Hentikan Initimidasi terhadap Pembela Hak Asasi Manusia yang Mempertikaikan Dasar Kerajaan Berkaitan LGBTIQ 

Kami amat khuatir dengan reaksi melampau pihak kerajaan dan badan bukan kerajaan terhadap sebuah kiriman media sosial berkenaan terapi ‘pemulihan’ bertarikh 30 Julai 2020. Kami percaya kiriman tersebut telah diambil di luar konteks oleh individu yang berniat memburukkan komuniti LGBTQ. Hal ini telah menyebabkan laporan polis dibuat terhadap pembela hak asasi manusia yang mengarang hantaran tersebut.

Dakwaan JAKIM dan beberapa individu lain yang telah membuat laporan polis bahawa kiriman media sosial itu menyamakan Kem Mukhayyam yang didanai oleh kerajaan dengan kaedah terapi ‘pemulihan orientasi seksual dan identiti gender yang lain telah menimbulkan kekeliruan. Kiriman media sosial tersebut, sebaliknya, memberi gambaran menyeluruh berkenaan terapi pemulihan orientasi seksual dan identiti gender, serta kaedah terapi pemulihan yang diamalkan di seluruh dunia oleh pihak kerajaan dan bukan kerajaan. Dakwaan bahawa kiriman media sosial tersebut telah “memfitnah” JAKIM dan Jabatan Agama Islam Negeri (JAIN) adalah tidak berasas.

Dalam konteks Malaysia, kiriman media sosial tersebut dengan jelas telah menyenaraikan terapi ‘pemulihan’  yang didanai kerajaan seperti berikut:

  • Program atau Kem Mukhayyam
  • Seminar dan aktiviti
  • Pemulihan Islamik sebagai rawatan untuk “memulihkan” LGBT
  • Pelan Tindakan Menangani Gejala Sosial Perlakuan LGBT
  • Sumber termasuk e-buku dan aplikasi untuk “hijrah diri” atau “mengubah diri”

Setiap maklumat di dalam kiriman tersebut telah dipetik daripada kajian yang diterbitkan, Hansard Parlimen dan laporan media yang boleh diakses di atas talian.

Terdapat banyak kaedah terapi ‘pemulihan’ yang menggunakan nama yang berlainan di seluruh dunia. Di Malaysia, istilah seperti ‘balik ke pangkal jalan’, ‘kembali ke jalan yang benar’ dan ‘hijrah’ digunakan dengan meluas untuk merujuk kepada perubahan atau penekanan orientasi seksual dan identiti gender. Hal ini termasuk program didanai kerajaan yang disebut di atas.

Seperti yang disebut oleh bekas Menteri Hal Ehwal Agama, Mujahid Yusof Rawa pada tahun 2019, program didanai kerajaan berniat untuk “memulih, memperbaiki, mengubah tingkah laku mereka dan cara hidup mereka yang songsang”. Begitu juga, pada sesi parlimen ke-17 pada tahun 2012, Timbalan Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri ketika itu Dr. Mashitah Ibrahim berkongsi bahawa JAKIM telah menggunakan dua pendekatan untuk “membanteras LGBT” iaitu pencegahan menggunakan kaedah dakwah dan penguatkuasaan undang-undang.

Dalam sebuah visual yang diterbitkan oleh JAKIM pada Julai tahun ini, Ketua Pengarah JAKIM dipetik berkata Program Pendidikan, Rawatan dan Pemulihan Kecelaruan Gender telah mendekati sebanyak 1700 individu LGBT sejak permulaannya pada tahun 2011. Beliau menyatakan bahawa ramai daripada mereka yang didekati telah berhijrah. Kenyataan seperti ini jelas menunjukkan bahawa matlamat JAKIM dalam melaksanakan program yang mensasarkan individu LGBTQ adalah selari dengan matlamat terapi ‘pemulihan’ yang difahami seluruh dunia meskipun ia mempunyai nama dan kaedah yang berbeza.

Berkaitan persoalan tentang penyertaan individu dalam program Mukhayam, kiriman daripada pembela hak asasi manusia itu TIDAK PERNAH menyatakan bahawa penyertaan adalah secara bukan sukarela atau sebaliknya. Ia juga tidak membuat spekulasi, mencerca atau mempersoalkan niat dan motivasi peserta yang mengikuti program itu.

Walau bagaimanapun, kita masih memerlukan pemahaman yang lebih mendalam tentang maksud “penyertaan sukarela”. Meskipun penyertaan seseorang dalam mana-mana program tersebut dikatakan ‘sukarela’, ia tidak bermaksud program tersebut selari dengan piawaian hak asasi manusia. Penyertaan dan kaedah program adalah dua perkara berbeza yang perlu dinilai.

Di Malaysia, kewujudan undang-undang, dasar dan program pemulihan yang menyasarkan individu LGBTQ atau berperilaku LGBTQ menyumbang kepada stigma sosial terhadap individu LGBTQ. Keputusan ramai individu LGBTQ yang hidup dalam persekitaran yang homofobik dan transfobik untuk mengubah atau menekan orientasi seksual dan identiti gender mereka supaya mereka boleh diterima masyarakat adalah sesuatu yang boleh difahami. Oleh itu, kita perlu bertanya soalan ini; apakah tahap kesukarelawanan individu LGBTQ yang menyertai program itu sekiranya mereka hidup dalam masyarakat yang meminggir, mencetus stigma dan menjenayahkan mereka di sisi undang-undang?

