Keadilan untuk Sameera – Pastikan siasatan yang teliti dan mereka di sebalik pembunuhan Sameera dibawa ke muka pengadilan

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Kami seperti yang tertera di bawah amat sedih berikutan pembunuhan kejam Sameera Krishnan, seorang wanita transgender atau mak nyah muda pada 23 Februari 2017 sekitar jam 3.30 pagi di Kuantan, Malaysia. Sameera bukan sahaja diserang dengan pisau dan ditetak pada bahagian tangan, kaki, kepala, serta kaki, dia juga ditembak sebanyak tiga kali. Sameera bekerja sebagai seorang penjual bunga di Kuantan dan dikenali oleh keluarga serta rakan-rakannya sebagai seorang yang lemah lembut dan rendah hati. Pengebumian Sameera telah disempurnakan pada Jumaat, 24 Februari, yang juga merupakan tarikh lahirnya.

Kami mengalu-alukan siasatan pembunuhan tersebut oleh pihak polis yang dilakukan secara segera, dan berharap pihak polis akan menerbit hasil siasatan ini kepada orang awam. Kami berharap keadilan dapat dilaksanakan untuk Sameera. Pembunuhan yang tidak berperikemanusiaan ini telah dikenalpasti berhubung dengan sebuah kes yang masih berterusan melibatkan Sameera di mana pada Februari 2015, Sameera telah diculik dan dirogol oleh beberapa orang samseng. Sameera telah ditetapkan untuk muncul di mahkamah pada bulan hadapan sebagai saksi utama kes ini.

Sementara kita menunggu siasatan dan motif pembunuhan tersebut dikenalpasti pihak polis, adalah penting untuk mengakui bahawa wanita trans menghadapi jenayah kebencian dan keganasan yang melampau dan luar biasa berdasarkan identiti gender mereka. Antara sebab berlakunya keganasan sebegini termasuklah kekurangan perlindungan undang-undang, penganiayaan, persepsi negatif masyarakat terhadap individu trans, diskriminasi, dan sebagainya.

Antara 2007 dan 2016, sekurang-kurangnya 10 kes pembunuhan telah dilaporkan oleh pihak media. Dalam 10 kes-kes ini, wanita-wanita trans telah menghadapi keganasan yang melampau termasuklah dipukul dengan tukul sehingga mati, dicekik, ditikam berkali-kali, diserang secara fizikal, ditolak keluar bangunan, dilemaskan dalam kolam takungan air dan sebagainya. Walau bagaimanapun, kebanyakan kes jenayah kebencian dan keganasan terhadap golongan trans tidak dilaporkan dan tidak didokumentasikan.

Laporan media dan misgendering

Misgendering, iaitu penggunaan nama atau kata ganti nama atau rujukan lain yang tidak mencerminkan identiti gender seseorang, terhadap Sameera telah menerima kritikan meluas masyarakat dan aktivis trans termasuklah kumpulan seperti Persatuan Tamil Thirunangai Malaysia. Pihak media telah menunjukkan ketidakpekaan dan sikap tidak hormat terhadap Sameera dan individu trans lain, tidak memedulikan langsung trauma dan kehilangan yang dihadapi oleh ahli-ahli keluarga serta individu-individu tersayang Sameera.

Beberapa laporan media tentang pembunuhan Sameera terutamanya sekali artikel-artikel berbahasa Melayu merujuk kepada Sameera dengan terma-terma negatif yang mengaibkan dan tidak menyenangkan seperti ‘pondan’, ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’, ‘lelaki transeksual’ dalam tajuk dan kandungan artikelnya.

