Malaysian lawyer Syahredzan Johan has said a deputy minister’s reading of the country’s constitution is ‘narrow’.
Dr Mashitah Ibrahim, deputy minister in the prime minister’s department said in the senate earlier this week that Malaysia’s constitution does protect citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Syahredzan Johan said: ‘Article 8(1) is clear - it mentions all persons are equal before the law and should have equal protection of the law, regardless of his race, religion, creed, gender or sexual orientation. So the word "gender" in Article 8(2) should be read to also mean 'sexual preference or sexuality.’
The constitution of Malaysia was ratified in 1957 after independence from Britain. Article 8 is concerned with equality.
Scientist Hwa Shi-Hsia added to the debate: ‘When you look at a document like the constitution which was written at a point in historical time but is used to guide our lives today, you have to look at its spirit as well as the letter.
'The key point is not to nitpick over the exact definition of gender. The key point is: No discrimination allowed.’