In overturning a landmark ruling, Malaysia's highest court has undermined the rights of transgender people in the country, Human Rights Watch said today.
On October 8 the Federal Court reversed a lower court ruling that a state's prohibition on "cross-dressing" was unconstitutional. On wholly procedural grounds, the Federal Court upheld Sharia laws prohibiting "a male person posing as a woman.
The decision overturned a historic ruling by Putrahaya Court of Appeal last year that found that a Sharia law against cross dressing in Negeri Sembilan was unconstitutional.
At the time the law was deemed "degrading, oppressive, and inhuman" and the judge ruled that as long as it remained in place, Transgender people "will continue to live in uncertainty, misery, and indignity."
The recent judicial decision is the latest development in a four-year struggle by transgender activists to end arbitrary arrests of transgender women on the basis of discriminatory laws, Human Rights Watch said.
"This Federal Court ruling is a major setback for transgender rights," said Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Trans women in Malaysia, who were buoyed by the landmark lower court decision recognizing their rights to be themselves, have been let down once again," she said.