Respect trans women & end all prosecution against them

We are deeply concerned by a raid of a birthday party by the Kedah Islamic Department on 27 October 2020, where 30 transgender women attendees of the 100 attendees were singled out and given notice to report back at the Kedah Islamic Department on separate dates to be investigated under Section 26, which penalises ‘male persons wearing female attire in a public place’.

The organiser, who was celebrating his birthday, was also handed a notice to report back to the department to be investigated under Section 31 for ‘encouraging vice’. 

The raid also resulted in the private event being abruptly ended due to instructions by the state Islamic Department. The raid was carried out with the police, and news reports suggest that some media outlets were also present at the raid.

Following the constitutional review of Section 66 of the Negeri Sembilan Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment in 2015, there has been a significant reduction of cases of arrest under the ‘posing as a man’ state enactments based on our collective monitoring. However, we have observed a resurgence  of raids and arrests of transgender women in the last year. In most cases, the raids are a result of an alleged ‘tip-off’ or complaint, and the trans women are mostly subjected to ‘counselling’. This is a concerning trend.

Trans women are women & gender is diverse

First and foremost, trans women are not pretending, posing or acting as women. They are women, and as such express themselves in a way that is authentic and representative of who they are and their identity. There is countless evidence in history, science and other fields that clearly show the existence of gender diversity through the ages and that gender diversity is a normal occurrence in life.

As such, arresting and subjecting transgender women to counselling or any punishment or correction because of their gender identity and gender expression is deeply unnecessary and is a gross violation of human rights. 

While compliance with even the Standard Operating Procedures by the arresting agency is imperative, our fundamental concern is with the very act of arresting, summoning, investigating or prosecuting trans women based on their gender identity and gender expression. These actions have a wide-ranging impact and a chilling effect on the rights of transgender women, in particular, their right to live with dignity, restriction of public participation, access to social and cultural life, and right to privacy, among others.

Inconsistencies of Section 26 of the Kedah Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment and similar laws with the Federal Constitution

Section 26 of the Kedah Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment and similar laws that prohibit non-cisnormative gender identity and gender expression violate multiple fundamental rights guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and continue to arbitrarily prosecute transgender women for being who they are.

We recall the landmark Court of Appeal’s decision on Section 66 of the Negeri Sembilan Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment. Section 26 of the Kedah Syariah Criminal Enactment is worded similarly as the previous version of Section 66 of the Negeri Sembilan Enactment. In the decision, which was later set aside by the Federal Court on procedural grounds, the Court of Appeal found Section 66 to be inconsistent with the following articles in the Federal Constitution:

–     Article 5 safeguards the rights to personal liberties, including the rights of trans women to live with dignity. The court agreed that ‘the existence of a law that punishes the gender expression of transsexuals (transgender persons) … directly affects … right to live with dignity, guaranteed by Art. 5(1), by depriving them of their value and worth as members of our society.’

–       Article 8 (1) and (2) guarantees equality before the law and non-discrimination, in particular gender-based discrimination. The raid in Kedah clearly shows that trans women do not enjoy equality before the law, as only the transgender women attendees were issued the notice for an investigation on a later date.

–       Article 9 guarantees freedom of movement

–       Article 10 guarantees the right to speech and assembly. In the decision, the Court noted that freedom of expression includes the way we dress or our gender expression.

We are also deeply concerned by the investigation of the organiser for ‘encouraging vice’ and the instructions by the Kedah Islamic Department to end the event seemingly due to the inclusion and attendance of transgender women. This is a dangerous trend as it punishes event organisers, allies or people for being inclusive of transgender women. It further perpetuates the harmful stereotypes of trans women being deviants, sinners and criminals, leaving no room for social integration of transgender women in society. The state action is counter-productive to building an inclusive, safe and equal society.

We call for the Kedah Islamic Department to drop the investigation, and cease all forms of prosecution of transgender women. The state must acknowledge transgender women as autonomous and equal members of society, and dismantle prejudice, stereotypes and misinformation about transgender people.

Unethical and bias media reporting

We are also deeply disappointed by the sensational reports of the raid by Harian Metro and New Straits Times (NST). The title of the NST article which is a translation of the Harian Metro article, is degrading and sensational. The title essentially mocks the identity of transgender women, and implies that they are ‘distressed men’. We strongly recommend NST to amend the title of the article. 

