Memahami seks dan gender: perbezaan, andaian dan keganasan.

Memahami seks dan gender adalah penting dalam menghentikan keganasan serta peminggiran individu transgender.

Bukti-bukti kukuh mengesahkan bahawa identiti gender adalah semula jadi kepada semua orang, dan seks/jantina serta gender adalah dua kategori berasingan yang dipunyai oleh semua manusia. Seks mahupun gender bukanlah binari, bermakna tidak terdiri daripada hanya dua identiti.

Seks – gabungan kromosom, organ-organ reproduktif seksual luaran dan dalaman, hormon, serta ciri-ciri seks sekunder – adalah sebuah spektrum, dan ianya tidak menentukan identiti gender kita. Anggapan umum adalah bahawa seks hanya terdiri daripada lelaki iaitu kromosom (XX) atau perempuan (XY). Walau bagaimanapun, terdapat juga individu yang mempunyai pelbagai jenis kromosom (XXX, XO, XXY, dan lain-lain), hormon, dan ciri-ciri fizikal di luar binari lelaki /perempuan, yang dikenali sebagai interseks atau khunsa. Individu dengan ciri-ciri interseks menghadapi cabaran yang unik akibat tekanan untuk menepati lelaki/perempuan binari, termasuk pembedahan alat kelamin tanpa persetujuan mereka, isu-isu imej badan, dan sekatan untuk bersaing dalam acara sukan.

Identiti jantina pula merujuk kepada perasaan peribadi kita dan cara kita rasa, lihat, dan mengenalpasti diri kita, sama ada sebagai lelaki atau perempuan, kedua-duanya, tidak kedua-duanya atau kombinasi mana-mana kategori.

Pada tahun 2015, penyelidikan yang diketuai oleh penyelidik otak Georg S. Kanz, Klinik Universiti bagi Psikiatri dan Psikoterapi Universiti Perubatan Vienna menunjukkan bahawa identiti jantina adalah sangat peribadi bagi setiap manusia, digambarkan dan boleh disahkan dalam pautan silang di kawasan otak. Laporan itu menyatakan, “Walaupun jantina biologi biasanya dimanifestasikan dalam penampilan fizikal, identiti jantina individu tidak segera dapat dicerap dan penubuhan yang utama dalam jiwa seorang manusia.”

Apabila kanak-kanak dilahirkan, mereka diberikan gender berdasarkan alat kelamin mereka. Sebagai contoh, seorang kanak-kanak yang mempunyai faraj ketika lahir diberikan jantina/gender sebagai perempuan, dan kemudiannya dijangka untuk melaksanakan peranan gender khusus untuk identiti tersebut seperti memasak, mengemas, dan akur, dan sebagainya. Manakala mereka yang ditentukan sebagai anak lelaki ketika lahir dijangka menjadi kuat, agresif, bersifat sebagai pelindung bagi yang lain dan sebagainya. Walau bagaimanapun, penentuan dan andaian sebegini tidak selalunya tepat, kerana alat kelamin tidak menentukan gender seseorang. Seks dan gender adalah dua kategori yang berbeza,dan juga ditentukan oleh komponen yang berbeza dalam badan kita.

Orang yang mempunyai pengalaman hidupnya yang sepadan dengan seks dan gender yang diberikan semasa lahir, mereka dikenali sebagai cisgender, manakala orang yang mempunyai  pengalaman hidup tidak sepadan dengan seks dan gender mereka ketika lahir dikenali sebagai transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid dan lain-lain.

Satu kajian yang dijalankan pada bulan Januari 2015 dengan 32 kanak-kanak transgender berumur antara lima hingga dua belas, yang diketuai oleh ahli sains psikologi Kristina Olson dari Universiti Washington, mendapati bahawa “identiti gender kanak-kanak ini amat tepat dan keputusan yang dihasilkan bukan daripada kekeliruan tentang identiti gender atau berpura-pura”. Para penyelidik menyatakan bahawa “keputusan kami menyokong tanggapan bahawa kanak-kanak transgender tersebut adalah tidak keliru, tertangguh, menunjukkan respon di luar norma gender atau gender a-typical response, berpura-pura, ataupun disebaliknya. Mereka sebaliknya menunjukkan respon sepenuhnya secara biasa dan dijangka untuk kanak-kanak dengan identiti gender mereka tersebut”.