JAKIM dan pihak lain juga telah mendakwa bahawa pengarang kiriman itu menafikan kebebasan beragama individu yang ingin mengambil bahagian dalam program tersebut. Kami ingin menyatakan bahawa pengarang kiriman tersebut tidak mempunyai kuasa untuk menafikan kebebasan mereka untuk beragama, dan beliau juga tidak mencabar Islam atau agama lain. Sementara itu, melaporkan beliau kepada pihak polis berdasarkan kesalahtafsiran kiriman beliau, mereka telah menafikan hak beliau untuk bersuara. Menulis tentang terapi pemulihan, program pemulihan yang didanai kerajaan, dan pengalaman individu LGBTIQ yang lain sama sekali tidak bermaksud menghalang individu lain untuk mengamalkan agama mereka. Beliau hanya menyuarakan kekhuatiran tentang program dan pendekatan yang didanai kerajaan untuk memulihkan individu LGBTQ. Sistem demokrasi yang sihat dan berfungsi harus memberi ruang kepada individu untuk mempersoal program yang didanai kerajaan seperti mana agensi kerajaan harus bertanggungjawab untuk memberi respons terhadap persoalan ini tanpa intimidasi.

Tindakan terburu-buru JAKIM membuat laporan polis adalah  keterlaluan. Ia mengundang seruan kepada rakyat Malaysia bahawa kita tidak dibenarkan mempersoal dasar dan program kerajaan, dan berniat untuk menyekat kebebasan bersuara dan hak kita terhadap maklumat dan informasi. Hal ini sekali gus akan menyekat penglibatan terbuka rakyat dalam isu berkaitan undang-undang, dasar, arahan dan program kerana mereka takut dikenakan tindakan. Ketakutan terhadap tindakan yang akan dikenakan selalunya memberi kesan lebih buruk kepada komuniti terpinggir seperti LGBTQ, dan mengakibatkan mereka berdiam diri. Ini secara efektifnya merendahkan piawaian akauntabiliti kerajaan dan pemerintahan yang baik.

Program pemulihan dan pendekatan lain pihak kerajaan yang berkaitan dengan individu LGBTQ telah mendapat kritikan meluas daripada pelbagai pihak. Pada tahun 2018, Jawatankuasa Konvensyen Penghapusan Segala Bentuk Diskriminasi Terhadap Wanita (CEDAW) telah mencadangkan supaya Malaysia “mempercepatkan tindakan untuk menghentikan segala dasar dan aktiviti yang bertujuan untuk “membetulkan” atau “memulihkan” wanita LBTI.”

Sejajar dengan piawaian hak asasi manusia antarabangsa, CEDAW dan cadangan relevan lain yang diutarakan oleh Pelapor Khas PBB, kami menyarankan kerajaan untuk menggunakan isi kandungan tersebut sebagai sebuah peluang untuk melaksanakan satu penilaian impak hak asasi manusia yang bebas bagi program sedia ada dan pendekatan kerajaan berkaitan isu LGBTQ. Untuk memastikan ia lebih bermakna, kami mencadangkan kerajaan melibatkan diri dan mendapatkan khidmat nasihat daripada kumpulan hak asasi manusia LGBTQ yang menegakkan dan mempertahan hak asasi manusia sejagat supaya semua individu dapat melibatkan diri dalam menjadikan Malaysia selamat dan saksama bagi semua lapisan masyarakat. Individu LGBTQ tidak perlu mengubah diri mereka. Namun bersama-sama kita boleh mengubah Malaysia menjadi lebih baik.

Disokong oleh :

  1. Justice for Sisters
  2. PELANGI Campaign
  3. Gay Community Welfare Network
  4. People Like Us Hang Out (PLUHO)
  5. Amnesty International Malaysia
  6. Aliran
  7. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC)
  8. Beyond Borders Malaysia
  9. Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  10. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM)
  11. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)
  12. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)
  13. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  14. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
  15. Tenaganita

Stop Intimidating Human Rights Defenders who Question LGBTQ Related Government Policies 

We are deeply concerned by the disproportionate and heavy-handed response by state and non-state actors in relation to a social media post on conversion therapy dated 30 July 2020. We believe the post has been taken out of context by those bent on casting LGBTQ persons and allies in a bad light, and has resulted in police reports being made against the human rights defender who authored the post.

It is misleading for JAKIM and others who have lodged police reports to say that the post likened the state-funded Mukhayyam camps to other methods of conversion therapy. On the contrary, the post provided an overview of conversion therapy as well as the various methods of conversion therapies known and practised around the world by state and non-state actors. Claims that the post had ‘defamed’ JAKIM and state Islamic departments on this point are therefore invalid.

Where Malaysia is concerned, the post clearly noted the state-funded conversion programmes are as follows:

  • The Mukhayyam programme or camps
  • Seminar and activities
  • Islamic spiritual healing as treatment to ‘heal’ LGBT
  • 5-year action plan to “curb LGBT behaviour”
  • Resources, including e-books and app to hijrah diri, or ‘changing oneself’

All the information in the post was cited and based on published research, Parliament Hansard and media reports available online.

There are many methods of conversion therapy and they are called by different terms around the world. In Malaysia, the language of balik pangkal jalan or ‘return to the right path’, and hijrah are widely used to refer to change or suppression of sexual orientation and gender identity. This includes the state-funded programmes mentioned above.

As mentioned by former Minister of Religious Affairs, Mujahid Yusof Rawa in 2019, the state-funded programmes aim to “reform, fix them, change their attitude and their wayward lifestyle”. Similarly, in the 17th parliament session in 2012, the then Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Department, Dr. Mashitah Ibrahim shared that JAKIM and the state religious department had adopted two approaches to ‘curb LGBT’, which are prevention using the dakwah method and enforcement of laws. 

In a visual released by JAKIM in July this year, the department’s Director General was quoted as saying that JAKIM’s “gender confusion education, treatment, and rehabilitation programme” has reached over 1,700 LGBT persons since it began in 2011. He further claims many have hijrah. These pronouncements clearly show JAKIM’s goal is that of conversion, and its programmes targetting LGBTQ persons are in line with “conversion therapy” as understood worldwide, even if the methods may differ.

On the question of participation in the Mukhayyam programme, the post by the human rights defender NEVER claimed that participation is involuntary or otherwise. It also does not speculate, vilify or question the motivations of the participants who attend the programme.

We do, however, need a deeper understanding of what is meant by “voluntary participation”. While a person’s participation in a programme may be voluntary, it does not mean the programmes themselves are aligned with human rights standards. Participation and methodology of the programme are two seperate things that need to be assessed.

