End all persecution against Sajat immediately

Justice for Sisters (JFS) is extremely concerned about the latest development in relation to Sajat’s prosecution by Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) for insulting Islam and wearing female attire under the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1992. In an announcement by JAIS Director, Datuk Mohd Shahzihan Ahmad, JAIS had deployed 122 officers to search and arrest Nur Sajat. 

We are astonished by the financial and human resources that are being allocated for this search and arrest operation against Sajat. All these actions by JAIS are extreme and demonstrate their overzealousness in arresting and detaining Sajat at all costs for merely expressing herself and her gender identity. 

JFS questions the two charges against her. Her charges are allegedly connected to a religious charity event that she organized in 2018, where she wore a baju kurung. Her wearing a baju kurung is deemed as an insult to Islam. Further, as a result of the series of doxing efforts by both state and non-state actors, the recorded identity on her birth certificate as well as her identity card was disclosed to the public, setting the stage for her prosecution. 

The continuous prosecution against Sajat based on her gender identity is a violation of Article 8, which safeguards persons from gender-based discrimination. While the state attempts to view gender through a binary lens, gender is a multilayered and umbrella term which includes, among others: 

  • gender identity – how a person identifies themselves. Gender identity is different from sex. Sex refers to our body [structure], meanwhile gender identity refers to how a person sees themselves along the feminine masculine spectrum. Gender identity manifest through self expression; 
  • gender expression – how a person expresses themselves; and 
  • gender stereotypes – harmful roles, generalizations and assumptions based on gender identity that may result in discrimination, violence and marginalization.  

Underlying the state persecution against Sajat is the criminalization and non-recognition of trans, intersex and non-binary persons. The persecution also raises serious questions regarding Muslim trans, intersex and non-binary persons’ freedom of religion in Malaysia. It appears as if the state only allows LGBT persons to exist if they fall into the state’s definition of a Muslim person, and requires non-gender conforming individuals to ‘change’, ‘supress’ or ‘rehabilitate’ themselves, all of which have been rejected by international medical and human rights bodies due to its harmful effects on the well-being of LGBT people. In fact, many countries now have laws against conversion therapy or practices to change a person’s actual or perceived gender identity and sexual orientation. Malaysia’s practices and treatment of LGBTQ persons in Malaysia are in contravention with these international laws, norms and practices. 

While some may say that Sajat had brought this upon herself for not complying with court dates, there are deeper structural issues that need to be questioned and unpacked. 

It is also important to understand and empathize with the mental health burden and stress experienced by persons who are prosecuted because of their gender identity, gender expression and/or sexual orientation. The gendered and gender binary practices in the syariah courts deny trans people their dignity and as result add barriers for them to seek redress and remedies. 

The issues that we are seeing in relation to Sajat’s case are all too common based on our experience in providing urgent response for trans and LGBTQ persons. Many facing persecution have taken risky and harmful coping measures when they are experiencing state prosecution, as the fear–of being imprisoned in male prisons, having their head shaved, the societal condemnation, being stripped away of their autonomy, freedom and dignity–are all too real for them. 

Given all these harms, we call on the Selangor state government to end all prosecution against Sajat immediately.             

We also ask the media to not deadname (use of name assigned at birth without consent) and misgender trans, intersex and non-binary persons. It is extremely important that the media takes measures to respect the identity and privacy of a person’s identity based on respect for the universal principle of self determination.

The Federal Court decision on Selangor’s Section 28 upholds constitutional protection for all

The LGBTQ+++++ Network in Malaysia welcomes and applauds the decision by the Federal Court today in the review of Section 28 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1995. Section 28 is one among many state and federal laws that criminalise consensual sex “against the order of nature,” with a maximum punishment of RM5,000, three-year jail term, six strokes of cane or a combination of them. This section has often been used against marginalised and persecuted communities on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The judgment provides justice for them, as well as upholding clearly, the democratic principles that underpin the primacy of the Federal Constitution. This decision not only has an impact on the LGBTQ community who face multiple forms of discrimination and abuse, but also for all in this country as it clearly reaffirms democratic checks and balances needed for enacting criminal laws that have huge and lasting impact on our life and freedoms. 