The Harian Metro article and video report not only misgendered trans women multiple times, but also contained bias, disrespectful and inaccurate statements, language and title. For example, the article reinforces the notion that trans women deserve the consequences for expressing themselves. The article overlooked the unequal power dynamics between the state and transgender women, and the systemic impact of the laws that criminalise transgender people.  

The report only contained quotes by the state Islamic Department, which uses a pejorative term for transgender women. The article could have also featured voices of the transgender women attendees or transgender human rights groups in order to provide different perspectives on the raid.

Harian Metro was also reportedly at the raid. We have many questions surrounding the presence of the media at the raid, including how did the media learn about the raid, and what was their intention of covering the raid?

We have contacted Harian Metro to make changes to the article in order to remove the prejudicial and sensational elements, and maintain a factual, ethical and non-bias reporting. However, no changes have been made so far, and we have not received a reply from Harian Metro.

Endorsed by

  1. Justice for Sisters 
  2. SEED Malaysia 
  3. Pelangi Campaign 
  4. People Like Us Support ourselves (PLUsos)   
  5. Queer Lapis 
  6. Tenaganita 
  7. Amnesty International Malaysia 
  8. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  9. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  10. Sarawak Women For Women Society (SWWS)
  11. Sabah Human Rights Center 
  12. Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All (SERATA) 
  13. Sabah Women Action Resource Group (SAWO)
  14. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  15. Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  16. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  17. Pertubuhan Kesihatan Dan Kebajikan Umum (PPKUM)

Pembetulan bagi artikel Harian Metro

Pembetulan 1

Padah berlagak wanita untuk ditukar kerana bahasa yang digunakan mempunyai konotasi menyalahkan dan menghukum wanita transgender kerana mengekspresikan diri mereka. Tajuk ini tidak mengambil kira undang-undang yang menjenayahkan wanita transgender dan kesannya, serta pematuhan undang-undang tersebut dengan Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan undang-undang hak asasi manusia antarabangsa.

Cadangan

–       Wanita transgender disiasat atas alasan mengekspresikan diri mereka

–       Ekspresi wanita transgender disekat undang-undang

Pembetulan 2

Lagak mereka seperti wanita, namun hakikatnya mereka adalah lelaki. Itu tindakan sekumpulan individu yang menyertai majlis sambutan hari jadi yang diadakan di sebuah hotel di Bandar Darulaman di sini, malam tadi.

Bagaimanapun, semua 30 lelaki dipercayai pondan itu hanya mampu terkedu apabila premis itu diserbu anggota penguat kuasa Jabatan Agama Islam Kedah (JAIK).

Sebuah majlis sambutan hari jadi yang dihadiri oleh 30 individu transgender di sebuah hotel di Bandar Darulaman di sini, malam tadi diserbu anggota penguat kuasa Jabatan Agama Islam Kedah (JAIK).

Pembetulan 3

Kesemua pondan berusia antara 20-an hingga 40-an itu didapati berpakaian wanita seperti gaun dan berbaju kebaya.

Kesemua wanita transgender berusia antara 20-an hingga 40-an .

Pembetulan 4

“Bagaimanapun, kami meminta mereka yang tidak berkenaan bersurai dan hasil pemeriksaan mendapati, terdapat 30 lelaki yang berpakaian wanita dan disyaki pondan.

“Bagaimanapun, kami meminta mereka yang tidak berkenaan bersurai dan hasil pemeriksaan mendapati, terdapat 30 lelaki yang berpakaian wanita dan disyaki “pondan”*.

*pondan ialah istilah yang mempunyai konotasi negatif yang digunakan untuk merujuk kepada golongan wanita transgender atau lelaki gay, biseksual dan queer. Istilah ini tidak sesuai digunakan untuk terhadap golongan wanita transgender kerana ianya merendahkan martabat diri mereka. Istilah yang lebih sesuai dan menghormati identiti mereka ialah wanita transgender atau mak nyah.

Pembetulan 5

Dalam pada itu, Radzi berkata, kesemua pondan berkenaan didapati menetap sekitar daerah ini, selain ada yang berasal dari Selangor dan negeri lain.

Dalam pada itu, Radzi berkata, kesemua wanita transgender berkenaan didapati menetap sekitar daerah ini, selain ada yang berasal dari Selangor dan negeri lain.

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