Apply Standing Orders towards offensive speech against LGBT people

Justice for Sisters is deeply horrified by the discriminatory and offensive speeches and language used in Parliament by several Members of Parliament (MP) in relation to LGBT people on 14 and 18 March 2019 — and that these repeated discriminatory speeches against LGBT people have gone unchecked.

Particularly since the Women’s Day March, debates in Parliament have been tainted by the use of degrading and dehumanizing language such as ‘jijik’ (disgusting) and ‘songsang (deviant); sexual innuendos; comparisons of LGBT people to animals; and calls for the arrest, imprisonment, and torture of LGBT persons in Malaysia. These are all forms of extreme, discriminatory and offensive speech that incite hate and violence towards LGBT people.

Furthermore, these discriminatory and anti-LGBT statements are repeatedly made by a handful of people. These repeat offenders include Dato’ Dr. Haji Noor Azmi bin Ghazali [PH- Bagan Serai], and Puan Hajah Siti Zailah binti Mohd Yusoff [PAS-Rantau Panjang].

It is even more disturbing to note Puan Hajah Siti Zailah’s prejudicial sentiments, given the fact she is on the Parliament Select Committee on Gender and Rights. This Committee and its members are guided by the standards set by the UN conventions Malaysia has ratified and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This means upholding the human rights principles and values of equality, non-discrimination, dignity, diversity, respect, and choice for all persons.

Articles 36(4) and 36(10)(c) of the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat give guidance to MPs against speaking offensively and promoting feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities in our country. And yet, in sessions on 14 and 18 March, the MPs were allowed to make vile, hysterical, non-evidence based and fear-mongering statements about LGBT people without consequences.

We call on the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat to act on their duty to all Malaysian people to apply the Standing Orders, to which all MPs are bound, and to uphold the fundamental rights and protections that all Malaysian people are guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. Just as any MP could – and should – invoke these articles to call out offensive speech against groups of people based on their ethnicity, religion or other identities, we call on the Speaker and other MPs to call out those who make offensive remarks against LGBT persons.

Homophobia and transphobia is the same as racism, sexism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination. No religion allows discrimination, violence and coercion towards others. Homophobia and transphobia is not limited LGBTIQ persons. Especially in the Malaysian context, many people, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, experience discrimination based on their association with LGBT people or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition, over the past few years, we have seen an increase of violence, hate crimes and discrimination against LGBT people by diverse actors in various spaces, including educational institutions, workplaces, and homes. We are also seeing an increase of vigilante and anti-LGBT groups employing variousmethods to punish and rehabilitate LGBT people. We are concerned that these statements by public officials will further increase misinformation about and sanction violence and discrimination against LGBT people in Malaysia, with no consequences for the perpetrators.

In ensuring a Malaysia that is harmonious, peaceful and safe for all persons, the speaker of Parliament and MPs have a duty to intervene in discriminatory speeches against LGBT persons, as these speeches have adverse impacts on the perception, attitude and treatment of not only LGBT people, but those who also support the human rights of LGBT persons in Malaysia. Justice for Sisters looks forward to working with the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat and MPs who are committed to the wellbeing of all Malaysians and everyone who calls this country home.

ENDS/=

 

Standing Orders of the DEWAN RAKYAT

36 (4) It shall be out of order for Members of the House to use offensive language or make a sexist remark.

36 (10) It shall be out of order to use –

  • (c)  words which are likely to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities in the Federation or infringe any provision of the Constitution or the Sedition Act 1948.

 

Members of Parliament who have made discriminatory and offensive remarks against LGBT people in Parliament

Parliament session 1 (16 July – 16 August 2018)

  • Puan Hajah Siti Zailah binti Mohd Yusoff [Rantau Panjang] (multiple times)
  • Tuan Haji Ahmad Amzad bin Mohamed @ Hashim [Kuala Terengganu] (multiple times)
  • Dato’ Dr. Noor Azmi bin Ghazali [Bagan Serai] (multiple times)
  • Dato’ Haji Ahmad Nazlan bin Idris [Jerantut] (multiple times)
  • Ustaz Haji Hassanudin [Hulu Langat] (multiple times)
  • Dato’ Tuan Ibrahim bin Tuan Man [Kubang Kerian]
  • Dato’ Hajah Azizah binti Mohd Dun [Beaufort]

 

Parliament session 2 (15 October – 11 December 2018)

  • Puan Hajah Siti Zailah binti Mohd Yusoff [Rantau Panjang] (multiple times)
  • Tuan Haji Ahmad Amzad bin Mohamed @ Hashim [Kuala Terengganu]
  • Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi [Bagan Datuk]
  • Tuan Nik Nazmi bin Nik Ahmad [Setiawangsa]
  • Dato’ Tuan Ibrahim bin Tuan Man [Kubang Kerian]
  • Dato’ Dr. Mohd Khairuddin bin Aman Razali [Kuala Nerus]
  • Datin Mastura binti Mohd Yazid [Kuala Kangsar]
  • Datuk Seri Haji Ahmad bin Haji Maslan [Pontian]
  • Dato’ Sri Bung Moktar bin Radin [Kinabatangan]