In Malaysia, the existence of laws, policies and rehabilitation programmes targeting LGBTQ persons and behaviour all contribute to social stigma against LGBTQ persons. Living in a homophobic and transphobic environment, many LGBTQ people would understandably want to change or suppress their sexual orientation and gender identity simply to be accepted. Therefore, we must ask, how voluntary are LGBTQ people’s participation in such programmes when they live in a society that criminalises, marginalises and stigmatises them?

JAKIM and others claim that the author of the content is denying the religious freedom of those who wish to participate in such programmes. We would like to note that the author has no such power to deny people their freedoms and did not challenge Islam or anyone’s faith. Meanwhile, by reporting her to the police based on a misinterpretation of her content, they have denied her right to speech. Writing about conversion therapy, state-funded conversion programmes, and experiences of LGBTIQ persons does not amount to restriction of anyone else’s religious belief. She only raised her concerns about the state-funded programme and approaches on rehabilitating LGBTQ persons. A healthy and functioning democracy must allow for the people to question a state-funded programme as much as it allows for the state agencies responsible for those programmes to respond without resorting to intimidation.

JAKIM’s knee-jerk reaction to lodge a police report is a disproportionate response to the post. It sends a message to Malaysians that we are not allowed to question governmental policies and programmes, and aims to limit our freedom of expression and our right to information. This will restrict public participation of all citizens in relation to laws, policy, directives, and programmes, due to fear of reprisals. The fear of reprisals often affects marginalised communities such as the LGBTQ communities more, silencing them as a result. This effectively lowers the standards of accountability and good governance.

The government’s conversion programmes and approaches in relation to LGBTQ persons have been widely scrutinised by various bodies. In 2018, the CEDAW committee in its concluding observation recommended that Malaysia ‘Expedite measures to discontinue all policies and activities, which aim to “correct” or “rehabilitate” LBTI women’.

In line with international human rights standards, CEDAW concluding observations, and other relevant recommendations by the Special Rapporteurs, we recommend the government to use the content as an opportunity to carry out an independent human rights impact assessment of their current programmes and approaches in relation to LGBTQ issues. To do this meaningfully, we also recommend that the government engages and consults with LGBTQ-affirming groups that uphold and defend universal human rights so that all may participate in making Malaysia safe and equal for all. LGBTQ persons do not need to change who they are. But together we can change Malaysia for the better.

Endorsed by:

  1. Justice for Sisters
  2. PELANGI Campaign
  3. Gay Community Welfare Network
  4. People Like Us Hang Out (PLUHO)
  5. Amnesty International Malaysia
  6. Aliran
  7. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC)
  8. Beyond Borders Malaysia
  9. Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  10. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM)
  11. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)
  12. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)
  13. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  14. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
  15. Tenaganita

Apa yang diperlukan oleh golongan transgender adalah lesen untuk dihormati sebagai manusia

Justice for Sisters sangat bimbang dan kecewa dengan kenyataan Dr Zulkifli Mohamad yang tidak bertanggungjawab dan melecehkan individu transgender dalam media semalam. Dalam kenyataannya, beliau memberikan lesen penuh kepada Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) untuk menangkap dan memberi kaunseling atau mendidik individu transgender supaya ‘balik ke pangkal jalan’. Kami bimbang bahawa kenyataannya akan meningkatkan diskriminasi, keganasan dan penganiayaan terhadap wanita transgender tanpa apa-apa akibat terhadap pegawai penguatkuasa JAWI dan juga orang awam. Kami telahpun menerima banyak pertanyaan dan keresahan komuniti ini tentang keselamatan, keamanan dan kesejahteraan diri oleh individu transgender di seluruh negara sejak kenyataan tersebut diterbitkan.

Kebimbangan ini bukannya tidak berasas. Terdapat banyak bukti dan laporan yang direkodkan mengenai penganiayaan dan pelanggaran hak asasi manusia oleh Jabatan Agama Islam terhadap golongan transgender. Kajian mengenai Diskriminasi terhadap Golongan Transgender di Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor oleh Suhakam mendedahkan bahawa 39 daripada 69 orang wanita trans yang ditemubual (57%) telah mengalami penangkapan sewenang-wenang oleh sebab identiti gender mereka, sementara ramai lagi yang lain mempunyai pengalaman negatif dengan agensi penguatkuasaan undang-undang. Angka ini membimbangkan kerana mereka menunjukkan wanita trans disasarkan secara tidak seimbang dan ditangkap berdasarkan identiti gender mereka. Kajian tersebut juga mendokumentasi kesan daripada pengalaman negatif dengan agensi penguatkuasaan telah menyebabkan antara lainnya, kegelisahan, trauma, dan kemurungan. Empat individu telah menyatakan bahawa mereka mengalami fikiran untuk bunuh diri, dan seorang telah cuba untuk membunuh akibat pengalaman negatif mereka.

Sementara itu, Human Rights Watch melalui I am Scared to be a Woman mendokumentasikan pelbagai bentuk pencabulan dan keganasan yang dialami golongan wanita trans semasa penangkapan dan penahanan mereka serta kesannya terhadap pekerjaan dan hubungan interpersonal.

Dokumentasi pencabulan hak asasi manusia dalam laporan-laporan ini masih belum disiasat dan masih belum ada yang dipertanggungjawabkan. Kebenaran untuk menangkap individu transgender ini secara dasarnya memberikan lesen untuk mendiskriminasi, mempromosi kebencian, dan mencabul hak golongan wanita transgender di Malaysia sewenang-wenangnya. Ia merupakan lesen yang dinikmati oleh aktor negara yang bebas untuk menangkap dan menjalankan terapi ‘kembali ke pangkal jalan’ sewenang-wenangnya, tanpa apa-apa bentuk akauntabiliti, walaupun ianya mengakibatkan penyekatan terhadap ekspresi diri dan identiti, kebebasan untuk bergerak, dan akses kepada keadilan. Persekitaran ini lebih menyukarkan bagi golongan transgender untuk melaporkan pencabulan hak asasi manusia.