Para penyelidik mendapati respon daripada kanak-kanak transgender tidak dapat dibezakan daripada kanak-kanak cisgender. Data daripada kanak-kanak perempuan transgender menunjukkan corak yang sama dengan data dari kanak-kanak perempuan cisgender, dan data dari kanak-kanak lelaki transgender menunjukkan corak yang sama dengan data dari kanak-kanak lelaki cisgender. Sebagai contoh, kanak-kanak perempuan transgender lebih suka berkawan dengan kanak-kanak perempuan lain dan mereka cenderung dan lebih suka dengan mainan dan makanan yang gadis-gadis lain suka, sama seperti kanak-kanak perempuan cisgender.

Memahami dysphoria gender.       

Manual Diagnostik Statistik (DSM) 5 menjelaskan gender dysphoria sebagai sesuatu pengalaman yang dialami oleh individu yang mendapati pengalama hidup mereka berbeza dengan gender yang diberikan ketika lahir. DSM-5 juga memberikan cadangan untuk mengurangkan tekanan dan kebimbangan disebabkan oleh ketidakupayaan untuk menyatakan identiti gender sahih mereka.

DSM-5 juga menekankan bahawa dysphoria gender adalah bukan satu mental heath disorder. Gender identity disorder (GID) telah digantikan dengan dysphoria gender dalam DSM terkini untuk mengelakkan stigma dan memastikan akses kepada penjagaan serta sokongan bagi individu yang mendapati pengalaman hidup mereka berbeza daripada gender yang diberikan ketika lahir berdasarkan alat kelamin mereka.

Kepelbagaian gender dalam sejarah manusia                                                                       

Transgender dan individu daripada pelbagai gender, telah dan sentiasa wujud sepanjang sejarah manusia. Michael Peletz di dalam bukunya bertajuk ‘Pluralisme Gender di Asia Tenggara’ mendokumenkan kewujudan sida-sida, yang sama dengan identiti transgender hari ini seperti di istana Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan, Johor, dan bahagian-bahagian lain di Malaya dan kawasan di Indonesia. Sida-sida tinggal di kamar dalaman istana, dan telah diamanahkan dengan urusan adat istiadat istana serta pemeliharaan kuasa yang khas pemerintah.

Rujukan lanjut kepada sida-sida boleh didapati dalam Hikayat Melayu, seperti Hikayat Amer Hamzah. Profesor Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, seorang ahli antropologi Malaysia yang pernah melihat sida-sida di istana semasa beliau seorang kanak-kanak, menggambarkan mereka sebagai diberikan identiti lelaki ketika lahir, yang berpakaian dan berperanan perempuan.

Di Borneo, terdapat beberapa identiti seperti manang bali, basir dan balian, yang digambarkan sebagai individu-individu yang telah diberikan gender lelaki ketika lahir, yang termaktub identiti perempuan serta melaksanakan peranan gender yang dilakukan oleh wanita cisgender. Basir, dalam Gender Pluralism in South East Asia, pula digambarkan sebagai seseorang yang “pakaian seperti seorang wanita dan juga dalam kehidupan peribadinya, membahagikan rambut mereka di tengah-tengah dahi mereka sama seperti seorang wanita (cisgender).” Manang bali, basir dan balian juga pakar ritual, dukun dan bomoh, dan sebagainya.

Identiti yang sama dilihat di seluruh dunia – Hijrah di India; calabai, calalai dan bissu di Indonesia; asog/bayugin di Filipina; Mukhannathun di Mekah dan Madinah; Fa’afafine di Samoa dan New Zealand; Māhū di Hawai’I; two-spirit di Amerika Utara, dan banyak lagi.

Perubahan sikap.                                                                         

Dengan pencerahan and perkembangan dalam pemahaman gender, banyak negara di Amerika Latin, Asia Selatan, Eropah, Amerika Utara dan lain-lain telah memperkenalkan undang-undang pengiktirafan gender yang membolehkan individu transgender menukar nama dan penanda gender (gender marker) dalam dokumen undang-undang tanpa apa-apa intervensi perubatan atau pembedahan. Proses ini dijangka”cepat, telus dan boleh diakses”, berdasarkan penentuan dan keazaman sendiri. Sebagai contoh, Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act in Malta di Malta, memerlukan perisytiharan yang mudah berdasarkan prosedur penentuan sendiri oleh seseorang sebelum notari, dan melarang permintaan untuk mendapatkan maklumat perubatan untuk proses tersebut. Keseluruhan proses tidak melebihi 30 hari.

