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3 Aug 2011

Malaysia's Community Development Ministry to meet with transgender rights activists

In a written statement, the Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development clarified that it in fact provides counselling and guidance to transgender people without the “intention of ‘correcting’ behaviour etc in line with socially accepted norms.”

The Women, Family & Community Development Ministry has said in a statement that Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Secretary-General Dato’ Noorul Ainur will meet with Seksualiti Merdeka, a sexuality rights advocacy group, and members of the transgender community to understand and address the needs of transgender people in Malaysia.

Women, Family & Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. Photo: Facebook

The ministry was responding to a petition endorsed by 17 NGOs and some 600 unnamed individuals following the passing of transgender woman Aleesha Farhana whose application to officially change her name and gender was rejected by the High Court despite having undergone a sex reassignment surgery in Thailand two years ago.

According to reports, she died from a heart attack on Saturday, 12 days after the High Court ruling.

The statement, which has been published on Seksualiti Merdeka's website on Aug 3, said that transgender people in Malaysia face extreme levels of stigmatisation and discrimination which is often exacerbated by biased media reporting. Transgender people often face abuses “ranging from physical violence to mental torture to sexual assault”, to being “prevented from accessing health services, housing, education, employment and other basic rights enjoyed by all Malaysians.”

“The unwillingness of the Malaysian government to recognise trans people as equal before the law facilitates this ugly persistence in violating us.”

The statement further urged the authorities to “repeal of laws that criminalise trans people for (their) identity, dressing and mannerisms” and to create a safer environment for transgender people.

Among the NGOs that endorsed the statement were Amnesty International (Malaysia), Association of Women’s Lawyers, Centre for Independent Journalism, Coalition of Sexual Bodily Rights, Seksualiti Merdeka and Suaram.

In a written reply from Suriani Kempe, Special Tasks Officer to the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, the ministry clarified that it in fact provides counselling and guidance to transgender people without the “intention of ‘correcting’ behaviour etc in line with socially accepted norms.” 

Co-founder of Seksualiti Merdeka Pang Khee Teik told Fridae: “We are happy to observe that the Ministry is willing to engage, and willing to articulate a position that is progressive and inclusive. Of course there is a lot more that the Ministry can do before all of us have equal opportunities to be helped and to access services in Malaysia. But we must support such a stand and hold the Ministry accountable to act positively for the good of all transgender people in Malaysia.”

Seksualiti Merdeka, which is also an annual sexuality rights festival held in August, will also be organising a forum titled “Say My Name: Why name and gender means so much to transgender people” later this month, and have extended the invitation to Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Secretary-General Dato’ Noorul Ainur.


Reader's Comments

1. 2011-08-03 22:55  
it's as if the Malaysian government murdered Aleesha.

So many are totally ignorant of the physiologically damaging effects of long-term stress brought on by stigmitization, rejection, oppression and hate.

How many more of its citizens will Malaysia torture to death like this?

It's obvious the Malay government doesn't value (equally) the lives of its citizens.

Thumbs down on Malaysian government...simply NOT Asia.
2. 2011-08-04 03:06  
I'm impressed the ministry responded so promptly. If it were a singapore ministry, such a reply would likely take weeks if one gets a response at all. There's hope for Malaysia afterall.
Comment #3 was deleted by its author on 2011-08-04 05:27
4. 2011-08-04 05:27  
I wonder whether her Singaporean counterpart "Kee Chew" would be willing to talk with leaders of the unregistered group, People Like Us (PLU), and allow the latter to register as a society. Without allowing a registered society to represent the LGBT community, it's very difficult for the government to engage the community.

I note that, when the late Dr Balaji was the Minister of State for Health, the government had engaged with certain gay leaders directly in order to address the issue of HIV spreading among the Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) community. According to world authorities in the area of anti-HIV (such as UNAIDS and WHO), it is crucial for discrimination and criminalisation against MSM to be reduced, and for the governments to engage the MSM community directly, in order for the fight against HIV to be effective. Clearly, the late Dr Balaji had been wise to engage the MSM community directly.

However, without allowing PLU to register as a Society in Singapore, I am afraid that the engagement cannot be as effective as it could be. A registered society is required to ensure that all the different groups in the LGBT community are represented and heard. It can also promote dialogue between the community and the government, and development of win-win solutions for both the nation as a whole and the LGBT community. It is both in the interest of the nation and a human right for the LGBT community to register a society to represent the latter.
5. 2011-08-04 12:37  
Corrective behaviour? Are they still on about this, when everyone knows that it doesn't work!
6. 2011-08-05 22:26  
at least they do something rather than nothing at all...

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