by Leander Milbrecht
Human rights activists* in Malaysia are alarmed. Last week the Minister for Religious Affairs, Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, announced in the social media that he had given the Malaysian Religious Police full authority to arrest and imprison transgender people. The aim: a kind of “re-education” – he did not reveal the methods by which this was to be achieved.
The situation for transgender people in Malaysia is likely to worsen considerably as a result of the measure. The religious police (Jawi) may now arrest and imprison them without reason. What they have to fear during their imprisonment, the politician only hinted at. In his mail he clarified: Yes, we want to lock them up – but not only. Islam is a teaching religion, Al-Bakri said.
“The most important thing is Tarbiah (education) so they can all return to the streets.”
Human rights activists* understand this formulation as the announcement of a forced conversion ‘therapy’. Ambiga Sreenavasan, a well-known Malaysian lawyer for the human rights organisation International Commission of Jurists, described the politician’s injunction as an unacceptable transphobic and homophobic attack. He underlined the lack of legal protection and the prejudices that transgender people face in Malaysia, Sreenavasan said.
“Instead of ensuring that the human rights and dignity of all persons are respected and protected, the minister’s statement goes in the complete opposite direction by advocating government measures against persons belonging to a minority on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity”.
Transgender people do not have a good standing in this Southeast Asian country anyway. Cross-dressing is a punishable offence – under Sharia law, the transgender community is threatened with prison where they are subjected to physical and sexual violence. Furthermore, there is no protection against discrimination for the community – they could lose their jobs, health care and residence at any time. Human Rights Watch reports that as a result, a large number of transgender people in Malaysia are forced to turn to sex work for a living.
- albakri: By: Facebook / Datuk Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri
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