Court ruling condones discrimination
WE, the transgender community, are very disappointed, distraught and disheartened with the unfavourable verdict of Justice Datuk Siti Mariah Ahmad on Oct 11 at the Seremban High Court where the judge held that Section 66 of the Syariah Criminal (Negri Sembilan) Enactment 19921 excludes our fundamental liberties under the Constitution.
We are saddened to hear that the court has ruled in favour of the State and its officials, thus condoning discrimination and violence on grounds of gender identity.
We are also shocked by the reliance on Islamic texts in her ruling to justify the existence of the law when it is the Constitution that is the supreme law of Malaysia.
We seek a review of the constitutionality of the law as we believe that Section 66 and other similar laws are inconsistent with our freedom of expression, right to non-discrimination, dignity, privacy and right to livelihood.
We believe the court erred in its decision in failing to consider all medical evidence and overlooked the mistreatment and violence that the transwomen in Negri Sembilan have been subjected to because of this law.
Section 66 and similar laws in other states in Malaysia have been used for far too long to violate the rights of the transwomen in this country.
Many transwomen, including the four applicants in the case, had been subjected to physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse by officers employed by the Islamic religious department.
They have been beaten, punched, kicked, groped, molested, insulted, coerced for sexual favours and humiliated in public places by Islamic religious officers.
One of the applicants was brutally beaten up in a public place by the religious officers, leaving her with physical and mental scars. She is still disturbed by the incident and remains traumatised.
Transgender people do not choose to be transgender and neither can we change it.
We do not impersonate or pose as the opposite sex. We live in disharmony with our assigned gender, and express ourselves based on how we feel on the inside, which gives us inner peace and personal happiness.
Many transwomen like ourselves start wearing female clothes and makeup at a young age; we prefer to play with girls rather than boys, and some of us intend to change our facial attributes and undergo sex reassignment surgery to live in the body that we are most comfortable with.
In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) the American Psychiatric Association (APA) replaced the diagnostic term “Gender Identity Disorder” with the term “Gender Dysphoria”, “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender”.
The APA too, in a statement urged the repeal of laws and policies that discriminate against transgender and gender variant people.
Under Section 66, any man who, in any public place, wears a woman’s attire and poses as a woman shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding RM1,000 or a jail term up to a year or both.
Transgender people are subjected to many forms of violence, stigma and discrimination because of our gender identity, because we are perceived as different.
At a very young age, we are subjected to name calling and bullying in schools. As a result, many transgender children fall behind in school or display very little interest in continuing and finishing their studies.
In some cases, families disown and kick out their transgender children simply because family members cannot accept a child who is different.
Consequently, many transgender people are deprived of a loving support system that others enjoy.
Portrayal of transgender people as deviants and threat to public morality in the mainstream media too contributes to the stigma, discrimination and violence that are faced by the transgender community.
We believe as fellow citizens, irrespective of race or religion, transgender people are equally entitled to all the constitutional rights that are enjoyed by other Malaysians.
As residents of this country, we are also entitled to protection by the state from any form of injustice, discrimination and violence. We believe the judge’s ruling is a regressive step and adversely affects the human rights of all Malaysians.
JUSTICE FOR SISTERS
THIS STATEMENT IS ENDORSED BY 20 LOCAL AND