Tag Archives: malaysia

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

Malaysia_Transgender_Woman

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.

More Malaysian Mistreatment…16 Transwomen Jailed and Fined for “Crossdressing”

Neela-Ghosal
Many of us have noticed as transgender human rights have been increasing worldwide that there has been conservative Christian backlash – but it’s nothing compared to the Muslim backlash.

Malaysia for some time has seen a growing Muslim presence and application of Sharia law in place of secular law, and appears to be following the lead of its neighbor, Indonesia. While many groups have suffered under Sharia law, no group has suffered more than the LGBT communities of those countries.

From the article:

On June 9, 2014, a Sharia court in Malaysia’s Negeri Sembilan state sentenced the 16 women in a hearing in which they had no access to a lawyer. State religious department officials arrested the women, along with one transgender child, at a wedding party in a private home on the night of June 8 and 9 under the state’s Sharia law, which criminalizes “a male person posing as a woman.” All pleaded guilty, except the child, who was released.

The religious department officials had infiltrated the wedding party and arrested the transwomen, several of whom were wedding planners, known locally as mak andam, while others were invited guests at the wedding. The officials beat one of the women – choking her and kicking her – and tore another woman’s clothing in the course of the arrest, according to Justice for Sisters, a Malaysian transgender rights group. After they were sentenced on June 9, because they are legally considered “men,” they were transferred to the male ward of Sungai Udong prison. There, prison authorities forcibly shaved their heads in what the women said was an effort to negate their gender identity.

On June 11, a defense lawyer filed a request to have the women’s sentences re-evaluated and to secure their release on bail. According to Justice for Sisters activists at the hearing, the judge’s actions appeared to reflect considerable personal bias in the case. The judge asked the accused, “Wouldn’t it be better if [you] are in prison?” He told them that their shaved heads made them “handsome.” He set bail conditions that were impossible for many of the women to meet, including that their parents – some of whom lived in distant states or were ill – physically come to court within 30 minutes to bail them out. The women served five days of their sentence before prison officials released them early on June 13 since their release date fell on a weekend.

Sounds like a simply lovely vacation spot.

M’sia ticked off for arresting & jailing transgender women.

Malaysian Transwomen Take on Islam

If you want to see an example of bravery, consider these Malaysian transwomen who are fighting Shariah law and a large conservative Muslim majority in their country.

What’s at stake here is the right of these women, who are sometimes known as Mak Nyah, to dress in gender-appropriate clothing. What complicates matters is Malaysia has two different legal systems – one which is secular and primarily concerned with civil and criminal law, and another one reserved for Muslims which is based on Shariah law, and focuses on family law issues. However, a person convicted under the Shariah system can still be fined and imprisoned just the same as they can be under the secular system.

These women lost an earlier court decision, which said that because they had been born male and were Muslim, they had no rights to dress as women under the secular law. However, Malaysian secular law does have broad protections for transgender persons, and so these women are appealing to a higher court to force a resolution between the Malaysian secular constitution and Shariah law.

One might ask why the women couldn’t just renounce their religion and thus not fall under Shariah law, but the problem is Muslims who try to leave the religion can be tried in Shariah courts under the principle of apostasy. How serious is the punishment for apostasy in Malaysia? Pretty serious.

A Malaysian woman held for months in an Islamic rehabilitation centre says she was subjected to mental torture for insisting her religion is Hinduism.

Revathi Massosai, the name by which she wants to be known, says she was forced to eat beef despite being a Hindu.

When in January she asked a court to officially designate her a Hindu she was detained and taken to an Islamic rehabilitation centre. Her detention was twice extended to six months, during which time she says religious officials tried to make her pray as a Muslim and wear a headscarf.

Another case, of a Muslim who tried to convert to Christianity in Malaysia.

His interrogators stripped him naked and forced him to enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As he was made to crawl naked on the floor, for 10 minutes, one Inspector Yusoff told several other Special Branch officers in the room, “Ini orang Melayu tak sedar diri.”

He was not allowed sleep for days at a stretch and was warned that he would not be fed unless he co-operated. The same Inspector Yusoff also threatened to “disturb” his girlfriend if he did not divulge the information they demanded. Inspector Yusoff and two other Inspectors, Zainudding and Ayub, assaulted him on several occasions, causing him to injure his back and pass out blood in his urine.

At one stage of interrogation, he was made to stand for two hours on one leg with both arms outstretched holding his slippers. A woman constable and her young daughter were brought in to watch him while a police constable said, “Ini Melayu tak sedar diri, tukar agama, tak malu.”

Jamaluddin was also coerced to convert back to Islam.

“I got the clear impression that all my interviews with the Special Branch was for the purpose of getting me to change my religion from Christianity to Islam,” he told the Supreme Court.

In effect, it’s like the Hotel California – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Justice for Sisters.