Walaupun beberapa media seperti Harian Metro telah menukar perkataan ‘pondan” (terma yang mempunyai konotasi negatif terhadap wanita trans dan lelaki gay cisgender, terutamanya yang disifatkan sebagai ‘lembut’) dalam tajuk artikel mereka kepada “Mak Nyah” (terma yang sesuai untuk merujuk kepada wanita trans), terma tersebut tidak digunakan secara konsisten, menyeluruh dan memuaskan. Sebagai contoh, artikel Harian Metro tersebut yang bertajuk ‘Mak Nyah maut ditembak, ditetak’ masih mengandungi konsep salah ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’ dalam kandungan artikelnya. Wanita trans bukan ‘lelaki yang berperwatakan perempuan’. Hal ini menunjukkan kurang pemahaman tentang identiti gender dan kepelbagaian gender. Tambahan pula, Mutiara FM, sebuah stesen radio tempatan, dalam rancangan paginya merujuk kepada Sameera sebagai seorang lelaki trans sambil menggelakkan identiti gendernya.

Misgendering yang konsisten dan sengaja merupakan satu bentuk keganasan kerana hal ini mejatuhkan martabat serta maruah diri individu transgender. Selain itu, misgendering juga mempunyai kesan jangka panjang yang mendalam terhadap keyakinan diri individu-individu transgender. Kami menggesa orang ramai untuk menggunakan istilah yang tepat dan tidak mempunyai konotasi negatif seperti mak nyah, trans woman, perempuan atau wanita transgender, dan transgender women. (Sila lihat analisa media dan panduan media terbitan Justice for Sisters)

Keganasan yang dialami oleh individu-individu trans tidak berlaku secara tiba-tiba dan merupakan simptom atau kesan daripada peminggiran dan halangan-halangan yang dihadapi mereka. Adalah penting untuk kita menghapuskan semua bentuk stigma dan diskriminasi yang dihadapi oleh individu-individu trans yang terus meletakkan mereka dalam situasi-situasi yang berisiko tinggi.

Semua orang, tanpa mengira identiti jantina perlu dilindungi daripada keganasan. Kami menggesa pihak berkuasa dan media untuk melayan individu trans dengan hormat dan bermaruah. Kami juga menggesa pihak polis segera membawa para penjenayah di sebalik pembunuhan Sameera ke muka pengadilan.

Disokong oleh: (menurut abjad)

  1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  2. Association of Women Lawyers Malaysia (AWL)
  3. Community Development Centre (CDC)
  4. HAKAM, National Human Rights Society
  5. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
  6. Justice for Sisters (JFS)
  7. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  8. Tirunangai Uthavi Karagal
  9. The G-Blog
  10. Transmen of Malaysia (TOM)
  11. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  12. PELANGI — Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative
  13. Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
  14. Persatuan Tamil Thirunangai Malaysia
  15. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
  16. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia
  17. Pertubuhan Kebajikan Sinar Pelangi (PKSP)
  18. PT Foundation
  19. Seksualiti Merdeka
  20. SEED Malaysia
  21. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  22. Suaram Malaysia
  23. Voice of Community (VOC)
  24. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  25. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
Terminologi

Jantina atau seks yang diberikan ketika lahir –   Identiti yang diberikan mengikut alat kelamin, selalunya perempuan, lelaki, dll. Walau bagaimanapun, jantina atau seks merujuk kepada kombinasi kromosom, organ seksual dan reproduktif luaran dan dalaman, ciri-ciri seks sekunder serta komposisi hormon.

Identiti gender – Identifikasi peribadi (contohnya: perempuan, lelaki, gender fluid atau queer, dsb) berdasarkan cara kita melihat dan mengenali diri sendiri. Selalunya, identiti gender diberikan ketika lahir adalah tekaan berdasarkan alat kelamin luaran. Akan tetapi, identiti gender dan seks adalah dua perkara berbeza, dan tidak perlu sepadan, konsisten atau selari.

