A Malaysia deputy minister questioned in the senate yesterday, said that the constitution did not protect the rights of LGBT citizens.
Dr Mashitah Ibrahim, deputy minister in the prime minister’s department responded to a question in the senate about what the government was doing to ‘tackle’ LGBT issues.
‘A series of rehabilitation and treatment courses will be given to Muslims who have deviated from societal norms,’ said Mashitah. She said that being LGBT was against Islam and the constitution of the country, as Islam is the official religion.
Ngeh Khoo Ham, a senator from the Democratic Action Party, then asked if it was right for the government to respond to the LGBT issue based on religious doctrine.
Mashitah replied that the LGBT community in Malaysia is not protected by the constitution.
‘Article 8 of the Federal Constitution says there must be no discrimination of citizens in terms of religion or sex. “Sex” has never been interpreted to mean sexual orientation; it has always been interpreted to mean either male or female, and they are [the only ones] protected by the constitution,” said Mashitah.
Malaysian human rights campaigner and co-founder of Seksualiti Merdeka sexualities freedom festival, Peng Khee Teik, responded to the deputy minister’s statements in a letter.
Peng questioned Mashitah’s interpretation of gender. ‘I am sorry but the federal constitution does NOT define gender as male and female - in fact, it does NOT define gender at all,’ he said.
‘I wish people who want to make policies about gender will keep themselves up to date regarding gender theories, at the very least… A simplistic understanding of gender consisting of only male and female is not only a view long discarded, but is not even a reflection of the diversity of our humanity. We risk being the laughing stock of the world if we still hold on to such an outdated concept.’
Peng noted that ‘breaking down the gender binary’ has been responsible for the opportunity for women to follow careers in traditionally male fields, such as Mashitah's own in politics.
Also this week the Malaysian deputy education minister Mohd Zarkashi told parents to look out for the ‘signs’ of LGBT tendencies in youth. He said parents must ‘prevent youngsters from experimenting and making a choice of this unnatural practice as a lifestyle later on’.
A Malaysia lesbian who only gave her name as Suzie told Bikyamasr that she is ‘fed-up’ with the ongoing government-sponsored campaign against the LGBT community in the country.
‘How long are Malaysian politicians and government officials going to take before they understand that we are not choosing to be gay?’ she said, adding that the ‘crackdown’ on LGBT youth is ‘going to hurt and cause more damage to young people than they realize’.