Malaysia: Court Convicts 9 Transgender Women for “Posing as Women”; Plus, a Fantastic Protest Cartoon

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On June 17, 2015, A Sharia court in Malaysia sentenced nine transgender women to fines, and two to one-month jail terms under a law prohibiting “a male person posing as a woman.” Religious police arrested the women in a raid on June 16, 2015, and they pled guilty the next day. A lawyer filed an appeal and the two women sentenced to jail were released on bail pending the outcome.

From the original article:

The nine women, known as mak nyah in Malaysia, were attending a private birthday party at a hotel when officials from the Kelantan Islamic Department (JHEAIK) raided the party and arrested them. In each state in Malaysia, religious department officials are responsible for enforcing state Sharia criminal codes. In Kelantan, section 7 of the Syariah (Sharia) Criminal Code of 1985 states that “Any male person who, in any public place, wears woman attire and poses as a woman shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four months or to both.”

The situation for Malaysian transgender women has been declining in recent years due to a steady increase in Muslim fundamentalism, especially in rural areas of the country. Human Rights Watch has published a lengthy document on the history and current status of Malaysian transgender people, and you can download it from them for free here.

The reason that this article is being updated is because of some wonderful work done by cartoonist Kazimir Lee Iskander to highlight the plight of Malaysian transgender women. Prompted by the arrest of 17 transgender women in June 2014 for “impersonating women,” he was inspired to draw a political cartoon series to show how transgender people are harassed in Malaysia – and to offer hope. “I didn’t want everyone to hear the story and assume Malaysia’s some fundie hell-hole (even though it can be),” he was quoted as saying. “I also wanted to show a little bit of the activism happening on the ground.”

You can view the complete cartoon on the artist’s site here, but the first four of the 21-part series are included below.

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_01

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_02

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_03

Iskander_Malaysia_Not_a_Crime_04

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Slate.

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