Malaysian transgender women are routinely arrested and abused by religious officials and police in one of the few countries to criminalize them, according to a new report.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed 45 transgender people for the report, which was released today.
One of the interviewees, Victoria, said she was arrested in 2011 by religious officials who stripped and sexually assaulted her.
‘They were rough. One of them squeezed my breasts. I was completely humiliated,’ she said.
‘They stripped me completely naked. One of them took a police baton and poked at my genitals. Everyone was looking – the men, as well as the women. They took photos of my naked body.’
All 13 states ban Muslim men from ‘dressing as women’ and three also criminalize ‘women posing as men.’
The laws, which are enforced by state religious departments, do not define transgender dressing or posing.
Erin was jailed for assault and held in a men’s prison ward from 1998 to 2000. She said she was forced to have sex without condoms with the warden ‘about two times a week’ and with male prisoners.
‘I complained to the high officers, [and] the sergeant, but they did not take action,’ she said.
The report found that transgender people have been fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, physically and sexually assaulted and denied access to healthcare because of their gender identity.
Police routinely refuse to receive complaints of violence against transgender people and in some cases, police even threatened transgender complainants with arrest or sexually harassed them.
Doctors stopped performing sex reassignment surgery after a fatwa was issued in 1982, even though they have no legal authority.
‘Transgender people in Malaysia risk arrest every day they step out of their door simply because of the way they express themselves,’ said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at HRW.
‘Malaysia urgently needs to scrap laws that discriminate against transgender people, adhere to international rights standards, and put in place comprehensive non-discrimination legislation that protects them.’