Malaysian Courts Sentence Transgender Women to Prison
June 23, 2014 by HRC staff
Post submitted by HRC Global Fellow Tushar Malik
In yet another violation of human rights law, a Malaysian Islamic Court has used Sharia law against “cross dressing” to sentence 16 transgender women to a week in jail. Discrimination and arrests of transgender women are commonplace in Malaysia where transphobia is condoned by the government and court system.
The women were arrested by religious police from a wedding party. After an initial sentencing without legal representation, they were thrown into the male quarters of the local jail and their heads were shaved. On request for re-evaluation, the women were given a seven day prison sentence.
All Malaysian states currently have laws that criminalize transgender women under a broad “no cross-dressing” law that subjects them to prison time and hefty fines. Despite the Malaysian constitution guaranteeing the right to privacy, expression, and movement, arrests and sentencing of transgender women are growing, owing to poor legal representation and a biased judicial system.
Currently there is a challenge to the constitutionality of such laws in the Putrajaya Court of Appeal, as reported by Human Rights Watch. The petitioners are transgender women who have previously been arrested under this law. The first hearing was earlier this year in May.
There are no protections for transgender individuals in Malaysia or provisions to change gender on identity documents. Malaysia also criminalizes same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults. Malaysia currently has a ban on LGBT people in state-controlled media, and has been in the international spotlight for state-sponsored plays and musicals about the “perils” of being LGBT touring the country’s schools and universities.
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