In response to the statements by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Religious Affairs Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri giving “full licence” to the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (JAWI) to take action against the transgender community, Amnesty International Malaysia Interim Executive Director Preethi Bhardwaj said:
“Over the years, transgender people have faced relentless discrimination and persecution from conservative movements, religious authorities and the government resulting in countless human rights violations against them. Being transgender is not a crime. Yet the government has gone to terrible lengths to vilify transgender people by subjecting them to threats and criminalisation.”
In addition to this, the Minister also proposed religious education so that the transgender community will “return to the right path”.
“Religious indoctrination in order to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is conversion therapy. Amnesty International opposes all forms of conversion therapy; it causes great psychological distress and harm to the recipient, even suicidal ideations, and should be outlawed,” said Bhardwaj.
“We strongly urge the government to end its persecution of transgender people and LGBTI people at large. The authorities should also repeal all repressive laws against LGBTI people and implement policies that protect LGBTI people from intolerance. It is high time that we Malaysians embraced our LGBTI friends, family, neighbours and co-workers, instead of allowing them to experience hate and condemnation,” concluded Bhardwaj.
Transgender people have long faced discrimination in Malaysia. In February, cosmetics entrepreneur Nur Sajat, who was assigned male at birth, came under fire for posting pictures of herself on social media donning women’s clothing during umrah (religious pilgrimage). Then Minister of Religious Affairs, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, threatened to have an investigation opened against her under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), and to potentially ban Nur Sajat from social media platforms.
LGBTI people in Malaysia face discrimination and criminalisation – with both common law and Shariah law systems criminalising same-sex relationships.
In 2019, four men were whipped for alleged same-sex offences and subject to six months jail, after they were convicted under Shariah law of “attempting sexual intercourse against the order of nature”. Another six men, who pleaded not guilty, continue to face trial on the same charges.
The case began in 2018 after following a raid and arbitrary arrests made at a private event. The Selangor Islamic Religious Department said that after monitoring the men on messaging app WeChat, its officials conducted a sting operation involving more than 50 law-enforcement officers.