Kami juga merasa sangat terganggu dengan persepsi kerajaan terhadap golongan transgender tanpa rasa hormat dan bermaruah. Kami ingin menekankan di sini bahawa individu transgender adalah manusia yang punya autonomi dan anggota masyarakat yang setara hak mereka seperti yang ditegaskan oleh Perisytiharan Hak Asasi Manusia Sejagat dan perjanjian-perjanjian lain PBB, serta undang-undang hak asasi manusia antarabangsa.

Gagasan bahawa identiti gender dan golongan transgender dapat dipulihkan, diubah atau ‘dikembalikan ke jalan yang benar’ melalui kaunseling sesungguhnya adalah salah dan tidak saintifik. Ia mengakibatkan bahaya dan pencabulan hak asasi manusia yang keterlaluan terhadap golongan transgender, individu bukan binari dan ‘gender non-conforming’*. Sebenarnya, terapi pembetulan atau penukaran ini, termasuk penggunaan kaedah kerohanian dan agama telah ditolak oleh badan-badan perubatan dan hak asasi manusia global kerana kesannya yang berbahaya, termasuk kemurungan, idea dan cubaan bunuh diri, dan kecederaan diri, antara lainnya. Kami menegaskan bahawa amalan ini adalah bentuk penyeksaan memandangkan betapa besarnya bahaya yang dialami oleh individu dan orang yang mereka sayangi.

Walaupun kerajaan mungkin mendakwa bahawa mereka telah melihat banyak wanita transgender yang telah mengubah diri mereka dan telah ‘kembali ke pangkal jalan’, kita haruslah meneliti faktor dan keadaan yang menyumbang kepada perubahan ini. Kami menghormati hak setiap orang untuk menentukan identiti diri dan ekspresi diri. Namun, penting untuk dinilai bahawa perubahan ini dilakukan demi mengakses peluang, perkhidmatan, dan kadang-kala untuk ditolak ansur dalam masyarakat. Sering kali, penerimaan tanpa syarat sangat sukar untuk dibayangkan bagi individu transgender kerana diskriminasi, keganasan dan peminggiran yang mereka alami sepanjang hidup mereka. Kami percaya bahawa individu transgender tahu keperluan diri mereka dan tidak memerlukan intervensi oleh orang lain untuk membetulkan mereka. Kita patut mendengar keperluan golongan transgender daripada mereka sendiri.

Buku panduan Born Free and Equal oleh Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu menggariskan 5 langkah yang dapat diambil oleh sebuah negara untuk memenuhi kewajiban kita berkaitan dengan hak asasi manusia LGBTIQ. Ia termasuklah, 1) melindungi individu LGBTI dari keganasan, 2) mencegah penyiksaan dan perlakuan buruk terhadap individu LGBTI, termasuk terapi penukaran, 3) memansuhkan undang-undang yang mengkriminalisasi individu LGBTI, 4) melarang diskriminasi berdasarkan orientasi seksual, identiti gender, ekspresi gender dan ciri-ciri seks 5) menjaga kebebasan bersuara, perhimpunan dan persatuan secara aman untuk individu LGBTI

Di samping itu, kerajaan Malaysia telah menerima banyak cadangan melalui proses PBB, antara lainnya, seperti semakan CEDAW dan UPR untuk memansuhkan undang-undang yang mendiskriminasi, memastikan pelindungan terhadap keganasan dan diskriminasi. Sudah tiba masanya kerajaan melaksanakan cadangan tersebut bagi memastikan tiada siapa yang tertinggal dan semua orang di Malaysia dapat menikmati dan menggunakan hak asasi mereka.

Dr Zulkifli sewaktu menjadi Mufti di Wilayah Persekutuan telah mengambil banyak peluang melibatkan diri dengan golongan trans. Sepanjang penglibatan tersebut, golongan trans telah berkongsi pengalaman hidup mereka, cabaran yang mereka hadapi kerana anggapan berbahaya bahawa individu transgender dan identiti gender mereka dapat diubah. Cabaran ini menjadi lebih parah dengan ketiadaan pengiktirafan gender dan undang-undang dan fatwa yang menyekat mereka.

Berikutan hubungannya dengan individu-individu transgender, kami meminta Dr Zulkifli untuk mempertimbangkan semula kenyataannya dan kemudaratan berlanjutan yang akan timbul terhadap komuniti transgender. Kami mengesyorkan agar beliau menarik balik kenyataannya untuk mengelakkan bahaya terhadap individu transgender.

Justice for Sisters menggesa kerajaan memenuhi kewajibannya dalam melindungi, menghormati dan memenuhi hak semua orang, serta mengakhiri segala bentuk hukuman, diskriminasi dan keganasan terhadap golongan trans.

*gender non-conforming – individu yang gender ekspresinya di luar stereotaip gender lelaki perempuan

What Trans People Need is the License to Be Respected as Human

Justice for Sisters is deeply concerned with and disappointed by Dr Zulkifli Mohamad’s irresponsible and degrading statement about trans people in the media yesterday. In the statement, he gives full license to the Federal Territory Islamic Department (JAWI) to arrest and counsel or educate transgender people so that they ‘return to the right path’. His statement will increase discrimination, violence and mistreatment of transgender women with impunity by enforcement officers of the Islamic Departments as well as members of the public. We are already observing questions and concerns over personal security, safety and well-being by transgender persons across the country since the release of the statement.

These concerns are not unfounded. There are many documented evidence and reports of mistreatment and human rights violations by the Islamic Departments against transgender people. The Study on Discrimination against Transgender Persons in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor by Suhakam revealed that 39 of 69 trans women interviewees (57%) had experienced arbitrary arrest based on gender identity, while many others have had hostile interactions with law enforcement agencies. These numbers are alarming as they suggest trans women are disproportionately targeted and arrested based on their gender identity.  The study also documents the impact of hostile encounters with the enforcement agencies, which include anxiety, trauma, depression amongst others. Four persons shared that they have had suicidal thoughts, and one person had attempted suicide as a result of the encounters.

