Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017

Remembering the violence, hate crime and murder of trans people and gender diverse persons based on gender identity and gender expression

On 20th November, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) we remember all the trans people and gender diverse people who have been subjected to murder and violence based on gender identity and gender expression. On TDOR, we remember and honour their lives, and we continue to seek justice and end violence against trans and gender diverse people based on gender identity and gender expression.

According to updates by the Transgender Europe (TGEU), 325 cases of murder of trans and gender diverse persons were reported between October 2016 and September 2017. This year’s update shows an increase of 30 cases from last year.

In total between January 2008 and September 2017, a total of 2,609 trans and gender diverse people were reported killed in 71 countries. Out of the total reported cases, 231 reported cases come from Asia.

In Malaysia, 3 cases of murder of trans women were reported in 2017. Two out of the three cases were reported in the media, and the trans women were subjected to misgendering or the use of wrong gender pronouns, terms or labels, description and name in the media. In addition, the outcomes of the investigation of these cases have yet to be seen.

February 2017 – Sameera Krishnan was brutally attacked, shot, tortured, mutilated and found dead in Pahang. Her case was reportedly investigated by the police. However, outcomes of the case are unknown.

May 2017 – An unnamed trans woman was found dead in her bedroom with both wrists bound with wirehair dryers and cable mobile phone charger in Kuala Lumpur. The body was found approximately 4 days after death due to the smell from decay.

August 2017 – A 22-year-old trans woman was reportedly murdered in Kuala Lumpur. This case did not appear in the media.

We also remember and highlight the case of a Thai trans woman in Penang in May 2017. The woman who is also a sex worker, sustained severe injuries and was almost killed due to multiple stabbing with a knife by a client over allegedly expensive rates.

Between 2007 and 2016, at least 10 cases of murder have been reported in the media. In these 10 cases, the trans women were subjected to brutal violence, including being beaten to death with a hammer, strangled, gagged, stabbed multiple times, physically assaulted, pushed from a building, drowned in a water retention pond, etc.

Its important to note that these are reported cases of murder, hate crime and violence. There are many cases of hate crime, murder and violence that go unreported (due to fear of reprisal or further violence, lack of trust in law enforcement agencies to investigate cases, lack of serious and meaningful investigation of cases, lack of friendly and inclusive reporting mechanism, among others), unnoticed (due to misgendering in the media among others) and silenced (due to shame by family members, fear of media sensationalization, among others).

The violence experienced by trans and gender diverse people do not happen in a vacuum, and it correlates with the broader discriminatory laws, policies, misinformation regarding gender identity and trans people, lack of positive and affirming representation in the media among many other factors. Criminalization of trans people increases barriers for trans people to access justice and continues to marginalize trans people. In addition, the lack of inclusive, sensitive and friendly redress mechanisms further limit access to justice for trans and gender diverse persons.

We believe that the marginalization and violence against trans and gender diverse persons must end, and we can end it together. We call everyone to light a candle for all trans and gender diverse people have been subjected to murder and hate crime this 20th November.


For more information regarding TDOR, please visit

Name list of trans and gender diverse people who have been subjected to murder

Media kit for journalist

For updates in Malaysia, please visit


Reported murder of trans people in Malaysia

In conjunction with trans awareness month and TDOR this November 2017 Justice for Sisters in collaboration with the G-Blog bring you articles and stories by trans people


Debunking harmful myths & misinformation regarding LGBTIQ persons in Malaysia

The two consecutive anti-LGBT events by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) in Universiti Malaya and the Selangor State Islamic Department in Shah Alam on October 13th and 14th respectively are a genuine cause for alarm. From their biased content to the use of public funds, and the support by a public education institution along with the Selangor state government, the events reflect a slew of problems. Above all, the myths, assumptions, bias and misinformation shared during the events have a harmful impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer persons (LGBTIQ) persons and society.

Disseminating false and harmful information that stereotypes and misrepresents the realities of LGBT persons is a form of discrimination and violence. The event in UM by JAKIM stereotyped and sexualized experiences of LGBTQ persons. The forum featured two repented or former LGBT persons, focused mostly on their sexual experiences, drug use, and personal choices. Both events used the narrative that LGBT persons are lost and confused, hooked on drugs, alcohol and sex, and are morally bankrupt, amongst others. Some of the experiences portrayed had no connection to sexual orientation and gender identity. Meanwhile, some experiences were directly and clearly a result of the lack of acceptance from family members and multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, these links were not discussed.