Cisgender – identiti gender dan jantina/seks yang diberikan ketika lahir ‘sepadan’

Transgender – identiti gender dan jantina/seks yang diberikan ketika lahir ‘tidak sepadan’

Trans -singkatan bagi transgender

Trans woman, mak nyah, wanita atau perempuan transgender – identiti gender individu transgender itu perempuan, atau mengenali dirinya sebagai seorang perempuan

Trans man, lelaki transgender – identiti gender individu transgender itu lelaki, atau mengenali dirinya sebagai seorang lelaki

Gender queer – seorang yang tidak mengenal pasti dirinya dengan mana-mana gender, semua gender, kombinasi gender, dan sebagainya

Untuk maklumat lanjut sila lihat gender bear

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Justice for Sameera – Ensure thorough investigation & hold perpetrators accountable

c5bfqnnvmaavyrwWe, the undersigned, are deeply saddened by the senseless murder of Sameera Krishnan, a young transgender woman on 23rd February 2017 at about 3:30 a.m. in Kuantan, Malaysia.  Not only was she attacked with a knife and slashed in the hands, arms, head and legs, she was also shot three times. Sameera worked as a florist in Kuantan and is described by family and friends as a soft-spoken and a down-to-earth person. Her funeral was held on Friday, 24th February, which happened to be her birthday.

We welcome the prompt investigation of the murder by the police, and look forward to the outcome of the investigation, and justice being served. Sameera’s murder is allegedly linked to a previous case that involves her abduction and rape by a couple of gang members in February 2015. The case is still on going, and Sameera was set to appear in court next month.

As we await the outcome of the investigation and the motives of the murder by the police, it is important to acknowledge that transgender women often experience brutal and extreme forms of violence due their gender identity. Compounding the violence is the lack of protection, persecution of trans people, the negative perception of transgender persons in society and discrimination among other things.

Between 2007 and 2016, at least 10 cases of murder have been reported in the media. However, many other cases of hate crime and violence are unreported and undocumented.  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.

Media reporting and misgendering

The misgendering of Sameera received wide criticism by the public and transgender activists as well as groups, including the Malaysian Tamil Trans Women Association. The media showed gross insensitivity and disrespect towards transgender persons, and complete disregard to the trauma and loss faced by Sameera’s family members and loved ones.

Several media reports of her murder, especially articles in the Malay language misgendered Sameera as ‘pondan’, ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’, ‘lelaki transeksual’,‘transgender in woman’s attire’, and ‘transvestite’ in their headlines or article. While some media, including Harian Metro changed their headlines from “Pondan” (negative term used against trans women and cisgender gay men, especially effeminate gay men) to “Mak Nyah” (an acceptable colloquial term to describe transgender women) there was a lack of consistency and meaningful effort in these changes. For example, an article by Harian Metro entitled ‘Mak Nyah maut ditembak, ditetak’ still contained ‘lelaki berperwatakan perempuan’ (man with women characteristics) in its article. In addition, Mutiara FM, a local radio station in a morning programme, referred to Sameera as a transgender man, and laughed at her gender identity.

Consistent and intentional misgendering is a form of violence, and it degrades and dehumanizes transgender persons. In addition, misgendering has adverse and long lasting impact trans people’s self-esteem. We urge everyone to use accurate, affirming and respectable terms such as “mak nyah“, trans woman, “perempuan” or “wanita transgender“, and transgender women.  (See media analysis and media guides by Justice for Sisters)

The violence experienced by transgender persons does not happen in vacuum, and it is symptomatic of the marginalization and lack of inclusion of trans people in society. It is important that we dismantle all forms of stigma and discrimination faced by transgender persons that continues to place trans people in vulnerable situations.

All persons, regardless of gender identity should be protected from violence. We urge the authorities and the media, especially journalists and editors to treat trans people with respect and dignity, and bring the perpetrators of Sameera’s brutal murder to justice.