Meanwhile, I am Scared to be a Woman, a Human Rights Watch report documents the multiple forms of aggression and violence experienced by trans women during arrest and detention as well their impact on the employment and interpersonal relationships of trans women.

The human rights violations documented in these reports have yet to be investigated and no one has been held accountable. This license to arrest is essentially a license to discriminate, promote hate and violate the rights of trans women in Malaysia with impunity. It is a license enjoyed by the state actors who are free to conduct arrests and corrective therapies as they please, often without accountability, even while they restricted trans people from their right to self-expression and identity, freedom of movement, and access to redress and justice. This hostile environment makes it even more challenging for transgender people to report human rights violations.

We are also deeply disturbed by the government’s perception of transgender people as less than human and as undeserving of respect and dignity. We emphasize that transgender persons are autonomous human beings and equal members of society with rights as affirmed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other UN treaties as well as international human rights laws.

The notion that gender identity and transgender persons can be rehabilitated, changed or ‘returned to the right path’ through counseling is completely false and unscientific. It subjects transgender persons, non-binary and gender non-conforming persons to so much harm and human rights violations. In fact, these corrective or conversion therapies, including those that use spiritual and religious methods have been rejected by medical and human rights bodies globally due to its harmful impact, including depression, suicidal ideation and attempts and self harm, among others. We reiterate that these practices are forms of torture given the magnitude of harm it has on the individual and their loved ones.

While the government may claim that they have seen many transgender women who have changed themselves or ‘returned to the right path’, we must analyze the factors and circumstances that contribute to these changes. We respect everyone’s right to self-determination, self-expression and the choices that they make. However, it is important to note that these individuals’ decisions to change are often made in order to access opportunities, services, and simply to be tolerated in society. Given the discrimination, violence and marginalization that they faced throughout their lives, some transgender people cannot imagine they could be accepted without condition and therefore subject themselves to society’s conditions just to get by. We believe that trans people know their own needs and do not need uninvited interventions from others to correct them. We should listen to them tell us what they want.

The Born Free and Equal handbook by the United Nations outlines the 5 steps that a state can take to fulfill its state obligation in relation to the human rights of LGBTIQ persons. This includes 1) protect LGBTI persons from violence 2) prevent torture and ill treatment of LGBTI persons, including conversion therapy 3) repeal laws that criminalize LGBTI persons 4) prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics 5) safeguard freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association for LGBTI persons

In addition, the Malaysian government has received multiple recommendations through the UN process, namely the CEDAW review and the UPR to repeal discriminatory laws and to ensure protection against violence and discrimination, amongst others. It is time for the government to implement the recommendations to ensure nobody is left behind and all persons in Malaysia are able to enjoy and exercise their human rights.

Dr Zulkifli in his former capacity as the Mufti of the Federal Territory has engaged trans people on numerous occasions. In these engagements, trans people have shared their lived experiences. These include challenges that they have faced due to the harmful assumptions that transgender persons and their gender identity can be changed. These further compound the challenges they have faced because of the lack of gender recognition and the numerous laws and fatwas that restrict them.

Given his engagements with transgender persons, we call for Dr Zulkifli to reflect on his statements and the harm it will cause transgender persons. We recommend that he withdraws his statement to prevent harm against transgender persons.

Justice for Sisters urges government to fulfill its obligations to protect, respect and fulfill the rights of all persons, and end of forms of impunity, discrimination and violence against trans people.

State must prioritize Sajat’s safety, instead of fuel controversy over telekung

Justice for Sisters is deeply disappointed by the reactions to Sajat’s trip to Mecca to perform umrah (minor pilgrimage) with her family members and friends. We emphasise and recall the state’s obligation to protect human rights for all people and all citizens, regardless of their gender identity or sex characteristics.

We are concerned that the reactions and calls for investigation against Sajat and her friends, who are trans women, place them under adverse risks. Saudi Arabia criminalises trans people based on their gender expression or based on their attire. In addition, transgender and non-cisgender people face harsh challenges in travelling to Saudi Arabia.

Even more concerning is the reaction by the Minister of Religious Affairs and state muftis. Mujahid Rawa’s misplaced concerns and knee jerk reaction on this matter could further escalate concerns over the safety, security and persecution for her, her family members and friends in Malaysia and abroad. In this situation, where there are allegations of arrest and public pressure towards the travel agency, the government should take measures to ensure her safety while she is abroad, and that she safely returns to Malaysia.

The real concern is not the telekung (prayer garment), but her safety and security, the breach of privacy and the lack of rights and evidence-based response by the government on this matter.

Several documents including a copy of passport and travel documents, which allegedly state Sajat’s deadname (assigned name at birth that the person no longer identifies with) were shared doxxed or publicly on social media and the media without consent. The documents spread like wildfire, sparking harmful online comments and a shift in the way in which the media describes Sajat.

Disclosure of personal data without consent is a breach of Section 8 of the Personal Data Protection Act 2010. Instead of investigating the perpetrators who shared her alleged legal and travel documents and addressing the spread of her personal data, Mujahid and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) are in discussion regarding actions that can be taken against Sajat for sharing videos of herself in Mecca. We call Mujahid and MCMC to identify and address the root issues in this matter – the breach of privacy via doxxing, transphobia and misogyny online, gender-based violence.

Many media outlets had participated in amplifying the doxxing and breach of privacy by republishing the legal and travel documents on their platforms. In addition, the media had also begun calling Sajat by the deadname associated with her. Using her alleged deadname is extremely regressive, unethical and degrading. Compounding this problem are the barriers faced by trans, intersex, non-binary and people of non-cisgender identities to change their details in their legal documents to reflect their authentic self. These barriers violate a person’s privacy and increase vulnerability to humiliation, discrimination, blackmail, threats, and violence, as evidenced by this case. Regardless of what is stated in the legal documents, we must respect and affirm a person’s gender identity. Using the name and pronouns that a person identifies with is a very basic form of respect.