The assumptions and stereotypes that depict LGBT persons as not religious, spiritual and/or morally bankrupt are completely untrue. The reality is there are many LGBT persons who actively practice and deeply believe in their religion and spirituality. LGBT persons have the same right to religion and spirituality as cisgender heterosexual people. In fact, it is the rejection and ex-communication by religious institutions (not limited to state Islamic departments) that cause deep conflicts within LGBT persons and sometimes lead to self-harm.

The information shared during the events lacked structural and systemic analysis of the discrimination experienced by LGBT persons. It placed the blame and responsibility solely on the individual, as opposed to the social, cultural, economic and political context the person is in. The discrimination, violence, exclusion and marginalization of LGBT persons do not exist in a vacuum. At the root of this is the continued refusal to recognise the lived experiences of LGBT persons, facts and evidence; discriminatory laws, policies and practices; barriers to access basic rights including education, employment, healthcare; amongst others. As a result, LGBT persons face increased health burden including stress, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideas; increased poverty; lack social safety nets; amongst others. The role of family members and friends are critical for LGBT persons, and has a life changing effect. Without affirmation and support from family members and/or friends, LGBT persons face increased challenges, including withdrawal of emotional and financial support, isolation, domestic violence, and conversion therapy, amongst others.

The session in Shah Alam, part of a religious talk series by the Selangor State Islamic Department, featured a pantomime performance by school children. It is extremely disconcerting that school children are being brainwashed and used to promote anti-LGBT messages. Indoctrinating children with feelings of prejudice and hate is dangerous. If we have learned anything from the recent cases of deaths in schools, bullying on the grounds of gender expression can be deadly. In June 2017, Nhaveen, a young person from Penang died as a result of physical assault by some former schoolmates. Underlying the violence, amongst others, was the on-going bullying Nhaveen experienced based on gender expression, later revealed by Nhaveen’s friends, family members and teachers.

The organizers stressed that LGBT persons should not be discriminated, teased and bullied, and that family members should love their LGBT children. In line with JAKIM’s “soft approach”, attendees were advised to embrace LGBT persons, but advise and encourage them to suppress themselves to prevent them from ‘terjebak dalam LGBT’ (getting sucked into LGBT). What JAKIM, the Islamic state departments, and organizers fail to recognize is that suppression of our identities and who we are is a form of discrimination, violence and torture. Forcing people to confine themselves to the binary constructs of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and heterosexual norms is harmful, unrealistic and more importantly amounts to the erasure of our identities and diversity. This forced suppression results in internalized oppression, self-harm, mental health issues, and forced marriages among other things, that have a destructive and systemic impact on society in general.

Finally, the talk in UM included screenshots of social media accounts of actual or perceived LGBT persons in the presentation session. This raises concerns of outing, or non-consensual disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity, privacy, and violence towards LGBT persons.


Myth #1. Five factors that make one LGBT

JAKIM claims that there are 5 factors that make one LGBT: parenting, traumatic events (sexual violence), pornography, bullying, and environmental factors. These are myths that have in fact been debunked.                        

Historical and anthropological evidence show that sexual and gender diversity have always existed across the world. This includes hijra in Indiacalabai, calalai and bissu in Indonesiaasog/bayugin in the Philippinesmukhannathun in Makkah and MedinaFa’afafine in Samoa and New Zealand; Māhū in Hawai’I; two-spirit in North America, and more. Michael Peletz in his book Gender Pluralism in South East Asia documents the existence of sida-sida,[1] 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. In Borneo, there are accounts of identities such as manang balibasir, and balian[2] are described as people who were assigned male at birth, who embodied female identity and performed gender roles performed by cisgender women.

It cannot be stressed enough that diversity of sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions and sex characteristics are normal occurrences in life. Just like cisgender heterosexual persons, LGBT and people of other identities also exist. There is no evidence to support the claim that childhood trauma, experiences of abuse in childhood, parenting skills, absent fathers and domineering mothers or tension in the family are factors that cause one to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or anything other than cisgender heterosexual.

In 1975, the American Psychological Association (APA) removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), as “research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology” and “heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality.”