 

Parliament session 3 (11 March – on-going)

  • Dato’ Dr. Haji Noor Azmi bin Ghazali [Bagan Serai] (multiple times)
  • Puan Hajah Siti Zailah binti Mohd Yusoff [Rantau Panjang]
  • Datuk Haji Hasanuddin bin Mohd Yunus [Hulu Langat]
  • Tuan Haji Awang bin Hashim [Pendang]
  • Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob [Bera]
  • Tuan Sanisvara Nethaji Rayer a/l Rajaji [Jelutong]

 

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Women’s March: The government must provide protection, not persecution

The Malaysian government’s responses towards the International Women’s Day march (March 9 2019) have been heavy-handed and grossly misplaced. By calling the march “haram” and claiming that the LGBT people are abusing democracy, the government seems to be reinforcing the harmful public rhetoric and prejudices towards women, marginalised people and LGBT people. This sanctions further victimisation, discrimination and violence against the organisers and attendees of the march. In addition, the police also announced that 7 individuals linked to the march will be called in for questioning under the Peaceful Assembly Act and the Sedition Act. Instead of investigating the organisers and speakers of the march, a caring and democratic government should call them in for a dialogue and provide adequate protection and support to address the reprisals.

The women’s march on Saturday represented diversity, unity, strength and clarity in the articulation of our collective vision for a society free from patriarchy, discrimination and violence. Marginalised women participated in the march precisely because they wish to be heard and to participate in building our democracy. They spoke with passion and clarity about their truth and lived realities. Targeting them therefore goes against the state’s obligation to protect the marginalised and eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women. The government’s response to target the organizers and  marginalised women for exercising their right to assembly and expression in the month of International Women’s Day is not only ironic but also oppressive and regressive. The current government had in fact pledged to repeal Sedition Act and discriminatory provisions under the Peaceful Assembly Act.

We remind the Government that during Malaysia’s CEDAW review in 2018, the CEDAW committee had expressed concern over the situation of women human rights defenders, in particular those advocating for Muslim women’s rights, the rights of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, as well as for democratic reforms.

We reiterate the CEDAW committee’s recommendation to “ensure that women human rights defenders can freely undertake their important work without fear or threat of arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation, including the issuance of fatwas by religious institutions, by fully guaranteeing their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.”

Indeed the threats against the marchers have resulted in adverse impacts on many women who participated in the march. As a result of exercising their right to expression and assembly, many of the women who marched have found their privacy, security and safety threatened. The online backlash had also resulted in a significant number of people harassed by parents, friends, schoolmates, colleagues and employers for attending the women’s march, since the media has deliberately mischaracterised it as an ‘LGBT march’. At least 4 persons are questioned by employers on their presence at the march, causing fear over job security and bullying.

The government must not take the side of the bullies. Denying a group of marginalised groups their right to participate in democracy is truly an abuse of democracy. In fact, democracy requires the participation of everyone, especially minorities and the marginalised. The current administration was built upon that very foundation of rule of law and justice, with promises made in its manifesto to ensure that women are prioritised and the marginalised are included. Many diverse persons, including LGBT people, voted, volunteered as PACAs, and committed to the change in the ruling government. And last Saturday, we marched to hold the new government accountable in keeping its promises.

We call for the government to end all investigations against the human rights defenders, and take a rights based response in addressing this. The priority must go to addressing the reprisals, discrimination, and not perpetuate victimisation of human rights defenders and people from marginalised communities.

The government, particularly the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Communications & Multimedia  must stand on the side of all women. They must immediately call for an end to the threats and violence faced by the organisers and participants online and offline. Additionally, the media must stop instigating fear and hatred towards a marginalised community in the New Malaysia.

The government has a duty to remind the public to be calm and proportionate in their responses, and create spaces for dialogues. The government needs to defend the women’s march as people’s active participation in democracy and defend democracy as a space for all.

Endorsed by:

  1. Justice for Sisters
  2. Malaysia Design Archive
  3. Queer Lapis
  4. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  5. Pelangi Campaign
  6. In Between Cultura
  7. Diversity Malaysia
  8. Perak Women for Women (PWW)
  9. People Like Us, Hang Out! (PLUHO)
  10. Tenaganita
  11. Transmen of Malaysia (TOM)
  12. Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)
  13. Women Center for Change (WCC)
  14. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
  15. Seksualiti Merdeka
  16. SAWO (Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group)
  17. KRYSS
  18. CIJ Malaysia
  19. BENTARAKATA
  20. Society for Equality, Respect, and Trust for all (SERATA)
  21. BIKAR ALAM
  22. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  23. Bersih Sabah
  24. Queer Academics, Students and Supporters Alliance (QUASSA)