Malaysian authorities need to immediately abolish laws against cross-dressing, said Human Rights Watch after a Kelantan shariah court sentenced nine transgender women to fines and jailing last month
Published on: Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian authorities need to immediately abolish laws against cross-dressing, said Human Rights Watch after a Kelantan shariah court sentenced nine transgender women to fines and jailing last month.
The international non-governmental organisation which researches and advocates human rights said such laws discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
“Malaysian authorities need to stop hauling transgender people (pix) into court simply because of who they are and what they wear,” said Neela Ghoshal, a senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The government needs to recognise that the freedom to express your gender is as fundamental as any other freedom.” Nine of the transgender women were sentenced to fines by the Kelantan shariah court while two were given one month in jail.
Section 7 of Kelantan’s Shariah Criminal Code of 1985 states that any male person found to be publicly wearing women’s attire or posing as a women will be liable to a maximum fine of RM1,000 or jailed for four months, or both.
The nine were attending a private birthday party at a hotel on June 16 when officials from the Kelantan Islamic Department (JHEAIK) raided the party and arrested them.
They pleaded guilty the next day and a lawyer filed an appeal, while the two women sentenced to jail were released on bail.
Human Rights Watch said the raid was the latest incident in a “pattern of arbitrary arrests and harassment of transgender women” in Malaysia.
“The Malaysian authorities should be protecting trans people from discrimination, not perpetuating it.”
The Kelantan Islamic Religious Department should immediately drop the charges against the nine women, and all state governments should repeal these discriminatory laws, Ghoshal added.
The NGO’s 73-page report titled “I’m Scared to Be a Woman: Human Rights Abuses against Transgender People in Malaysia” released last year highlighted various abuses suffered by the transgender community in Malaysia, including sexual assault by religious officers and prison guards, extortion, daily fear of arrest by the authorities and violations of their privacy rights.
The research, which covered four states as well as Kuala Lumpur, found that transgender women were regularly abused by authorities including the police and state religious department officials.
The report said that these women were also often humiliated by having their arrests paraded in the media.