We are also deeply appalled by the suggestions to impose intrusive tests (hormone and other tests) and the need for scientific evidence to prove a person’s sex and gender identity. In many countries that have introduced affirming legislation for trans and intersex people, it is prohibited to ask trans and intersex persons to provide medical evidence to prove their identity due to the intrusive nature of the tests and the growing understanding of the diversity of sex and gender. Cisgender heterosexual people are not required to provide such evidence to prove their identity and existence. Most importantly, it is not the state’s role to police people’s sex and gender identity. The state’s role and obligation is to protect, fulfill and respect the human rights of all persons.

Sex and gender identity are two separate things. Sex refers to our body, and it’s often oversimplified as just our genitals. However, sex refers to a combination of genital, gonadal and chromosomal patterns. In contrast, gender identity is not visible and it is not determined by body parts. Gender manifests through the way we identify ourselves as man, woman, non-binary, agender, and many other gender identities. Multiple evidence shows gender identity is self-determined, and all people begin to have a sense of awareness and manifest their gender identity through clothing, articulation of identity in childhood.

For years, Sajat’s gender identity has been, among other things, publicly scrutinised, reported for investigation by the Islamic Departments, subjected to witch-hunts, online aggression, boycotts and violence. All of which, violates her rights to privacy, self-determination, and equality and non-discrimination. Even though all of this takes place in the public sphere, the government has yet to take actions to mitigate the harm towards her. Instead, the state sides with those who instigate hate and legitimise their actions.

Indeed, Sajat’s experiences represent the experiences of many intersex, trans, and non-binary people, who are constantly forced to be someone that they are not and are subjected to coercion to disclose and prove their gender identity and sex. We reiterate that being coerced into disclosing one’s gender identity and sex is a serious breach of privacy that triggers a domino effect in terms of gender-based discrimination.

Religion and relationship with God is personal and self-determined. We firmly believe that all people have the right to manifest their religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance in accordance with Article 18 of the universal declaration of human rights on freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

We call for the government to refrain from being reactionary, as it has harmful unintended consequences. The government should engage with LGBTIQ human rights groups in order to effectively respond to these issues and address the root causes of gender discrimination and human rights violations against intersex, transgender, non binary persons.

Terms (source GLAAD’s media guide, UN free & equal fact sheet: intersex

Trans – Used as shorthand to mean transgender – or sometimes to be inclusive of a wide variety of identities under the transgender umbrella.

Transgender – An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression ‘differs’ from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. mak nyah is a colloquial term used for trans women. Wanita or perempuan transgender or trans are other acceptable terms for trans women. Lelaki transgender refer to trans men.

Intersex – Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all. Khunsa is a term used for intersex persons in Malaysia.

Non binary – Terms used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as wholly different from these terms

Cisgender – A term used by some to describe people who are not transgender. “Cis-” is a Latin prefix meaning “on the same side as,” and is therefore an antonym of “trans-.” A more widely understood way to describe people who are not transgender is simply to say non-transgender people.

 

Malaysian government must take urgent and meaningful actions to curb the increasing discrimination and violence against transgender persons

In conjunction with Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on 20 November 2019, we commemorate the lives of trans and gender diverse persons lost to hate crimes and anti-transgender violence.

Between November 2018 and November 2019, 331 trans and gender diverse people were reported killed globally. A large majority of the victims of these senseless killings were sex workers.

In Malaysia, at least 4 cases of murder of trans women were reported between November 2018 and October 2019:

    • December 2018 – A trans woman, allegedly a sex worker from was beaten to death by a group of men allegedly over a stolen hand phone. She died due to severe head injuries caused by a blunt object. Her case was investigated as murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code. However, the outcome of the case is unknown.
    •  January 2019 – A trans woman from Sabah, allegedly a sex worker in Klang was found murdered. The perpetrator alleged that the woman stole his hand phone and jumped out of the car when she was confronted for the theft. Her case was investigated. However, the outcome of the case is unknown.
    • October 2019 – A trans woman of Thai nationality was found dead in a hotel in Langkawi. Her body was found a few days after the murder. The status of investigation of this case is unknown
    • October 2019 – A trans woman in Perak was reportedly murdered. The case was either unreported or misreported and was discovered through community networks.

While cases of hate crimes and murders are underreported and misreported (as victims are often misgendered), there is an upward trend of murders in the last 3 years. Between 2017 and 2019 alone, at least 9 cases of murders have been reported. This makes up 47% of the total 19 cases that have been recorded between 2007 and October 2019 (13 years).

The increasing trend of murders and violence also correlate with the increasing transphobia and discrimination against trans people in Malaysia that remains unaddressed. This is further exacerbated by discriminatory laws, policies and state-funded programmes that reinforce exclusion, misinformation and impunity in relation to violence and discrimination against trans people.

Case in point, a recent media report on Astro Awani of a murder of a gay man in the United States. Online users, among others, applauded the perpetrator of killing the gay man, some going as far as to encourage similar acts of violence against LGBT persons in Malaysia. This is not an isolated incident. On many other occasions, often in the name of religion, online users have called for, promoted and condoned violence towards trans, gender diverse and LGBTQ people.

In the case of a brutal attack of  a trans woman in Negeri Sembilan in August 2018 at the height of the anti-LGBT sentiments online and offline post elections, the victim reported that the perpetrators attacked her because they ‘do not like LGBT’. While the woman was brutally assaulted by a group of men, resulting in broken ribs, backbone, and a ruptured spleen, the case was not classified by the police as a hate crime.

Other issues

There are a few trends and issues that we would like to highlight:

    •   In many of these cases, the police are quick to dismiss the element of hate crime in these cases despite the brutal violence experienced by the victim. The lack of gender-sensitive and a rights-based approach in analysing the crimes does not allow the police and the government to understand the trend of violence and increased vulnerability experienced by trans people, and design adequate and meaningful response to address violence against trans people.
    •  These cases also show a trend of victim blaming. In many of these cases perpetrators often accuse the victim of soliciting sex, theft or other reasons that reinforce prejudice towards trans women, preventing trans women getting the justice that they deserve.
    •   Family members can be a barrier in seeking justice for the murdered trans women. In some cases, family members do not wish to seek justice due to the stigma towards trans people.
    •   The media attention on these cases is also often limited to the initial reporting of the murder. Continuous attention by the media on the cases of murder will assist in keeping track of the cases.