Terminologies

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

Endorsed by:  (in alphabetical order)

  1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  2. Association of Women Lawyers Malaysia (AWL)
  3. Community Development Centre (CDC)
  4. HAKAM, National Human Rights Society
  5. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
  6. Justice for Sisters (JFS)
  7. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  8. Tirunangai Uthavi Karagal
  9. The G-Blog
  10. Transmen of Malaysia (TOM)
  11. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  12. PELANGI — Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative
  13. Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
  14. Persatuan Tamil Thirunangai Malaysia
  15. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
  16. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia
  17. Pertubuhan Kebajikan Sinar Pelangi (PKSP)
  18. PT Foundation
  19. Seksualiti Merdeka
  20. SEED Malaysia
  21. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  22. Suaram Malaysia
  23. Voice of Community (VOC)
  24. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  25. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)

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media release: Uphold right to identity of transgender persons

The Malaysian transgender community and its allies are appalled and disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeal on 5th January 2017 to retract the High Court order to the National Registration Department (NRD) to change the name, gender marker and last digit of the identification card number of a trans man in his National Registration Identity Card (NRIC). The decision disregards current scientific and medical understanding of gender identity as well as the realities and lived experiences of transgender people. It also displays a wilful ignorance of good practices worldwide with regards to the role of the state in its duty to uphold and protect the rights of transgender persons.

Sex is a biological construct that is usually assigned at birth based on the visible genitalia of a child. However, it comprises other aspects, including chromosomes, gonads, secondary sex characteristics and others. Gender is a personal identity based on one’s experience of one’s own gender. Sex and gender are both basic characteristics of all human beings and do not have be aligned. Legal documents, including the NRIC, bearing gender markers that do not reflect the bearer’s gender identity poses systemic and structural discrimination, which severely impedes their quality of life. For example, this mismatch poses a constant risk of humiliation and harassment to transgender persons from other people or groups.

Seeking evidence of medical intervention in order to legally recognise a transgender person’s gender is not only a backdated practice, but also exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of transgender people and gender identity. Aside from issues of affordability, accessibility to healthcare and legal barriers that impede access to healthcare; fundamentally, gender identity is not determined by our genitals. Withholding legal gender recognition of transgender people except with medical evidence that they have undergone all possible surgical and medical interventions in order to ‘completely’ transition is harmful to well-being of transgender persons, and places trans people at the risk of undergoing unwanted procedures.

On top of that, asking for evidence of chromosomal change is, as quoting Justice S. Nantha Balan who presided over the case at the High Court, “The male XY and female XX chromosome will remain static throughout the individual’s natural life. To insist on the “chromosomal requirement is to ask for the impossible.” Someone who is transgender does not identify with the sex they were assigned with at birth. While there are procedures to closer align external body parts to one’s self-image, science has yet to come up with ways to change one’s gonads or chromosomes. This makes it impossible for Malaysian transgender persons to access their fundamental human right to identity. It is important for the courts and the state agencies to keep themselves updated on current information and scientific knowledge of sex and gender. Our ignorance and lack of understanding cannot perpetuate the marginalization and violence that is so prevalent towards trans people. Most importantly, any discourse of transgender people must be guided by evidence and lived experiences of trans people.

We urge the government, the judiciary and the National Registration Department to look at practices and policy in countries like Malta, Ireland, Colombia, Argentina and Denmark with regards to legal gender recognition. In these countries, legal gender recognition is a simple and hassle-free administrative procedure that legally recognises a person’s self-determined gender with a simple declaration, without any need for medical or psychological intervention or assessments. While this does not solve all the issues that transgender people face in Malaysia, it will significantly improve the quality of life for transgender people in Malaysia. The National Registration Department must review its current practices and policy in order to reduce harm towards trans people and afford transgender people a greater ability to rightfully participate as part of society.

 

Justice for all regardless of gender identity

Justice for Sisters is appalled by the news of a trans woman who was fined RM 700 on June 21 for failing to produce her identification card. She apparently stated that she had just been released from jail and suffered from tuberculosis. The Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Nur Farah Adilah Noordin urged the court to impose a heavy sentence to serve as a lesson. The woman was not represented in court.

Access to justice, and the right to redress and remedy are our fundamental human rights guaranteed in several clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution. In 2011, after hearing that ‘an estimated 80% of those tried in court for criminal offences did not have legal representation,’ the Malaysian government launched the National Legal Aid Foundation. Despite this effort, many people continue to be tried in court without representation, and as a result are imposed harsh and sometimes excessive penalties.