Realiti di Malaysia.                                                                                        

Diskriminasi dan keganasan terhadap golongan transgender adalah satu fenomena yang bermula pada tahun 80-an. Sebelum waktu itu, individu transgender juga turut menikmati beberapa hak, termasuklah penukaran nama dan identiti gender mereka di dalam dokumen rasmi, seperti kad pengenalan berdasarkan status pembedahan.

Semua 14 negeri di Malaysia mempunyai undang-undang yang menjenayahkan wanita transgender berdasarkan identiti gender dan ekspresi gender, manakala 3 negeri mempunyai undang-undang yang melarang orang perempuan yang berlagak sebagai lelaki atau memakai pakaian lelaki di tempat awam untuk tujuan tidak bermoral. Undang-undang ini telah diperkenalkan antara tahun 1985 dan 2012.

Sebelum fatwa itu dilaksanakan dalam tahun 1983, yang mana melarang pembedahan peneguhan gender untuk golongan trans, pembedahan peneguhan gender ada disediakan oleh doktor tempatan di Hospital Universiti. Selepas itu, golongan transgender tidak lagi boleh menukar nama mereka dan penanda gender dalam dokumen undang-undang mereka. Undang-undang dan fatwa diperkenalkan pada tahun 80-an telah menyebabkan akses kepada hak asasi manusia, termasuklah pendidikan, pekerjaan, kesihatan dan perumahan, lebih bertambah merosot lagi, yang sekaligus meminggirkan komuniti transgender.

Ini adalah masanya untuk orang ramai memahami bahawa golongan trans adalah normal, tidak berpura-pura,’cross-dressing’, melalui satu-satu fasa, atau tidak pasti identiti gender mereka. Individu transgender hanyalah menyatakan dan mengekspresikan diri mereka, seperti individu cisgender.

Kekurangan pemahaman seks dan gender menyebabkan stigma, diskriminasi, keganasan dan halangan bagi individu untuk mengekspresikan diri mereka serta menjadi diri mereka yang sebenar. Oleh itu, adalah sangat penting bagi orang ramai untuk mendidik diri mereka sendiri dan antara satu sama lain tentang konsep asas seks serta gender yang berpandukan pengalaman hidup seseorang dan pendekatan berasaskan bukti.

 

Understanding sex and gender: distinctions, assumptions and violence

Understanding sex and gender is imperative in ending violence and marginalization of transgender persons

Overwhelming evidence affirms that gender identity is an innate part of our being, and sex and gender are two separate categories that all human beings have. Neither sex nor gender are binary, meaning consisting of only two identities.

Sex – a combination of our chromosomes, external and internal sexual reproductive organs, hormones, and secondary sexual characteristics – is a spectrum, and does not determine our gender identity. The common misconception is that sex only consists of female (XY) or male (XX) chromosomes. However, there are also people with diverse types of chromosomes (XXX, XO, XXY, etc.), hormones, and physical characteristics outside of the male/female binary, who are known as intersex. Persons with intersex characteristics face unique challenges to fit into the male/female binary, including genital mutilation without consent, body image issues, and restrictions to compete in sporting events, among others.

Gender identity, on the other hand, is our personal sense of how we feel, see, and identify as a boy/man, girl/woman, both, neither, or combination.

In 2015, research led by brain researcher Georg S. Kanz of the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the Medical University of Vienna demonstrated that the very personal gender identity of every human being is reflected and verifiable in the cross-links between brain regions. The report stated, “While the biological gender is usually manifested in the physical appearance, the individual gender identity is not immediately discernible and primarily established in the psyche of a human being.”

When a child is born, she/he/zie[1] is assigned a category based on their genitals. For example, a child with a vagina is assigned female/girl at birth, and subsequently expected to perform gender roles specific to that identity such as cooking, cleaning, and being submissive, among others; while those assigned male/boy at birth are expected to be strong, aggressive, protective and so on. However, these assignments and assumptions are not accurate all the time, as our genitals do not determine our gender. Sex and gender are two different categories, and determined by different components of our body.

People whose lived experiences match the sex and gender they were assigned at birth are known as cisgender, while people whose lived experiences do not match the sex and gender they were assigned at birth are known as transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid and others.

A study conducted in January 2015 of 32 transgender children aged between five and twelve, led by psychological scientist Kristina Olson of the University of Washington, found that “the gender identity of these children is deeply held and is not the result of confusion about gender identity or pretense.” The researchers noted that “our results support the notion that transgender children are not confused, delayed, showing gender-atypical responding, pretending, or oppositional – they instead show responses entirely typical and expected for children with their gender identity.”