“We are extremely pleased with this historic development. It marks a monumental progress for LGBTI rights in Malaysia. We have worked hard for so many years to live in dignity without fear of prosecution,” said Numan Afifi. 

In a unanimous decision, the judges declared that the Selangor state legislative assembly does not have the legislative competence to enact Section 28. The decision makes clear that state legislative assemblies do not extend to making criminal law as it falls under the jurisdiction of the Parliament as per the Federal List. 

“At first I was very nervous and worried that there would be a decision not in favour of us, but the final result was very exciting. I think this decision is absolutely empowering, it will definitely empower the minority community in Malaysia. This decision reminds everyone, LGBTQ people are human like every person living in Malaysia. We deserve our basic human rights to be protected in our country too.

With today’s decision, we are reclaiming our rights, and it will definitely encourage us to continue our journey in reclaiming our rights. Really thanks to the legal team, NGOs, volunteers that have made a lot of effort on this,” said Chong Yee Shan, Diversity

The decision upholds the primacy of the Federal Constitution, that no laws shall contravene the Federal Constitution. Section 28 and similar Syariah provisions have disproportionately subjected individuals with perceived diverse sexual orientations and gender identities to various forms of state enacted violence, including arbitrary arrest, violation of privacy, dignity and equality under the law. These laws have been used to increasingly target LGBTQ people, who have faced raids, arrests, imprisonment, and recently, public caning. Before this judgement, LGBTQ people are vulnerable to state prosecution and targeted persecution from multiple directions – the Penal Code, and the many iterations of Syariah law that penalises consensual private acts. This is a critical move towards ending double criminalisation and arbitrariness under the law.  

Discriminatory impact also extends to the decreased quality of mental health and well-being, as well as increased financial burden amongst marginalized communities. Consequently, this has resulted in parts of the community that have resorted to self-harm and taking life threatening risks to avoid arrest and humiliation. The judgement brings justice to persons who are vulnerable to prosecution and persecution because of their identities, and for engaging in consensual private acts. 

“Over the course of time, we have dealt with many victims who have suffered under this law – some of them lost their jobs, were kicked out by family members, ended up being homeless, and became suicidal as a result of the enactment and implementation of this law. After years of hopelessness and suffering, they finally can receive an ounce of justice from this decision,” said Gavin Chow, PLUHO

This decision truly paves the way to upholding human rights and justice for all. It restores confidence in the judiciary and reaffirms the democratic principles underlying the law. The Federal Constitution guarantees the rights of everybody, no matter our race, religion, gender, or sexuality. We call for the Selangor state and other states to follow the decision by the Federal Court. Justice must be served for all.

With this, we are reminded of the recent deportation of 1086 Myanmar nationals by the Immigration Department this week even after the stay was obtained from the High Court. It is important for the Malaysian government to comply with court rulings, to ensure justice, equality and dignity for all. We stand firmly in solidarity with the migrant and refugee communities. 

We also request for the media to anonymize the name of the applicant and refer to the case as the Selangor Section 28 case. 

Proposed amendments to further criminalize LGBTQ persons by Deputy Minister of Religious Minister are unconstitutional

Justice for Sisters is extremely concerned by the continuous and escalating discriminatory statements against trans and LGBT persons by Ministers at the Prime Minister’s Department. In the latest statement on Tuesday, Ahmad Marzuk, the Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 355 in order to increase punishments against LGBT people. In a follow up statement yesterday, Marzuk added that the amendments will focus on three things:

  1. Increasing punishment that can be imposed under the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 
  2. Including gender change as an offence 
  3. Social media content that are deemed indecent and obscene will be placed under syariah online offences, a new category 

The proposed amendments call into question the state Islamic Department’s jurisdiction, the state legislature’s legislative competence, and the current administration’s commitment to promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights. 

