KUALA LUMPUR - It happened 14 years ago but transgender activist Nisha Ayub remembers vividly how she was caught for cross-dressing in Malacca.
She was sentenced to three months in prison - in a male cell.
"I was molested by six or seven inmates. To protect myself, I had to ask for help from a warden and in return I had to perform sexual favours for him," claimed Nisha, 35.
"I was only 21 at the time and it was my first sexual experience. I even tried to kill myself in the cell by strangling myself with a cloth but I was stopped by an inmate.
"What we want is not special rights. We just want equal rights and to be treated like everyone else," Nisha told reporters after the launch of a report by international NGO Human Rights Watch yesterday.
The 73-page report on abuses against transgender people in Malaysia reveals that the community continues to face discrimination and harassment.
The detailed account of the abuses is based on interviews with 66 people, including 42 transgender women and three transgender men. It states how some transgenders can be jailed for wearing "clothes belonging to the opposite sex".
Another transgender, only known as Victoria, was arrested in 2011 at a roadside stall.
"They were rough. One of them squeezed my breasts. I was completely humiliated. They stripped me naked," she said in the report.
The NGO's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocacy director Boris Dittrich said transgenders live every day in fear of getting arrested.