The researchers found responses from transgender children were indistinguishable from those from cisgender children. The data from transgender girls showed the same pattern as the data from cisgender girls and the data from transgender boys showed the same pattern as the data from cisgender boys. For instance, transgender girls preferred to be friends with other girls and they tended to prefer toys and foods that other girls liked, just like cisgender girls.

Understanding gender dysphoria

In addition, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) 5 explains gender dysphoria as something experienced by people whose gender assigned at birth differs from their lived experiences. The DSM-5 further provides recommendations to reduce stress and anxiety caused by inability to express their authentic gender identity.

The DSM-5 further rightly emphasizes that gender dysphoria is not a mental health disorder. Gender identity disorder (GID) was replaced with gender dysphoria in the latest DSM to avoid stigma and ensure access to care and support for people who do not identity with the gender assigned at birth based on their genitals.

Gender diversity throughout the history of humanity

Transgender and gender-diverse persons have always existed throughout the history of humanity. Michael Peletz in his book Gender Pluralism in South East Asia documents the existence of sida-sida, gender-diverse identities similar to present-day transgender persons, in the palaces of Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan, Johor, and other parts of the Peninsula Malaya and parts of Indonesia. Sida-sida resided in the inner chambers of the palace, and were ‘entrusted with the sacred regalia and the preservation of the ruler’s special powers’.

Further references to sida-sida can be found in the Hikayat Melayu, such as Hikayat Amer Hamzah. Professor Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, a Malaysian anthropologist, also provides a first-hand account of seeing sida-sida in a palace as a child, describing them as people who were assigned male at birth, who dressed and performed gender roles of women.

In Borneo, there are accounts of identities such as manang bali, basir, and balian are described as people who were assigned male at birth, who embodied female identity and performed gender roles performed by cisgender women. Basir, in Gender Pluralism in South East Asia, are described as someone who “dresses like a woman in private life as well, and parts their hair in the middle of their forehead just like a (cisgender) woman.” Manang bali, basir and balian were also ritual specialists, shamans and healers, among others.

Similar identities are seen through out the world – hijra in India; calabai, calalai and bissu in Indonesia; asog/bayugin in the Philippines; mukhannathun in Mecca and Medina; Fa’afafine in Samoa and New Zealand; Māhū in Hawai’I; two-spirit in North America, and more.

Changing attitudes

Given developments in the understanding of gender, many countries in Latin America, South Asia, Europe, North America and others have introduced gender recognition laws that allow transgender persons to change their name and gender markers in their legal documents without medical interventions or surgeries. The process is envisioned to be ”quick, transparent and accessible” gender recognition procedures, based on self-determination. The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act in Malta, for example, requires a simple declaration based on a person’s self-determination procedure before a notary, and prohibits requests for medical information. The entire process does not exceed 30 days.

Reality in Malaysia

Discrimination and violence towards transgender persons is a phenomenon that began in the 80s. Prior to that time, transgender persons enjoyed some rights, including being able to change their name and gender identity in their legal documents, namely identification cards, based on operative status.

All 14 states in Malaysia have laws that criminalize transgender women based on gender identity and gender expression, while three states have laws that prohibit female persons who pose as men or wear men’s attire in a public place for immoral purposes. These laws were introduced between 1985 and 2012.

Prior to the fatwa in 1983, which prohibited gender affirmation surgeries for trans people, local doctors provided the surgeries in University Hospital. Consequently, transgender persons were no longer able to change their name and gender marker in their legal documents. The laws and fatwa introduced in the 80s further deteriorated access to fundamental human rights, including education, employment, healthcare and housing, and further marginalized the transgender community.

It is time for people to understand that trans persons are normal, and are not in any shape or form pretending, cross dressing, going though a phase, or uncertain of their gender identity. Transgender persons are merely expressing themselves, like cisgender persons.

The lack of understanding of sex and gender has caused stigma, discrimination, violence and barriers to people being their authentic selves. Thus, it is imperative for people to educate themselves and each other about the basic concepts of sex and gender guided by lived experiences of people and evidence-based approaches.

[1] Gender-neutral pronoun. Other gender-neutral pronouns include they/their

Brief media analysis – Media reports on the violent death of a young trans woman on 9 March 2016 in Subang Jaya, Malaysia.