Because of their gender identity and the resulting systemic and social discrimination and prejudice, trans people are even more vulnerable and disproportionately face barriers when attempting to access justice. They are arrested more frequently, and hence encounter a higher incidence of trial without representation. Based on media reports and our documentation, at least 63 trans women were arrested between January and May 2016 in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Kedah and Pahang by police and the state religious departments for simply being themselves.

It is extremely distressing that the DPP urged the court to impose a heavy sentence simply to serve as a lesson to the trans woman for failing to produce her IC, while ignoring her reasons. The DPP’s heavy handed recommendations are problematic, and underscore the multiple forms of stigma, discrimination and prejudice that the trans woman was subjected to because of her gender identity, history of being jailed and having a criminal record, history of drug use, and so on.

In Malaysia, the system causes and reinforces the targeting and discrimination trans people. Trans people are not allowed to change their name, gender, and the last digit in their identification card number or in any other legal documents. The government’s refusal to allow trans people to change details in their identification documents to reflect trans people’s authentic identities makes trans persons vulnerable to stigma, discrimination and violence, including denial of employment opportunities, humiliating experiences when forced to use their identification card, and arbitrary arrests, among others.

The imposition of punitive measures increases the challenges and barriers for people, especially transgender persons with criminal records, to reintegrate themselves into society, as they are continuously penalised over non-issues. This has a lasting and negative impact on a person’s wellbeing. In addition, the state must understand and address the barriers that people with criminal records face in securing jobs, finding housing, reconciling relationships with friends and family among others. It is absurd and inhumane to continue penalising and profiting from people who have been failed by the system.

Media

We are further appalled by the continuous misgendering and the use of inaccurate terms by the media, such as Bernama, to address transgender persons. Trans women are not cross dressers. Overwhelming evidence shows that trans people have existed throughout humanity, and gender identity refers to a personal sense of belonging and identification to being a girl/woman, boy/man, neither, both, a combination of gender categories and more. All identities are normal.

The news focused on her clothing and accessories, which was unnecessary and sensationalist. All people, including transgender persons have the right to self-determination to their identity, and freedom of expression. We call on the media to adopt a positive role in the promotion of human rights, and not reinforce prejudices that bar marginalised people from living their lives with dignity.

 

Justice for Sisters calls for dialogues to dispel myths & end violence against transgender persons

Justice for Sisters is concerned by the unnecessary panic over the recent formation of the transgender committee in Pulau Pinang. The response completely overlooks the reality of violence, discrimination and marginalization faced by transgender persons in Malaysia. Justice for Sisters wholeheartedly welcomes the committee as a positive move in understanding violence and marginalization faced by transgender persons.

Based on media reports and our documentation, at least 63 trans women had been arrested in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Kedah and Pahang by police and the state religious departments for simply being themselves, between January and May 2016 alone.

Number of transgender women arrested by the authorities, namely police and state religious departments according to states in Malaysia between January and May 2016

State/Month January February March April May Total
Penang 13 3 16
Kuala Lumpur 4 6 5 11 9 35
Malacca 4 4
Kedah 1 1
Pahang 7 7
Total 4 6 18 12 23 63

 

In addition, there are also reported cases of transgender women arbitrarily stopped by the authorities and blackmailed for bribes. I am scared to be a woman, a report by the Human Rights Watch on violence faced by transgender persons in Malaysia further provides cases of arbitrary arrests on the basis on their gender identity, as well as physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual violence experienced by trans women during arrests and detention. The report also documents violence faced by transgender persons in accessing basic rights, including education, employment, and healthcare among others.

Overwhelming evidences affirm that gender identity is an innate part of our being. Sex[1] and gender are two separate categories that all human beings have, and gender is not determined by genitalia. Gender is a spectrum signifying personal sense of belonging and identification (as a girl/woman, boy/man, both, neither, other gender identities).

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.”

This research along many with psychological, anthropological and other evidences further affirm that transgender persons have existed throughout humanity, and they do not impersonate, pretend or cross dress. Transgender people merely express their identities, like cisgender[2] persons.

