Transgender people under threat, says report

Transgender people under threat, says report

PETALING JAYA - Following an arrest in 2011, Victoria, a transgender women from Negri Sembilan was humiliated by religious department officials who sexually assaulted her.

"They were rough and one of them squeezed my breasts. I was completely humiliated.

"They stripped me completely naked and one of them took a police baton and poked at my genitals, before taking photos of my naked body," said Victoria who was one of the contributors to a 73-page report titled, 'I'm Scared to Be a Woman: Human Rights Abuses against Transgender People in Malaysia'.

Following the compilation of the report, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday urged the Malaysian Government to repeal laws that discriminate transgender people, as they too possess similar rights as all Malaysians.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocacy director, Boris Dittrich said transgender people in Malaysia risk arrest every day they step out of their door simply because of the way they express themselves.

"Transgender people in Malaysia face criminal prosecution under laws that effectively prohibit "cross-dressing" and discrimination in accessing employment, health care, and education.

"The authorities shouldn't be harassing and punishing people just for being who they are," he said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the HRW conducted a field research in several states and contacted the Ministry of Health and the Prison Department about policies affecting transgender people, but neither agency responded.

Boris added that since the 1980s, every state had passed syariah criminal enactments that institutionalise discrimination against transgender people.

"All 13 Malaysian states prohibit Muslim men from dressing as women, while three states also criminalise women posing as men, however, the laws enforced by state Islamic Religious Departments do not define what constitutes transgender dressing or posing.

He said that transgender women who get arrested, in addition to being fined will be forced into counselling sessions where religious officials persuade them to being a man.

"The National Registration Department rejects the application of transgender women to change their gender, and they are often subject to repeated arrests.

"Transgender women told HRW that civil police are sometimes directly involved in arrests, and some cases justifying their actions on a vague provision in the federal criminal code that prohibits 'public indecency' and applies to people of all religious backgrounds," he said.

He added that arrested transgender women are often placed in male wards where they face sexual assault by both wardens and prisoners.

"Transgender women in Malaysia have filed a ground-breaking court case challenging the syariah law in Negri Sembilan , which prohibits them from expressing their gender identity.

"The petitioners contend that the syariah law violates the Malaysian constitution which should guarantee rights to freedom of expression, freedom of movement and equality," he said adding that the Putrajaya Court of Appeal is expected to issue its decision on November 7.

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