Only 1 out of 25 reports gathered by Justice for Sisters regarding the death of the trans woman on 9th March recognized her authentic and self-determined gender identity, by using correct term to address her.

6 out the 25 articles were sourced from Bernama. Only one media outlet, Malaysiakini changed the gender identity in its article to reflect her authentic gender identity. However, they did not use correct gender pronouns.

Further, there was an obscene and disproportionate  attention on her clothing, body, and identity as opposed to details of the case. Kosmo in one of its article included an unverified photo of her before she had transitioned or presenting herself in typically known as men’s attire. The Malaysian Digest included a photo of a trans woman with pixelated breasts for illustrative purposes..

No Media outlet Title Date & time
1 Kosmo Lelaki berpakaian wanita ditemui mati 09/03/2016 1:29pm
Pondan mati ditolak dari kondo 9 march, 2016
2 Harian Metro Mati berpakaian wanita

 

9 Mac 2016, 2:43 PM
3 Malaysiandigest Male Cross-Dresser Killed After Being Thrown Off Apartment In Subang Jaya 9 Mac 2016, 3:19
4 The Star Cross-dresser found dead at Subang apartment 9 March 2016 | MYT 3:26 PM
5 The Malaysian insider Man in women’s clothes found dead at Subang Jaya 9 March 2016 4:00 PM
6 The Sun Daily Transvestite falls to death, Kenyan suspect arrested 9 March 2016 – 06:01pm
7 Astro Awani, Mayat ‘pondan’ dalam bungkusan dicampak dari tingkat tiga kondominium
09, 2016 18:32 MYT

 

Mayat lelaki berpakaian wanita disangka sampah (video) Mac 09, 2016 18:45 (MYT)
Man in women’s clothing found dead after a fight on third floor of condominium (source: bernama) March 10, 2016 00:22

 

8 Malaysiakini Transwoman falls to death at Subang Jaya condo (source bernama) 9 Mar 2016, 11:24 pm
9 Malaymail online Man in women’s clothing found dead after a fight on third floor of condominium (source bernama) March 9, 2016
11:34 PM
10 Bernama Man In Women’s Clothing Found Dead After A Fight On Third Floor Of Condominium
11  

Sinar Harian

Lelaki berpakaian wanita terjatuh dari tingkat 3  

9 Mac 2016

12 Buletin utama TV3 Video + text March 9 2016
13 Projek MMO, Selepas bergaduh, lelaki berbaju wanita mati jatuh kondo (source: bernama) March 9, 2016
08:11 PM
14 Mstar Lelaki Berpakaian Wanita Mati Terjatuh Kondominium (source: bernama) 9 Mac 2016
15 Babab.net Lelaki Berpakaian Wanita Dijumpai Mati Di sebuah Kondominium Mewah 9 Mac 2016
16 suara   tv Mayat ‘Pondan’ Dicampak Dari Tingkat Tiga Kondominium 9 Mac 2016
17 Siakapkeli Lelaki Jatuh Dari Tingkat 3, Ditemui Mati Dengan Pakaian Wanita 9 Mac 2016
18 e-berita Pondan Melayu Ditemui Maut Jatuh Dari Tingkat Tiga 9 Mac 2016
19 Free Malaysia Today Man dressed as a woman falls to his death (source: bernama) March 10, 2016
20 Malaysia instinct Pondan kekasih negro maut jatuh kondo March 10, 2016
21 Utusan Malaysia Pemuda maut ditolak dari tingkat 3 10 Mac 2016 2:26 AM
22 WOWBERITA.ORG

 

Mayat ‘Pondan’ Dalam Bungkusan Dicampak Dari Tingkat Tiga Kondominium

Terms

Except for malaysiakini, the rest of the 21 media outlets used pejorative terms to refer to the women

  • Lelaki berpakaian atau berbaju wanita (10)
  • Pondan (6)
  • Cross dresser (2)
  • Man in women’s clothes or clothing or man dressed as woman (6)
  • Transvestite (1)
  • Transwoman (1)
Terms Media outlet Type
Lelaki berpakaian atau berbaju wanita (10) Kosmo Online and print, BM
Harian Metro
Sinar Harian
Utusan Malaysia
Buletin Utama TV3 TV and online, BM
Astro Awani TV and online, English & BM
Projek MMO Online, BM
Mstar
Babab.net
Siakapkeli
Pondan (6) Kosmo Online and print, BM
Astro Awani TV and online, English & BM
suara   tv Online, BM
e-berita
Malaysia instinct
WOWBERITA.ORG
Cross dresser (2) Malaysiandigest Online, English
The Star Online and print, English
Man in women’s clothes or clothing or man dressed as woman (6) The Malaysian insider Online, English & BM
Free Malaysia Today Online, English
Malaymail online
Astro Awani, TV and online, English & BM
The Star Online and print, English
Bernama State news agency
Transvestite (1) The Sun Daily Online and print, English
Transwoman (1) Malaysiakini Online, English & BM