Provisions in the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment have been criticised for criminalizing identities and acts that are victimless, for not being in compliance with the Federal-State lists in the Federal Constitution, and for violating international human rights standards. The proposed amendments intersect with federal citizenship, national registration, health, and freedom of expression, all of which fall under the Federal List, not the state list. 

Many of the provisions related or commonly used against LGBTQ persons overlap with Federal laws. Case in point, the constitutional challenge of Section 28 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment at the Federal Court argues that the State Legislative Assembly does not have the power to enact laws that do not fall under the State List. Further, Section 28 overlaps with Section 377 of the Penal Code.  

The proposal by Marzuk to introduce a syariah online offences component demonstrates overreach, as it overlaps with MCMC’s roles and functions, including: 

  • Regulating all matters relating to communications and multimedia activities not provided for in the communications and multimedia law;
  • Consider and recommend reforms to the communications and multimedia law   

In addition, the Malaysian Multimedia and Communication Commission’s (MCMC) Content Code, a self-regulation guideline with good practices and standards for content dissemination for industry players, under multiple sections discourages abusive and discriminatory content, hate speech in relation to sexual orientation and gender among others. The Code also discourages negative portrayal of groups of persons based on sexual orientation and gender. The MCMC’s Consumer Complaints Bureau allows members of the public to make complaints against offensive and abusive content. Social media platforms already have internal mechanisms that allow reporting of abusive content based on sexual orientation and gender, although its efficacy can be improved. In July 2020, Facebook and Instagram announced that the platforms will prohibit posts that promote conversion therapy of LGBTQ persons, which the Malaysian government actively promotes.

Meanwhile, many of the punishments stipulated under the Enactment already amount to torture. In addition, many violations of human rights against LGBT persons by enforcement officers of state religious departments have been documented during arrest and detention, including verbal abuse, sexual violence, physical violence, among others with impunity. Thus, not only is this proposal potentially unconstitutional, it will also mark another step backwards for human rights standards in Malaysia. 

Meanwhile, the proposal to criminalize ‘gender change’ effectively criminalizes a person’s identity and decision to transition. This fundamentally violates trans and non-binary persons’ right to self-determination, bodily autonomy, dignity, privacy, access to healthcare, ability to seek employment, housing, education and other fundamental rights, services and opportunities, resulting in further marginalization of trans and non-binary persons. A series of fatwas on trans people released from 1982 onwards declare trans people as haram (illegal) and prohibit gender affirmation procedures. These fatwas have had an adverse and overwhelming impact on availability and accessibility to trans specific health care, as well as their ability to change their name, gender marker and other gendered details in their legal documents. 

Impact of criminalization and structural discrimination 

The 2019 Suhakam Study on Discrimination against Transgender Persons based in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor documents that 20 of 100 respondents have tried to change their gendered details in their legal documents, however, only 6 were fully or partially successful. 13 respondents shared that their applications were rejected or not successful. More recently, in 2017, the Court of Appeal overturned a decision by the Kuala Lumpur High Court, which allowed a trans man to change name and gendered details in his legal documents, following an appeal by National Registration Department (NRD). 

86 respondents shared that they would prefer to change gendered details in their legal documents so that their gender identity is recognized, to avoid gender based discrimination, ease daily activities and  movement, increase self-esteem and confidence, among others. The study also shows 72 respondents have thought of migrating to other countries due to among others, lack of openness and legal framework to protect trans people, ability to change their gender marker, access to trans related healthcare services, access of employment, freedom of movement in Malaysia. 

It is clear that these proposed amendments are not evidence and rights based, punitive in nature and rooted in majoratian views. Overall, these proposed amendments will further marginalize and violate LGBTQ persons’ freedom of expression, right to self determination, right to be free from violence, right to equality and to live with dignity. . 