While gender dysphoria[3] is in the current DSM 5, it has undergone major revisions to provide further clarification and guidance to healthcare providers as well as to remove stigma in relation to trans persons. This includes the replacement of “gender identity disorder” with “gender dysphoria” in DSM 5, and clarification that ‘gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with gender dysphoria”

The gender dysphoria diagnosis also includes “a post-transition specifier for people who are living full-time as the desired gender (with or without legal sanction of the gender change). This ensures treatment access for individuals who continue to undergo hormone therapy, related surgery, or psychotherapy or counseling to support their gender transition.” At the same time, it is important to note that people are able to determine their own gender identity without a diagnosis by healthcare providers. The diagnosis of gender dysphoria facilitates access to hormone replacement therapy and other trans specific healthcare services. In many countries, including Malta and India, medical evidence, including diagnosis by mental health professional of gender identity is not required in order to change the details in legal documents. The changes are made based on self-determined gender identity, as individuals are capable of recognizing and identifying their own gender identity based on their lived experiences.

Reality of sexual violence experienced by LGBTIQ persons

LGBT persons experience increased risks of sexual violence because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristic. In some cases, LGBT persons are sexually assaulted as a form of correction, to exercise power over and amongst others. In many cases, LGBT persons’ first sexual experiences are sexual violence. In many situations, LGBT persons across age groups are not able to share their experiences or report cases of sexual violence because of victim-blaming, self blame and rationalization, lack of friendly and affirming services, lack of information, amongst others. This creates an environment that disempowers and silences LGBT persons and emboldens perpetrators.

It extremely problematic to distort experiences of sexual violence; not only does it effectively silence LGBT persons from sharing their experiences but also increases barriers for LGBT persons in seeking services and working through trauma. We emphasize that the experience of sexual violence do not make one LGBT. However, LGBT persons experience increased vulnerabilities of sexual violence and face increased barriers to report cases of violence.

The issues that need to be addressed, amongst others are agency of people across age and diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics to share or report experiences of sexual violence; comprehensive and inclusive sex education of diverse identities; friendly services for LGBT persons of all ages to report sexual violence.

Myth #2. LGBT persons can be corrected or return to the ‘right path’

A central theme in JAKIM’s anti-LGBT messaging and efforts is that sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed through rehabilitation/ conversion therapy and the suppression of sexual orientation and gender identity. JAKIM categorises LGBT persons who are Muslim into 3 groups: those who have repented, those who are repenting, and those who are firm in their LGBT identities. The two former sub-groups should be assisted, guided and not discriminated. Meanwhile, the third group must be reasoned with rational arguments.

Gender, sex characteristics and sexual orientations are not binary instead they are a spectrum. All persons should have access to information regarding gender and sexuality, and feel safe to explore, understand and express their gender and sexuality. While we respect the choices of people who choose to change their sexual orientation and gender identity, the notion of “former” LGBT persons and what compels people to change needs to be further analyzed.

The Mukhayyam programme, a rehabilitation programme by JAKIM for LGBT persons claims to be a strategy to reduce prevalence of HIV, among other things. While there is an appearance of change by the participants of the programme, the Global AIDS Response Progress Report 2016 notes that there is no evidence to prove the efficacy of this programme.

Mukhayyam is a special program aimed at creating awareness on principles of Islamic teaching, self enhancement apart from HIV awareness. Targeting key populations, enrolment to this program is voluntary. Many who attended this program have reported change in behaviour to less risky or risk free but there has been no data to support this claim. (page 17, Global AIDS Response Progress Report 2016)

Not only is rehabilitation and corrective therapy ineffective, but it also creates more harm. All major national mental health organizations have rejected and expressed concerns regarding therapies that aims to correct or change gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, as there is a lack of evidence that support the efficacy of these efforts or therapies.

In 2009, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a report concluding that the risks of conversion therapy practices include: depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviours, a feeling of being dehumanised and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.

In 2012, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) stated that purport to “cure” people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people. Additionally, PAHO also emphasized that therapy to change sexual orientation brings ‘a serious threat to the health and well-being—even the lives—of affected people.’ In the same year, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a former advocate of conversion therapy, issued a public apology, and retracted his support for conversion therapy.

In the context of Malaysia, the UN Special Rapporteur on health, during his visit to Malaysia in November 2014, expressed concern over the “so-called “corrective therapies” by the state agencies.

Such therapies are not only unacceptable from a human rights perspective, but they are also against scientific evidence, and have a serious negative impact on the mental health and well-being of adolescents. State-led programs to identify, “expose”, and punish LGBT children have contributed to a detrimental educational environment where the inherent dignity of the child is not respected, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is encouraged.”

It is extremely concerning that public health policies are being made based on ineffective and non-evidence based approaches. It is misguided and naïve to assume that prevalence of HIV will decline via rehabilitation of LGBT persons, that is making LGBT persons suppress their gender identity and sexual orientation.