Moreover, contrary to popular beliefs, most major religions and faith, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism acknowledge the reality of gender diversity in humanity. Religious leaders, including Lord Rama, Prophet Muhammad, and Gautama Buddha have shown acceptance and recognized transgender persons in their lifetime.

BuddhismTwo of Gautama Buddha’s followers were transgender – trans woman and trans man. Gautama Buddha recognized their authentic gender identity, and ensured they were treated as their authentic gender identity.

Islam – Islam recognizes diversity in sex and gender. Islam recognizes that sex spectrum and is not merely determined by genitals, evidenced by the recognition of khunsa wahdid and khunsa musykil. Mukhannathun, term used for transgender women, existed Mecca and Medina, and worked as matchmakers among others. There are also references that show mukhannathun were permitted in cisgender women spaces, and cisgender women did not have to cover their modesty around mukhannathun.

Hinduism – Hinduism is rich with narratives that acknowledge diverse gender identities. In the epic Ramayana, Lord Rama, who is banished from kingdom, is followed by a group of people into the forest. He asks all the men and women to leave, and they do. However, those who do not identify with both categories did not move. Lord Rama was impressed by their devotion, and blessed them. In Mahabaratha, Arjuna transitions, and changes her name to Brihannala. Brihannala lives in a harem where she teaches women art, dance and music. Some transgender women also believe that they are descendants of Mother Goddess Bahuchara Mata.

Social justice and liberation from misery and oppression, including slavery, patriarchal systems, poverty, have been central themes of religion. Overwhelming evidence show that transgender persons being subjected to arrested simply for being who they are; experience bullying and violence in school; lack employment opportunities; mistreated in healthcare settings and more. Transgender persons as a population is misunderstood, marginalized, and face multiple forms of violence and discrimination because of their gender identity.

We now live in a time with increased visibility, understanding and research regarding gender identity and transgender persons. We call for dialogues to dispel harmful myths and assumptions about transgender persons, and to understand the marginalization faced by trans people in Malaysia. Together we must end marginalization and violence towards transgender persons, and liberate each other from oppression.

[1] Sex refers to a combination of our chromosomes, external and internal sexual reproductive organs, hormones, and secondary sexual characteristics. 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.

[2] A person whose lived experience match the gender assigned at birth based on genitals is known as a cisgender person.

Police must be sensitised to understand the real issues faced by LGBTQ persons, and address violence against LGBTQ persons

Justice for Sisters strongly criticises the Deputy IGP’s statement on LGBT persons. It is important to understand that gender identity and sexual orientation are innate parts of our identity, and these categories are a spectrum, meaning not made out of only two identities (binary).

Gender identity is a spectrum signifying personal sense of belonging and identification (as a girl/woman, boy/man, both, neither, and other gender identities). Further, and most importantly, gender identity is not determined by genitals. A person whose lived experience match the gender assigned at birth based on genitals is known as a cisgender person. While a person whose lived experience does not match gender assigned at birth is known as transgender, gender queer or fluid and others. The growth in our understanding of the spectrum of gender has moved gender recognition legislations in many countries that now no longer require medical intervention before recognising gender identities.

Sexual orientation on the other hand refers to our romantic and sexual attraction towards others. Sexual orientation is also spectrum, which includes

Heterosexual – person who identifies as a woman who is attracted to people who identify as man, vice versa

Bisexual – person who identifies as a man who is attracted to people who identify as man and woman, vice versa

Gay – person who identifies as man attracted to people who identify as man

Lesbian – person who identifies as woman attracted to people who identify as woman

Asexual – no or limited sexual desires towards others. Romantic attraction may or may not exist

Pansexual – people whose attractions are not based on gender identity or sexual orientation

Queer – people whose attractions are not based on gender identity or sexual orientation

All sexual orientations are normal, fluid, and personal. Our romantic and sexual attraction, a feeling that most people have, cannot be dictated by anyone, including the state and its institutions.