Other information regarding the reports

Language

BM – 9

English -16

Medium

Video – 2

Article – 23

Types of media

Only online

  • BM – 8
  • English -3
  • Both – 2

Print and online

  • BM – 4
  • English – 2

TV and online

  • BM – 1
  • Both – 1
Online and print, BM (4) Sinar Harian
Kosmo
Harian Metro
Utusan Malaysia
Online and print, English (2) The Star
The Sun Daily
TV and online, English & BM (1)

 

Astro Awani

(news published in BM & English)

TV and online,

BM (1)

Buletin utama TV3
Online, English & BM (2) The Malaysian insider (article published in English)
Malaysiakini

(article published in English)

 
Online, English (3) Malaymail online
Malaysiandigest
Free Malaysia Today
 
Online, BM (8) Projek MMO,
Mstar
Babab.net
suara   tv
Siakapkeli
e-berita
Malaysia instinct
WOWBERITA.ORG
State news agency Bernama

 

 

 

Laws to stereotypes: Obstacles faced by transgender persons in Malaysia

By Susan Tam March 25, 2015 / 11:00 MYT
After speaking to a trans man and trans woman recently about the painful experiences they face, we took a look at how the transgender group copes in Malaysia, by understanding the legal ramifications and social norms linked to life as a transgender.

Global human rights organisation Human Rights Watch notes that transgender is a term for anyone whose sex assigned to them at birth do not conform to their lived or perceived gender, which is a gender they are more comfortable in expressing.

1. Unclear laws for gender change

Malaysian laws do not directly allow for transgenders to have their gender markers legally changed on their identification cards or passports.  Judges in Malaysia will use their discretion to rule cases that involve transgenders applying for alteration of the sex marker on their MyKads.  In 2005, two cases of the same nature received different judgements.  Wong Chiou Yong’s application was denied, but in J.G versus the National Registration Department, the request was allowed.  There was no mention of the option to change a gender field under the Birth and Deaths Registration Act 1957, and while corrections were allowed under the National Registration Act 1959, no details were given as to what detail people can alter on their MyKad.  On whether transgenders can change their name or gender markers, it was up to the courts to interpret this law.

2. Muslim transgenders face Syariah law penalties

Under most enactments under Syariah laws, men are not allowed to dress as women, this applies to some states of Malaysia. In 1982, the National Fatwa Council prohibited Muslims from undergoing sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and Muslim medical institutions from providing such operations.

Transgender men face issues too as seven states had fatwas or decrees issued against ‘pengkid’, a term to describe tomboys or masculine women.  These decrees state that women who have masculine appearance or male sexual instincts are not allowed under Islam.

Added to this legal challenge, under Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act 1997, Muslim transgenders can be charged for ‘immoral behaviour’.  If found guilty, they are fined no more than RM1,000 or be jailed for no longer than a year.  Or face both sentences.

But, a recent landmark court decision may open the way for change in the legal status of Muslim transgenders.  Last November’s ruling in Negeri Sembilan allowed men to dress as women, as the Court of Appeal ruled that it was unconstitutional to penalise Muslim men who were suffering from a medical condition called gender identity disorder. 

3. Non-muslim transgenders face complications too

We learnt from a Human Rights Watch report on transgenders that although non-Muslims are free from the Syariah law jurisdiction, they face other obstacles such as having difficulties finding a medical institution to help them with sex reassignment surgeries.   They too can be charged under civil law, under Section 21 of the Minor Offences Act 1955.  They can be penalised for ‘indecent behaviour’ and be fined from RM25 to RM50.  Since there is no clear definition of what constitutes indecent behaviour, it is up to the police to decide what indecent means.

