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International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission criticizes Malaysia

International human rights organization accuses Malaysia of ‘stubbornly reject[ing] the rights of LGBT people’
Malaysian transgender singer Hafiz Jeffri who was fined in an Islamic court in February for cross-dressing

An international human rights organization has accused Malaysia of failing to protect the rights of its LGBT citizens.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has highlighted in a press release that many countries in the South-east Asian region have recently made progress on LGBT rights, but the Malaysian government ‘continues to stubbornly reject the rights of LGBT people’.

Further damningly IGLHRC says that ‘this position reverberates throughout state institutions, encouraging hostility, discrimination, and abuse by state and religious authorities’.

The statement was prompted by news last week that a judge had ruled against four trans women who were challenging an Islamic Sharia law that prohibits cross-dressing.

The IGHRC spokesperson Grace Poore said the judge in that case, Justice Siti Mariah Ahmad, should have given an ‘explicit warning’ to Malaysia’s Islamic Religious Department to ‘to investigate, prosecute and convict its own religious officers for acts of verbal, physical, mental and sexual abuse against those in their custody, for supposedly breaking morality laws’.

Just last week Malaysia’s Star newspaper reported, in unsympathetic language, on a police raid of an area popular with trans sex workers in Penang. A police officer said ‘the locals were caught for indecency with the intention of engaging in prostitution’.

In February Gay Star News reported on the case of transgender singer Hafiz Jeffri who was fined in the Islamic court for ‘dressing in women’s clothing and having feminine mannerisms’.

Poore concluded damning indictment of Malaysia’s Islamic legal system saying:

‘Sharia judges across Malaysia must hold accountable Islamic religious officers (and police officers subject to sharia courts) who misuse their authority, take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities, humiliate them, and mistreat with impunity those they are hired to protect - including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.’ 

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