The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community in Malaysia cried foul after hate crimes escalated against the group. Transgenders pointed fingers at religious agencies which are exerting effort by organising “moral policing” to subjugate the minority.
Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country composed of multiple ethnicities. Due to the fact that Islam is the widely practiced religion, the country also operates under the Sharia Law. Sharia Law is a legal system derived from Islamic edicts coming from the Quran, Islam’s holy book; the Hadith, accounts or narratives from the prophet Mohammad; and fatāwā or judgment of Islam academics.
Due to harsh interpretations of Sharia, the marginalised often suffer. In this case, the LGBT community, transgenders in particular, receive the brunt of severe punishments from edicts of the government. In each Malaysian State exists a religious department tasked with enforcing the Sharia Law. In recent years, these departments have been known to conduct raids in residences to catch violators.
In one such raid on June 16 of this year, nine transgender women were arrested and fined, two of them sentenced to one-month jail time, for being “a male person posing as a woman.” In other words, they were caught cross-dressing. According to Human Rights Watch, the transgender women were attending a private birthday party in a hotel when the raid took place. They pleaded guilty the day after they were arrested. The two sentenced to jail filed a petition and were released on bail.
In a landmark decision in November 2014, the Putrajaya Court of Appeal abolished the state’s punitive punishment against cross-dressing under section 66 of the Sharia law in Negeri Sembilan state. The three-judge panel deemed the law a violation of people’s constitutional rights including the rights to freedom of expression. Implementation of section 66 in Putrajaya had been suspended. This, however, did not stop other Malaysian states from executing the law.
In an interview for AM of ABC radio, Mitch, a transgender man and a manager of an organisation in Malaysia that helps the poor and needy, said that there had been cases of transgender beatings as well as killings. They called it hate crimes, though the police did not because they, LGBT community, were not recognised.
The LGBT community may claim victory over discrimination with the recent rulings, which made same sex marriages legal in the USA and Ireland; however, it still has a long way to go especially in countries with conservative views and strict laws.
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