4. Getting married

Same sex unions are not allow under civil law or Syariah law in Malaysia, a country where sodomy is illegal. In 2005, the issues of transgender marriage in Malaysia was brought up when Chinese transgender Jessie Chung married Joshua Beh in Kuching, Sarawak.  Chung was born male, and went through three surgeries to become a woman.  The authorities declared their union invalid, and some Christian groups denounced it.  But the couple went ahead with their ceremony, getting their union blessed by three pastors in front of an audience of 800 people.

5. Festivals banned

Along with the laundry list of legal obstacles facing this community, campaigns and public events featuring the lesbian, gay and transgender communities were recently prohibited.  Seksualiti Merdeka or the Sexuality Independence festival was banned by the police in 2011, because it constituted a ‘threat to public order.’  The festival went ahead in 2008 and 2009, but was stopped in 2011.  Workshops, talks, musical and theatre performances on the diversity of this community were planned to educate the public and celebrate the rights of these groups.

6. Facing problems getting work

We spoke to local NGO Justice for Sisters who pointed out that transgenders are often reduced to details about their sex while their qualifications, capabilities and capacity become irrelevant. This makes it difficult for them to find work. Transgenders also face sexual harassment and sexism at the workplace, including restriction to use toilet that reflects their gender.   The NGO told us that the laws that criminalise transgenders worsens their situation, as employers do not want to risk hiring someone that could possibly be arrested and imprisoned, as that could hurt the brand, image or productivity of the company.

7. Raising a family

Justice for Sisters feel that adoption laws works on the assumption that women are better at child rearing, reinforcing binary gender roles and mythology of maternal instincts and that of the construct of family.  The family structure, despite it changing today, still remains binary and heteronormative. This means that it involves parents of two different genders and children of clearly defined and socially accepted gender or sexual orientation with no disabilities.  These social constructs make it hard for transgenders to be seen as good parents, let alone parents.

Transgenders are often viewed, due to lack of information and awareness , as immoral and a bad influence to children.  The NGO maintains that transgenders’ desires to reproduce or build a family has nothing to do with gender or cannot be reduced to gender or genitals. People regardless of gender identity have the desire to reproduce and build a family.

To sum up, Justice for Sisters provides these approaches as the way forward for society to understand the community:

a. The government must have meaningful dialogue with the transgender community, immediately stop all arrests and prosecution of transgender persons because of their gender identity.
b. Authorities must repeal laws that criminalise transgender, take all measures to increase access of transgenders in the education, healthcare and employment sectors, and change the attitude of the public services towards transgenders.
c. Non state actors, including the private sector needs to review employment policies and adopting ones that are transgender-friendly, while having a greater role in public education, by organising gender sensitization seminars at workplace.
d. Organising more public discussions regarding gender and social constructs, as well as have more spaces for transgenders to express themselves and be represented.
e. Media needs to increase positive representation of transgenders and not reduce transgenders to genitals and transitioning experiences, and play a greater role in public education.

Image credit: ​Afif Raiezal/The Malaysian Insider

http://kl.coconuts.co/2015/03/25/laws-stereotypes-obstacles-faced-transgenders-malaysia

Malaysia’s hostile position on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is bad for business

In the last few years, we have seen a vibrant global movement to understand and embrace people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions in almost all sectors, from pop culture to business and politics. Laverne Cox’s TIME magazine cover was truly a historic moment, as it signified a shift in mainstream norms and attitudes towards transgender people, who have been marginalized for generations.

The transgender movement or the struggle of transgender persons for equality has been dubbed as the new civil rights movement, and rightly so. Even in 2014, transgender persons all around the world still suffer oppression and lack recognition as human beings with dignity and autonomy. This lack of recognition increases violence, impunity and discrimination towards transgender persons.

Globally, violence and discrimination towards transgender persons is all too common. All around the world, including Malaysia, transgender people still face rejection from family members and are often kicked out of their homes at a very young age. Young transgender persons also face severe bullying in school, which often goes ignored by school administrations and adults. Ultimately, many transgender students lose interest in education, perform poorly in school, or forced to drop out of school. Adult transgender persons also face a range of societal issues including the lack of employment opportunities, lack of access to much needed healthcare services. In addition, transgender persons are also arbitrarily criminalized, arrested, and imprisoned for their gender identity. This list of the deprivation of rights that transgender persons face goes on and on. Due to the insurmountable and systemic stigma and discrimination that transgender persons face, most transgender persons continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

November 20th is the global Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Annually on this day, we commemorate the lives of transgender people who were violently murdered in hate crimes. According to the Transgender European Union (TGEU), 226 killings of transgender persons because of hate crime had been reported worldwide between November 2013 and October 2014 alone. In total, since January 2008 the murders of 1,612 trans people have been reported, out of which, 138 killings of trans people have been reported in 16 Asian countries.