We believe violence against trans and gender diverse persons can be addressed and eliminated. We call the government to engage transgender human rights groups, address the escalating hateful speech against trans and gender diverse persons, train and raise awareness regarding transgender persons and gender identities among all government staff using rights and evidence-based approach, and take meaningful measures to end all forms of discrimination against trans people.

 

HENTIKAN KECAMAN & PEMPOLITIKAN PELANTIKAN RANIA MEDINA SEBAGAI AHLI CCM

Justice for Sisters memandang serius kecaman dan pempolitikan perlantikan Rania Zara Medina sebagai ahli Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM).

Perlantikan Rania adalah berdasarkan proses undian dan temuduga oleh komuniti wanita transgender yang berlangsung pada April 2019.

Malaysia sebagai penerima dana Global Fund bagi respons HIV telah menginstitusikan CCM sejak 2009, dibawah pemerintahan Kerajaan Barisan Nasional lagi. Oleh demikian tidak timbul persoalan berkenaan konspirasi kerajaan Pakatan Harapan and komuniti LGBT sepertimana yang diwar-warkan oleh beberapa pihak.

CCM merupakan mekanisme yang melibatkan gabungan agensi kerajaan, organisasi masyarakat sivil atau civil society organizations (CSO), kumpulan agama, ahli akademik antara lain. Wakil CSO terdiri daripada wakil komuniti individu yang hidup dengan HIV, orang muda, wanita transgender, pengguna dadah, pekerja seks, men who have sex with men (MSM).

Setiap komuniti diwakili seorang calon daripada komuniti itu sendiri untuk memastikan isu-isu yang dialami oleh setiap komuniti berkenaan HIV diwakili sewajarnya serta dapat dibincangkan dengan lebih tepat dan menyeluruh. Harus juga disedari bahawa mekanisme CCM ini memberikan peluang kepada komuniti yang selalunya didiskriminasi, distigma dan mengalami perwakilan yang rendah untuk mewakili isu masing-masing.

CCM merupakan mekanisme dan model interdisciplinary yang baik untuk mengolah program dan intervensi HIV yang selaras dengan keperluan komunti masing-masing, memantau implementasi program HIV antara lain. Secara keseluruhannya mekanisme CCM membantu kerajaan untuk mencapai sasaran kerajaan dan global iaitu mencapai sifar HIV atau zero HIV menjelang 2030.

Justice for Sister memandang serius reaksi kumpulan-kumpulan konservatif, media dan parti politik yang mempolitikan dan mensensasikan isu perlantikan Rania. Khususnya, kami memandang serius penyebaran gambar Rania di zaman persekolahan bagi tujuan mengaibkan beliau. Pihak media dan orang ramai haruslah menghormati identiti dan martabat diri seseorang, termasuklah individu transgender.

Kami juga menyeru parti politik untuk bertindak rasional dan tidak beremosi dalam isu ini untuk mengurang salah faham, diskriminasi dan ketegangan atau konflik dalam masyarakat terhadap individu transgender. Selain itu, reaksi negatif ini khususnya membawa kemudaratan yang tinggi kepada privasi dan keselamatan diri Rania dan individu transgender lain. Parti politik dan juga pihak-pihak lain haruslah sensitif dan bertanggungjawab dalam menilai kesan reaksi mereka.

Kami mengambil kesempatan ini juga untuk menegaskan bahawa wanita transgender adalah juga sebahagian daripada kepelbagaian umat manusia. Pemahaman berkenaan individu transgender di Malaysia adalah sangat negatif dan tidak berasaskan fakta atau pengalaman hidup individu transgender. Hal ini meneruskan lagi stigma dan diskriminasi terhadap individu transgender. Kami menegaskan bahawa Artikel 5 dan 8 Perlembagaan Persekutuan memelihara martabat diri seseorang dan melindungi rakyat Malaysia daripada diskriminsasi berdasarkan gender dan status lain.

Apply Standing Orders towards offensive speech against LGBT people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS/=

 

Standing Orders of the DEWAN RAKYAT

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

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

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

 

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

Parliament session 1 (16 July – 16 August 2018)

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

 

Parliament session 2 (15 October – 11 December 2018)

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

 

Parliament session 3 (11 March – on-going)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endorsed by:

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

Rise of crimes and violence against trans women needs urgent attention

On January 1, 2019, a body of a trans woman was found along Jalan Batu Nilai in Klang. Preliminary reports show that she had sustained a number of injuries on her knees, ankle and other parts of the body. The death of the woman raises serious concerns and suspicion. A suspect has been arrested and remanded in connection to the case. He claims that the victim had jumped out of a moving vehicle upon being confronted about stealing the suspect’s handphone.

We are extremely concerned over the rise in cases of violence and crimes against trans women in Malaysia. Including this case, at least 3 cases of murder have been reported between November 2018 and January 2019. 2 of which took place in Klang. This brings the cases of reported murders of trans women to a total of 18 cases since 2007, averaging at 1.5 cases a year.

In many of the reported cases of murder of trans women, the victims often suffer excessive and extreme violence or torture. Based on the 18 reported murders of trans women in Malaysia, the victims were subjected to torture, 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, shot, mutilated, etc.

The brutal and excessive violence or torture has to be looked at closely. The elements of torture in these crimes suggest a number of things, including increased rage or hate by perpetrators against trans women, impunity enjoyed by people who commit violence against trans women, amongst others.

We welcome the swift actions by the police, and we look forward to a thorough, unbiased and objective investigation. It is imperative that the police corroborates the evidence and thoroughly investigate the case to ensure justice for victims and their loved ones.

