The Malaysian Transgender Community Are in Hot Water With the Religious Authorities

People hold hands during a protest demanding the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, at t
People hold hands during a protest demanding the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, at the Congress building in Bogota November 27, 2012. The protest was also against Senator Roberto Gerlein's recent derogatory comments on homosexuality during a debate on a proposed gay marriage bill in Congress, according to local media. REUTERS/John Vizcaino (COLOMBIA - Tags: SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)

The raid of 3rd April

The Malaysian transgender community who hosted and held a dinner and beauty contest for the trans women community recently were raided by Malaysian religious authorities, The Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) on 3rd of April. The religious authorities gatecrashed the closed-door dinner event without police personnel accompanying them on the grounds that it violated a fatwa against beauty pageants that were gazetted for the muslim women under the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act in February 1996.

10 JAWI officers, together with the media, came to the hotel at about 10pm on 3rd of April and prevented people from leaving the dinner that had about 200 transgender guests. The transgender organizer, Ira Sophia, as well as lawyer-turned activist Siti Kasim were arrested later while the rest of the guest were let go. The appalling thing is that the JAWI officers didn't have any warrant.

Lawyer and activist Siti Kasim, who had attended the closed-door function at one of the hotel in Kuala Lumpur were apprehended by the religious authorities, and they have also detained the event's transgender event organizer. The transgender woman who purportedly organized a beauty pageant may be charged with encouraging vice and defying religious authorities, while Siti Kasim was charged for obstructing the duties of a public servant but was on bail after.

"The officer told me that it's against the law to have a beauty contest -- it's 'haram' in Malaysia, based on a fatwa," Siti told Malay Mail Online on 5th of April.

"The Maknyah (transgender women) were simply having dinner and doing a show as if it is a beauty contest and each of them pretended to represent a country of their choice," she said.

According to Siti Kasim too, JAWI officer said the department was there as they had received a complaints about the illegal "Beauty Contest," but she stressed that the event was only a show meant to raise funds for charity for the local marginalized communities in Kuala Lumpur.

The video of the incident of the unlawful raiding and arrest can be viewed here.

The ordeals that Trans Women & the LGBT Community in Malaysia have to face

The complete list of what the trans women community have to face in Malaysia can be found at Justice For Sister's website, especially with their recent court appeal, and them challenging the law that discriminates against them. They had been facing a downward spiral of discrimination ever since the fatwa criminalized transgender and gender transition since the 1980s; before they would have the right to change their gender legally but now they can't even land a job, or even walk on the street without being harassed, abused, assaulted or even arrested.

The transgender community, especially the trans women community are often driven to drug abuse or sex slavery as it is the one way to survive in such unbearable circumstances.

The government should've embarked on programs to raise awareness about the transgender community, on LGBT people, on sex education, sexuality and gender diversity as well as teaching others to be more empathic towards them. Unfortunately, the government are actively using the LGBT community as a scapegoat for their political and religious turmoils.

Recently Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of Islamic affairs, stated that being transgender is equivalent to rejecting God's wisdom in creating people in their specific genders. He said that being transgender and adhering to that kind of lifestyle is equal to challenging Allah and the Prophet.

While at the same time, Jamil Khir, member of the Parliament, acting under their behalf stated that existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals among the Muslim community are related to mental disorder and HIV/Aids. Jamil Khir is known to be an outspoken opponent of homosexuality. He also had said before that same-sex marriage is a form of "extreme human rights" and "will create social problems." He also criticized LGBT-rights event Seksualiti Merdeka for promoting "a deviation from society's norms.

The Malaysian LGBT activist coalition, Seksualiti Merdeka, are urging the Malaysian government and society to stop the inhumane, oppressive treatment that they are asserting towards the LGBT community especially the trans women community, and urging the society and government to engage in civil dialogue with the marginalized society instead.

The discrimination, criminalization and oppression of the LGBT community, especially the trans community in Malaysia should be brought to an end. They deserve the chance to live and receive justice that is long overdue.

You can get more information for the infringement of human rights that the trans women community are facing and any related news here, and if you want to be an ally, you can support them here. Crowdsourcing the struggle for human rights. Be part of the solution at Movements.org. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Movements.