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Rights groups warn Malaysia’s constitution does not protect LGBTI people

Rights groups warn Malaysia’s constitution does not protect LGBTI people

LGBTI advocates and NGOs watch a live stream of Malaysias UN human rights review (Photo: Twitter)

Malaysia’s LGBTI community has said the country’s constitution is not enough to protect them from increasing attacks.

Their comments came after the international community asked Malaysia to do more to protect LGBTI persons at a UN human rights review in Switzerland.

Gay sex is illegal in Malaysia. LGBTI rights have been backsliding since a new government took power earlier this year.

Malaysia responded to criticism on Thursday (8 November). Delegates insisted the government ‘upholds the rights and dignity of all persons in Malaysia in accordance to the law’.

What’s more, the government cited Article 8(2) of the Constitution that prohibits discrimination against on the grounds of race, religion, and birth.

But, Justice for Sisters researcher Thilaga Sulathireh said the government was sidestepping the topic of discrimination.

‘We have seen all kinds of violence & discrimination against LGBT individuals, such as the murder of two transwomen last week’ Thilaga Sulathireh said after a live screening of the UN review in Kuala Lumpur.


International recommendations

Germany, Austria, Canada, Chile, Argentina, the United Kingdom and the United States had all urged Malaysia to protect its sexual and gender minorities.

Importantly, they said Malaysia should decriminalize same-sex sexual relations and protect LGBTI people against discriminations.

A member of NGO-coalition Comango, Dec Lan, also urged the government to accept the UN recommendations, according to the Malay Mail.

‘Many of the recommendations are sound, and the country would benefit from seeing it carried through’, he therefore reportedly said.

Steep decline in LGBTI rights

Malaysia is becoming increasingly intolerant of its LGBTI population. Last month, Malaysia’s leader Mahathir Mohamad once again said his country cannot accept LGBTI rights.

‘At this moment, we do not accept LGBT but if they [the West] want to accept, that is their business. Don’t force it on us’, he said.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia under Section 377 of the Penal Code. It is similar colonial-era legislation to the anti-gay law that India dismantled last month.

Importantly, a 2013 survey found 86 percent of Malaysians believed homosexuality should not be socially accepted. Additionally, only nine percent said it should.

What’s more, Malaysia allows caning of individuals for homosexual acts.

Malaysia’s Syariah Court – Syariah is the Malay spelling of Shariah – has jurisdiction over all Muslims in Malaysia but only in matters of family law and religious observance. About 61% of Malaysia’s 32-million strong population is Muslim.

In September, conservative state Terengganu caned two women for attempting lesbian sex. Another state also said it planned to begin the practice.