We are also deeply concerned by the call by the Deputy Minister to report LGBT people, his instructions to the Islamic Departments to enforce the laws on LGBT people and the establishment of a task force for Muslim LGBT related issues. We believe these are completely counterproductive to the national and global efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve and ensure all persons have access to healthcare services, especially as we are moving towards vaccination. These unwarranted discriminatory statements and actions further erode trust in public institutions and create barriers in accessing healthcare services. A CERiA research shows low health seeking behaviour, lower self esteem and poor mental health in queer men because of fear of prosecution under Federal and state syariah laws, familial and societal pressure to marry and ‘return to the right path, among others.

Justice for Sisters has documented multiple accounts of trans women outside of Kuala Lumpur and various religious backgrounds feeling anxious and fearful of being in public places, using public facilities, being reported to authorities by their neighbours, and seeing police officers and vehicles following Dr Zulkifli ‘s statement in which he gave full license to JAWI to arrest and educate or rehabilitate transgender women. Similarly, Marzuk’s statement has also resulted in many feeling of exhausted and exasperated by the continuous political scapegoating and persecution, increased anxiety among Muslim LGBT persons over the prospective impact of the amendments, among others. 

In this time of rising cases of COVID-19 and climate disruption, the state must more so ensure all measures by the government are legal, proportionate, necessary, and non-discriminatory. Through the Trans Solidarity Fund, Justice for Sisters and SEED’s COVID-19 relief effort, we have gathered that trans women in some context lack of access to humanitarian aid. Some, on the other hand, were hesitant to access humanitarian aid due to fear of stigma and discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. 

LGBTQ human rights groups have been seeing a surge in cases of LGBTQ persons seeking housing as a result of being disowned or violence and restrictions by family members as well as termination of employment. Related to that, LGBTIQ groups are also observing higher mental health burden among LGBTQ persons and are receiving higher requests for mental health support, including anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation and attempts. These continuous and escalating statements have a profound impact on the already deteriorating well-being and health of LGBTQ persons in Malaysia. With the increased vulnerability to violence and increasing trust deficit towards public institutions as a result of these statements and other state actions, LGBT human rights groups bear the burden of responding to these cases and filling massive gaps in services for LGBT persons with no or very limited resources. 

It is the present administration’s duty and obligation to ensure the rights of all persons are respected, fulfilled and protected. As such, we urge the government to immediately: 

  1. Stop all prosecution and initiatives to prosecute LGBT persons based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression  
  2. End all discriminatory speeches towards LGBTIQ persons 
  3. Engage Suhakam and LGBT human rights groups to understand and address the systemic impact of criminalization and pathologization of LGBTQ persons in Malaysia 
  4. Place a moratorium on current laws that criminalize LGBT people to ensure access to healthcare, justice, and to assure personal security and safety as well as freedom from violence 

We reiterate the calls by other civil society organizations and Suhakam to ensure equal dignity and protection of LGBTQ persons. As highlighted by Lawyers for Liberty, there are many good practices from which Malaysia could learn from, including the Pakistan Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2018. Finally, we once again urge the government to be guided by evidence, lived experiences of LGBT persons and human rights standards in addressing increasing homophobia and transphobia in Malaysia as well as discrimination, violence and marginalization of LGBTIQ persons. 

Respect trans women & end all prosecution against them

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

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

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

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

Trans women are women & gender is diverse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–       Article 9 guarantees freedom of movement

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

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

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

Unethical and bias media reporting

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

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

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

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

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

Endorsed by

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

Pembetulan bagi artikel Harian Metro

Pembetulan 1

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


–       Wanita transgender disiasat atas alasan mengekspresikan diri mereka

–       Ekspresi wanita transgender disekat undang-undang

Pembetulan 2

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

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

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

Pembetulan 3

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

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

Pembetulan 4

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

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

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

Pembetulan 5

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

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

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.