The claim of being LGBT is a western idea or culture is historically, factually and scientifically inconsistent. Overwhelming evidence show that gender diversity had existed throughout the world throughout history, including sida-sida in Malaya; manang bali, basir and balian in Borneo; 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.

Increase of state sponsored homophobia and transphobia

We are concerned that the Deputy IGP’s statement will further perpetuate homophobia and transphobia within and among police officers and departments. I am Scared to be a Woman, a report by Human Rights Watch also documented multiple forms of violence experienced by transgender persons by the police. This includes arbitrary arrests based on gender identity; arbitrary urine tests, which makes trans women vulnerable to sexual violence, body shaming and humiliation by police officers, who are typically cisgender men; extortion of money or sexual favours; lack of urgency and bias in investigating police reports lodged by transgender persons; sexual violence, amongst others.[1]

Other anecdotal evidence by trans women further shows similar trend of persecution and abuse by the authorities. Gay men on the other hand are subjected to blackmails, extortions and more. Underlying this impunity by the police are the discriminatory, colonial and archaic laws that criminalize consensual non heteronormative sexual acts (the Penal Code 377), state syariah laws that criminalize transgender persons based on their gender identity and gender expression (male persons posing as a woman), the consistent anti-LGBT rhetoric, including hate speech from the state and its institutions, among others.

Police departments and officers must reflect the diversity of the community that they serve. The reality is LGBTQ people are part of society, and the state has the duty to protect all people, not just some people. Further, it is extremely counterproductive when people fear the police. LGBTQ persons often do not report cases of violence because of the attitude, lack of urgency and bias by the police in investigating police reports lodged by LGBTQ persons. Further, LGBTQ persons are subjected to intrusive and irrelevant questionings about their gender identity (e.g. “Are you a man or woman?” based on IC, misgendering), gender expression (e.g. “Are you a man or woman?” based on appearance), and sexual orientation. As a result, many cases go unreported and uninvestigated. This is also a deprivation of our fundamental right to redress and remedies.

Good practices in South East Asia

Police officers in the Philippines have undergone trainings with LGBTQ groups to further understand the issues faced by LGBTQ persons, and to reduce violence by the police towards LGBTQ persons. In 2013, a national Gender and Sexuality training program to sensitize police officers when engaging with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.[2]

“The aim of this engagement with the LGBT sector is to sensitize the police force to bring about attitudinal change that greatly affects how the police enforce the rule of law and to make the necessary recommendations to incorporate inclusion of LGBT issues and rights in the formal training program of instructions (POI) in the policies and standard procedures of the police force,” said Police Chief Superintendent Nestor Fajura, Chief of the Philippines National Police Human Rights Affairs Office.[3]

All persons have a right to employment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression remains a problem for LGBTQ persons in seeking employment opportunities. LGBTQ persons are forced to hide their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression at work, and live double lives, which increases stress and anxiety of being found out. In addition, transgender persons and gender fluid or gender queer or gender non-conforming persons are subjected to multiple forms of discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression during job interviews, which effectively reduces their job prospects.

We call the Deputy IGP to understand the issues faced by LGBTQ persons, review his statements, and engage with LGBTQ groups in a meaningful way to address the issues faced LGBTQ persons in relation to the police.

[1] I am scared to be a woman, Human Rights Watch, page 34-36 https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/09/24/im-scared-be-woman/human-rights-abuses-against-transgender-people-malaysia

[2] Special Report: Philippines National Police Undergo LGBT Sensitivity Workshops: Part 1, https://www.outrightinternational.org/content/special-report-philippines-national-police-undergo-lgbt-sensitivity-workshops-part-1

[3] Philippines: Police Officials On Board with LGBT Sensitization Training, https://www.outrightinternational.org/content/underway-philippines-education-police-officers

 

End arbitrary arrests and repeal laws that criminalize transgender persons

For immediate release

March 7, 2016

Justice for Sisters is extremely concerned and appalled by the arrests of 12 trans women, including an Indonesian trans woman in a police raid in Penang on 2 March 2016. The 12 are being investigated under various charges, including gang robbery, violation of social pass, and Section 28 of the Penang Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1996, which criminalizes male person posing as a woman.