Reported cases of murder of trans women in Malaysia between 2007 and January 2019

Year

Number of reported cases murder of trans women

2007

1

2008

1

2009

2

2010

1

2011

1

2012

1

2013

2

2014

0

2015

0

2016

1

2017

4

2018

2

2019

1

Address stigma, stereotypes and misconceptions against trans women to increase access to justice

Stigma, stereotypes and misconceptions against trans women increase and justify violence against trans people. Stereotypes and misconceptions such as trans people being unnatural, immoral or against religions and laws give the impression to others that they have the right to violate and abuse trans people.

People commit crimes against LGBTIQ persons because social stigma and discriminatory laws protect the abusers. Our society not only denies the rights of trans women but also target them through laws. When the laws target trans women, this forces them to live in the margins and become resigned to a life of discrimination, violence, abuse and neglect. Therefore, those who abuse trans women often do so because they know they can get away with it. All of which reinforces the culture of impunity.

In addition, these stereotypes and stigma often disadvantage trans women, effectively hindering a thorough and unbiased investigation, ultimately denying access to justice. In many cases of violence and crimes against trans women, trans women are not only blamed but are seen as the guilty party. The stigma and stereotypes in relation to trans women also often allow for absurd defence by the perpetrators. Some common narratives include narratives that position perpetrators as acting or reacting out of self-defence, to protect themselves from theft/crime, repulsion, or rejection of sexual advancements. This plays into the stereotypes of trans women being criminals and immoral, often resulting in lack of adequate penalties against perpetrators for the violence and crimes committed.

Perpetrators must be held accountable. However, punishment alone will not resolve this systemic issue. Perpetrators, and society in general,  should be provided with adequate support and information on gender and sexuality to ensure meaningful change in attitudes, behaviour and understanding of diversity. Education and efforts to dismantle legal and non-legal barriers experienced and create an inclusive and affirming environment are extremely critical in reducing crimes, violence and discrimination against trans people and marginalized communities.

Need for proactive preventive measures

With the rising cases of violence and murder against trans women specifically, and LGBT people in general, the police have a critical role to play in reversing this trend.

Firstly, we call for the police to introduce a guideline on handling, documenting and analyzing cases of murder and crimes in relation to trans people and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer people (LGBTIQ+). Documentation and analysis of the cases of crimes and violence against trans women and LGBTIQ+ people are important to develop an understanding of the trend of the violence and to design specific interventions.

Our documentation and reported cases of murders show that gangsters, vigilante groups, intimate partner, clients of sex workers, strangers (often young persons) are the perpetrators of violence and crimes. Based on the cases, the perpetrators are all cisgender men across a wide age spectrum. This shows us that there is a critical need to address toxic masculinity and increase gender education in our society. Our documentation also shows communities and areas that are more vulnerable to crimes and violence. For example, trans women sex workers have increased vulnerabilities due to their increased exposure to diverse types of people. The emergence of vigilante groups, which often operate under the guise of residential patrol groups, for example, Kedah has also increased cases of violence against trans women.

It is important to note that cases of violence and crimes experienced by trans women are not reported or under-reported. This correlates with the trust deficit in the police, the perpetrator prey/victim dynamics between police and trans women, and lack of protection for trans people. The general lack of confidence in the police to swiftly and thoroughly investigate cases often prevents trans women from seeking justice, report cases, and in some cases, come forward as witnesses. Thus, it is extremely important for the local police departments to engage with the affected communities and bridge this trust deficit in order to efficiently ensure safety and security for all. We also call for the police to engage trans women communities in Klang, Kedah and other hotspots that have recorded a high number of cases of violence and crimes against trans women.

Crimes and violence towards trans women and LGBTQ people are rising at an alarming rate. The murder of the trans woman on New Year’s Day is a reminder of the realities that trans people live in and the urgency to amplify efforts in addressing violence and crimes against trans and LGBTQ people. These crimes and violence have an overarching impact on the safety, security and well-being of all persons, more so trans people. These continuous traumatic events of violence and crimes, if not addressed with an evidence and rights-based approach, will further isolate trans and LGBTQ people and increase the trust deficit in police and the government.

Endorsed by:

  1. Justice for Sisters
  2. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  3. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
  4. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  5. Malaysian Design Archive (MDA)
  6. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  7. People Like Us, Hangout (PLUHO)
  8. Pelangi Campaign
  9. Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
  10. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  11. Tenaganita
  12. Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)
  13. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
  14. Perak Women for Women (PWW)
  15. Seksualiti Merdeka
  16. Queer Lapis
  17. PT Foundation

Annex 1

Documented cases of violence and crimes based on gender identity, gender expression and actual or perceived sexual orientation

No Year Details State
1 2012 and 2013 A group of gangsters in Pahang, physically assaulted over 13 trans women with steel chains, helmets and steel bars in a spate of attacks, resulting in serious injuries. Based on media reports and I am Scared to be a Woman, a report by Human Rights Watch, one woman being ‘beaten into a coma’ and some received between 18 and 78 stitches as a result of the assault. Pahang
2 2015 A trans woman human rights defender was attacked in the vicinity of her home Kuala Lumpur
3 June 2017 A young person in Penang died as result of physical assault and torture by a group of former schoolmates. The perpetrators had previously bullied the victim in school due to his ‘effeminate’ gender expression Penang
4 2017 A Thai trans woman was stabbed multiple times by a client in Penang Penang
5 January 2017 – January 2018 At least 12 cases of break ins and property destruction by persons in residential areas, strangers or unknown perpetrators; physical attacks, humiliation and torture by vigilante groups disguised as community policing or residential groups

Skuad Badar Sungai Petani emerged on social media platforms, urging religious authorities to take action on trans women. We have also received information that this group has harassed, detained and attacked the trans women in the community, including shaving the heads of trans women in their custody

Multiple states in Malaysia
6 March 2018 Attacks and harassment of a few Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) volunteers by a few individuals for allegedly being LGBT supporters after the Women’s March on 10th March 2018 Kuala Lumpur
7 August 2018 A trans woman in Seremban was severely assaulted by a group of men resulting in serious injuries to spleen, spinal cord, rib bones, amongst others. Negeri Sembilan
8 December 2018 A video of two gay men assaulted by a group of men for allegedly being intimate in a car went viral on social media platforms Selangor