostility, violence and acts of aggression towards the community. Besides that, the recent events will increase Islamophobia and misconceptions regarding Islam among Malaysians, which is already at a worrying state,” says Chong Yee Shan, human rights activist from Diversity Malaysia.

Continued inhumane and discriminatory form of sentencing against LGBT persons

There are many long-standing questions surrounding the Terengganu case: Should these women even be subjected to such cruel, degrading and inhumane punishment just to be made examples of to others? Did these women have access to legal counsel or aid? Where will the sentence be executed? Will it be carried out in a federal prison? And if so, can the federal authority execute a sentence of caning against a Muslim woman when the Prison Regulations 2000 forbids corporal punishment to be applied to a female prisoner (of any age)? What does this punishment mean in this current state of alarming rhetoric, discrimination, violence against LGBT persons?

Secretary General of PROHAM (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights) Ivy Josiah states, “Caning and whipping must be erased in both the Penal and Syariah Codes as a form of punishment as it against the grain of any religious and human rights principle that the preservation of human dignity is paramount. Otherwise the government’s recent announcement that it will accede to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment appear feeble and insincere. Furthermore, Parliament must put an end to the inconsistency and answer this legal question: Can a federal authority execute a sentence of whipping against a Muslim woman when the Prison Regulations 2000 forbids corporal punishment to be applied to a female prisoner (of any age), or a male prisoner who is more than 50-years-old?”

This issue has also been raised by the CEDAW Committee in its recommendation to the government of Malaysia in the March 2018 review. The Committee called on the government to “[h]armonize Syariah law with section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code to prohibit the whipping of women as a form of punishment;” (para. 24 (e), CEDAW/C/MYS/CO/3-5).

The Terengganu case will be the first time such a harsh punishment is meted out against women since the May general election, in less than six months since this recommendation was received.

“Since the new government, I have noticed increased oppression targeting LGBT persons done in the name of religion. This severe sentence violates the rights of women and is against the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. It should not exist in this era of New Malaysia. This is not only about the caning of the two women who are accused for their sexual orientation, but about violations against humanity and oppression towards another human being,” states transgender rights activist, Nisha Ayub.

The Malaysian Bar Council stated their unreserved opposition to caning and corporal punishment in a recent press statement on this issue, and further notes that this is “a harsh and barbaric form of punishment that causes harmful and long-lasting psychological effects, and has no place in a modern and compassionate society such as ours.” They further call for an “immediate moratorium against all forms of corporal punishment, and to repeal provisions for such punishment in all legislation.”

Caning was executed against a woman for the first time in Malaysia in 2010 under the previous Najib Razak administration, which it did in secrecy and only announced a few days after the fact. This raises concerns over the arbitrary procedures of the Syariah courts and reinforces the widespread belief that Islam discriminates against women. The judge noted that the punishment was meant “to educate and make offenders realize their mistakes and return to the right path.” A similar rationale of setting an example to the larger public was cited in this case during the sentencing. It is reasonable to conclude that women voluntarily submit to caning because they are shamed into submission.

“The only lessons this sentence will send are that it is okay to punish people for being different, to cane adult women for loving each other, to criminalise something that harms nobody, or for the State to tell adults what we can do with our own body. The lessons it will send to the LGBT community is that we don’t belong, we are criminals, we should hide and pretend. But some of us are tired of hiding and pretending. We are not criminals. We are your family members, we are Malaysians, and we belong here as much as the rest, just trying to get by, contribute where we can, find some happiness when we can. I wish Malaysia would stop teaching lessons of hate and division. We should teach lessons of love, respect and equality instead,” states Pang Khee Teik, LGBT rights advocate and co-founder of Seksualiti Merdeka.

Fulfill the commitment of change towards human rights for all

In a memorandum to the Prime Minister and Attorney General on this case, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) urges the government “to review whipping as a form of punishment as it violates international human rights principles which regard whipping and other forms of corporal punishment as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” JAG further notes that “the LGBT are a convenient target to ramp up the Islamic conservative sentiments,” and calls for the new government to “show the political will and courage to once and for all deal with the implications of such intrusive moral policing laws.”

The 2018 COMANGO report endorsed by 52 Malaysian NGOs calls for the government to “eliminate all forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the criminal justice system including the practice of whipping and caning,” and to ratify and accede to the UNCAT as part of this commitment.

Professor Gurdial Singh from the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) also affirms this in a letter to the new Foreign Minister. “Given this initiative,” he said, “it is appropriate and timely that the government announces an immediate moratorium on all forms of caning whether related to Penal Code or Syariah Criminal Offences.” He added that the moratorium on caning will indicate an assured commitment and a necessary first step towards preventing any form of torture by the state.

This resonates with Pakatan Harapan’s commitment in its manifesto “to make our human rights record respected by the world” (Promise 26), as well as with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed’s Independence Day speech guaranteeing “justice for all the people, irrespective of race or religion” and promising “Malaysia will remain strong and progressive whatever the differences, contradictions and suspicions that may arise.”

Malaysia Baru is meaningless without real transformation. This requires courage and commitment by all of us, including those in power. We all have a role to play when a segment of society is being treated unfairly. It is incumbent upon our elected leaders to lead the way in ensuring that the fundamental liberties enshrined in the Federal Constitution guarantee protection for all Malaysians. This in itself should be all the protection we need. Instead, we find ourselves wondering about the well-being of two young and anxious women.

“We should not need to justify our human rights. The two women likely did not have access to reliable and good counsel for their defence. That alone is a travesty of justice no matter the moral ‘rationale’ for the criminalisation of personal sins under Syariah. We have witnessed the denial of access to justice for many others as well. It is time ‘New Malaysia’ stops such injustices if we are indeed in an era of hope,” states Angela M. Kuga Thas, co-founder of KRYSS.

We are people first, worthy of dignity and respect. It is time our communities and our country take a step forward and affirm that ‘New Malaysia’ means all of us, without exception.

Statement by

LGBT groups and individuals in Malaysia

2 Sept 2018