Myth #3. LGBT persons are the leading cause of HIV

The claim that LGBT persons are the leading cause of HIV is untrue, counterproductive and simply irresponsible. Such statements, especially in an environment where LGBT people are already stigmatized, risk increasing stigma, discrimination, stereotype and misinformation regarding HIV and LGBT persons, and could lead to rollback of rights of people living with HIV. For example, in 2017, a local college in Selangor explicitly stated in its admission criteria that admission would be revoked or rejected for applicants who are HIV positive or experience mental health issues.

The Global AIDS Response Progress Report 2016 reports a shift in trend of prevalence from transmission through unsafe injecting practices to transmission via sexual intercourse. Another concerning pattern that was observed is in relation to age. The report notes that the bulk of infection involves young people between ages of 20 and 39 years old. A media release by the Malaysian AIDS Council in October 2017 notes:

“… Malaysia is facing a sexual health crisis. Of the reported 3,397 new HIV infections last year, 84 per cent or 2,864 were sexually transmitted – 1,553 homo/bisexual (46 per cent) and 1,311 heterosexual transmissions (38 per cent) respectively. The rise in sexually transmitted HIV has come to characterise the national AIDS epidemic since 2010 when, for the first time, new HIV infections attributed to sexual transmission superseded unsafe drug injecting practices and other modes of transmission.”

LGBT persons are not inherently at risk of HIV. It is crucial to examine the correlation between the rise in prevalence of HIV among gay men and transgender women and the rise of anti-LGBT activities, criminalization, legal, socio-political and economic barriers and discrimination faced by LGBT population in general. Evidence shows that LGBT persons face increased vulnerability and health risks, including HIV, STI, mental health issues amongst others as a result of the multiple forms of discrimination that LGBT persons experience. Thus, the biggest contributor to HIV is stigma and discrimination, not LGBT persons.

A report by the United Nations Country Team in 2014, “The Review and Consultation on the Policy and Legal Environments Related to HIV Services in Malaysia” provides an overview of the HIV epidemic in Malaysia. Notably, the removal of criminal laws and discriminatory practices being critical in transforming the global AIDS response:

“In Malaysia, the HIV epidemic continues to be concentrated among key populations, who often represent highly ostracized and stigmatized segments within all societies. Members of these communities are not only rejected socially, but further marginalized through legal frameworks that cast them as criminals. Criminal laws and discriminatory practices based on moral judgment, superstition, ancient beliefs, fear and misinformation, punish instead of protect. They drive at-risk communities underground, preventing them from accessing lifesaving treatment and prevention information and services, heightening their risk for HIV.

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law (2010-2012), a high-level initiative launched in 2010 by UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, examined how law and practices can transform the global AIDS response. The Commission’s findings and recommendations reveal that evidence-based laws and practices firmly grounded in human rights are powerful instruments for challenging discrimination, promoting public health, and protecting human rights. The benefits are felt beyond HIV responses to encompass health and development outcomes more broadly.

Furthermore, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Resolutions 66/10 and 67/9 recommended that punitive laws and policies targeting key populations be abolished to reduce levels of social stigma, discrimination, violence and broader human rights violations.”


Assigned sex at birth – identity assigned based on genitals, typically, female, male, etc. however, sex or sex characteristics refer to a combination of chromosomes, internal and external sexual organs, secondary sex characteristics, and hormones.

Gender identity – personal sense of identification (typically, girl, boy, gender fluid or queer etc.) based on how one feels and sees themselves. Typically, gender identity is also assigned at birth according to genital based on assumption. However, gender identity and sex are two separate things, and do not have be consistent, aligned or match.

Cisgender – a person whose sex assigned at birth ‘match’ their gender identity

Transgender – a person whose sex assigned at birth ‘does not match’ their gender identity

Trans woman – a transgender person whose gender identity is a girl/woman

Trans man – a transgender person whose gender identity is a boy/man

Gender queer – a person identifies as neither girl/woman or boy/man, non-binary, combination of gender categories or other forms of gender identity

See gender bear for more information

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis for people whose gender at birth is contrary to the one they identify, including but not limited to transgender persons.

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

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 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


Mayat ‘Pondan’ Dalam Bungkusan Dicampak Dari Tingkat Tiga Kondominium


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
Pondan (6) Kosmo Online and print, BM
Astro Awani TV and online, English & BM
suara   tv Online, BM
Malaysia instinct
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


BM – 9

English -16


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
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)

(article published in English)

Online, English (3) Malaymail online
Free Malaysia Today
Online, BM (8) Projek MMO,
suara   tv
Malaysia instinct
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

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