A state government lawmaker in the Malaysian state of Penang has proposed setting up a committee to protect the welfare of transgender people but the opposition has warned it will lead to more rights for LGBTs.
The Democratic Action Party’s Teh Yee Cheu put forward the proposal last week, sparking claims from the state opposition leader that the measure could lead to same-sex marriages in the state.
Teh told the state assembly that the issue had been overlooked and said there had been no action on the issue since he had first brought it up in 2009.
‘Since 2009, I have been asking for the committee be set up to handle issues related to this community to show that we are an open government,’ Teh told the assembly, saying that such a group would need the approval of the government.
State Women, Family and Community Development Committee chairwoman Chong Eng responded that while transgender issues were confronting to Muslims, his committee would address the issue.
‘They have issues, including which hospital ward they should be treated in, which toilet and which lock-ups,’ Chong was reported to have said by the Sun Daily.
However Datuk Jahara Hamid, leader of the Barisan Nasional coalition in the assembly, warned there would be a slippery slope to further rights for LGBT people if the committee was established.
‘With such a committee, is the state supporting same sex marriage as well?’ Jahara asked.
Jahara said transgender people should simply live as the gender of their birth.
Last month a campaign encouraging people to be allies of the transgender community was launched in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
It is not technically illegal to be transgender in Malaysia although transgender people who are Muslims can be hauled before religious sharia courts and fined and people deemed to be of the same gender can be jailed for having sex.
Last October the Malaysian AIDS Council criticized such religious rulings, warning they could lead to increased stigmatization of transgender people and discrimination by authorities.