Five women investigated for robbery, have been remanded for 6 days until 8 March 2016. No further information is available at the moment, including their cells, and the exact sections that they are being investigated for.

In a positive move in November 2015, Penang State EXCO for Youth and Sports; Women, Family and Community Development, and Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam YB Chong Eng recommended separate cells for transgender persons to protect their safety. Based on her correspondence with the Penang Police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi in August 2015, she noted that there is currently no guideline for detainees who are transgender, however placed in separate cells based on sensitivity and discretion of the police.

We echo YB Chong Eng’s recommendation, and urge the Penang Police Department to ensure that the detainees are being treated humanely. We further call Members of Parliament and State Assemblypersons to support the recommendations, as all detainees and prisoners have the right to humane treatment, including being treated as per self-determined gender identity. There is overwhelming anecdotal evidence of the multiple forms of violence experienced by trans women in detention, including disregard of gender identity (being treated as a cisgender man), physical and sexual violence, and lack of access to trans specific healthcare needs, which increases anxiety and stress due to changes in appearance and body.

Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Some of the trans women were arrested in their hotel rooms, while they were asleep. Six trans women, who are being investigated under ‘Section 28 Male person posing a woman’, which criminalizes any male person who wears women’s attire or poses as a woman in a public place for immoral purposes, were released on 3 March 2015 by the Penang religious department.

These on-going arbitrary arrests of trans women further affirm Justice for Sisters’ call for the repeal of all laws that criminalize transgender persons based on gender identity. These laws are not only discriminatory and violate fundamental human rights of transgender persons— including right to self determination, freedom of movement and freedom of expression—but these laws are also open to abuse. In this case, although the women were asleep while they were arrested in their hotel rooms, they are still being investigated under Section 28.

We strongly emphasize that gender is not determined by genitals. In fact, it is a widely accepted and evidence-based fact that gender is a spectrum signifying personal sense of belonging and identification (as a girl/woman, boy/man, both, neither, other gender identities). Transgender persons do not pose, pretend or cross dress. Transgender people are merely expressing their identities, like cisgender persons. Parallel with this, gender recognition legislations in many countries now, no longer require medical intervention.

Dehumanizing Media Coverage of the Arrests

We are also extremely appalled by the media coverage of the arrests. The media cannot continue to dehumanize, dismiss and erase identities of trans people by misgendering (using the wrong pronouns) and using derogatory terms, like transvestite and cross dressers to refer to trans women. Further, it is disappointing to note that some media, which had in the past used trans affirming language, has reverted to using discriminatory, dehumanizing and outdated terms in their coverage.

At least one media outlet, The Star Online had published a photo of one of the detainees. Trans women are often subjected to public humiliation and violation of privacy during raids and arrests, including through the presence of media. I am scared to be woman, a report by Human Rights Watch that documented violence against transgender persons in Malaysia included an experience of a woman who lost her job after her photo and news of her arrest was released in the media.

Anecdotal evidence shows that arrests and disclosure of details, including name as per identification card and photo in the media causes increased mental health issues, like trauma, anxiety, stress and isolation; and has the effect swaying support provided by family members. It exacerbates further humiliation and condemnation by friends and family members, and impacts future livelihood through the loss of employment.

In addition, we strongly emphasize that hate crime and violence against transgender persons are real. The lack of positive portrayal of trans people, and the overwhelming negative and sensationalistic articles further increase anxiety and fear over personal security and safety among transgender persons. It further creates an unhealthy and unsafe environment for trans people in this country.

Justice for Sisters firstly calls on all media outlets to treat transgender persons with dignity, and use respectful language to refer to trans people. We also call the media to play a role in public education to reduce intolerance and hatred towards communities already marginalised, misunderstood, and deprived of access.

media guides – panduan media BM | GLAAD media reference guide

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For more details, please contact justiceforsisters@gmail.com