Recognizing the structural and systemic violence as well as discrimination that transgender and gender non-conforming people face, state and non-state actors alike are now taking active measures to promote and protect the rights of all and eliminate discrimination as much as possible, especially state sanctioned discrimination, such as discriminatory laws and policies. To this end, the United Nations (UN) launched a global campaign ‘Free & Equal’ to raise awareness and understanding regarding sexual orientation and gender identity as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer persons (LGBTIQ). Further, many countries, including Argentina, Denmark, Malta and others have introduced legislations to allow transgender persons to change their name and gender markers in their official documents.

Discriminatory legislations and responses by the international community

In late 2014, Uganda introduced the anti-gay law, in which both LGBT and allies were criminalized. Under this draconian law, anyone who shelters or employs someone from the LGBT community too can be penalized.

In response to this anti-gay legislation, the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in his editorial piece in the Washington Post cautioned that such discriminatory legislation towards LGBT persons “can hurt a country’s competitiveness by discouraging multinational companies from investing or locating their activities in those nations”. Following the statement in February 2014, the World Bank decided to postpone its financial aid, worth USD$90 million to Uganda. The law also drew flak from donor countries such as Denmark and Norway, who were ready to redirect aid away from the government to aid agencies.

Uganda’s Supreme Court struck down the law as null and void in August 2014.

Russia also introduced an anti-propaganda law in June 2013, in which any form of promotion of LGBT or ‘non traditional sexual relations’ content is prohibited amongst others. Following the enforcement of the law, a video emerged online of five assailants stripping and violently attacking a transgender person. More often than not, such discriminatory laws have the direct impact on people who visibly do not fit into the man/woman binary or gender norms, including transgender persons and gender non-conforming persons (‘effeminate’ men, ‘butch’ women, etc.).

The discriminatory law, coupled with heavy-handed suppression of human rights including the imprisonment of the members of Pussy Riot, drew sharp criticism from the international media and community.

In February 2014, Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations secretary general, condemned the attacks on the LGBT community in a speech ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, “We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they [LGBTI people] face.” Further, the UN consistently called for the repeal of this anti-LGBT legislation.

In the lead up to the games, many called for a boycott of the winter Olympics. The United States of America, Germany, France, Poland and the European Commission in protest chose not to send high-ranking officials to the opening ceremony because of the repeated attacks on human rights and the introduction of discriminatory legislations. Russia’s human rights violations have severed its ties with the United States, and caused the country to be isolated by a number of countries.

With mounting pressure from the civil society in Russia and the international community, Russia announced their willingness to take all required measures to prevent homophobic hate crimes and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation at the 24th UN Human Rights Council, while retaining the anti-propaganda legislation.

Following the campaign by the international community around the Winter Olympics, there is now a concerted effort to address discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ persons in and through sports. Consequently, the UN’s Human Rights Day in 2013 was themed “sport comes out against homophobia”.

Malaysia has announced its intention to bid to host the World Cup in 2026, an opportunity highly coveted by many nations across the world. FIFA has actively taken a part in addressing discrimination and violence on and off the pitch, and specifically bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. In the last World Cup in Brazil, GLAAD and many other groups campaigned against violence and discrimination towards LGBTIQ persons in sports, with many athletes coming out to support the call for respect of all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

It is safe to say that Malaysia tries to position itself as a moderate Muslim country and a key player within the UN system as demonstrated by its multiple bids for positions in the Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council. Malaysia is currently a member of the UN Security Council. However, the state needs to realize that its policies and its extreme positions will come under greater scrutiny by the international community as it gains more visibility internationally.

‘I am Scared to be a Woman’, a Human Rights Watch report on human rights violations towards transgender persons in Malaysia, launched in September this year named Malaysia among the worst countries in the world for transgender person to live, for reasons including systematic abuses of arbitrary arrests, sexual assault and extortion by both religious authorities and the police. This reflects Prime Minister Najib Razak’s statement two years ago that the LGBT is a “deviant culture” that had no place in Malaysia.

With so much attention on violence and discrimination towards people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, including transgender persons, Malaysia needs to immediately and critically relook at its position on SOGI. As a nation striving towards high-income status, such a hostile position is just bad for business.

Justice for Sisters