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Malaysia: LGBT’s rights under attack

Tuesday 6 August 2019, by siawi3


Malaysia: Evidence of state-sponsored discrimination against LGBT persons

Suaram et al

Published: 19 Apr 2019, 1:36 pm

LETTER | We refer to the Malaysiakini report ’Cops summon LGBT activist for questioning over UN speech.’

In March 2019, Malaysian human rights defender Numan Afifi made an intervention at the UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Adoption Reports at the Human Rights Council, Geneva. Amidst scrutiny over interventions by civil society organisations, the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review Process (Macsa) and the International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) claimed that Numan’s statement was misleading because he used the phrase “state-sponsored violence†to describe state-sponsored anti-LGBT programmes. We are here to clarify the phrase “state-sponsored violence†and offer evidence in support of his intervention.

State-sponsored discrimination and violence refer to any form of mistreatment, violations and aggressions resulting from the state’s action. The state’s actions could include the enactment of discriminatory laws, policies or directives; allocation of funds for discriminatory activities; and actions or speeches that are hateful, degrading, exclusionary, or incite violence against a group. Violence also refers to the collective harm - psychological, emotional and physical - that the LGBT population in Malaysia have experienced and are experiencing due to the state’s actions.

In Malaysia, LGBT people are criminalised through many federal and state laws. There are also multiple government-initiated anti-LGBT programmes, overseen by the Prime Minister’s Department and Jakim since 2011, most of which focus on rehabilitation and conversion of LGBT persons.

On July 23, 2018, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the Minister at the Prime Minister Department for Islamic affairs, listed the government-sponsored LGBT programmes in Parliament:

. Jakim’s voluntary treatment and rehabilitation programme, Ilaj Wa Syifa;
. The Mukhayyam programme - a three-day camp introduced in 2011, designed as a strategy to reduce HIV transmission among key affected populations, namely Muslim transwomen. The programme, listed in the National Strategic Plan to End Aids 2016-2030, has a few goals: create awareness about HIV, Islam and being a good Muslim; offer job placement and financial assistance for startups; and encourage participants to abandon immoral behaviour, including one’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The government on multiple occasions has promoted the Mukhayyam programme as a rehabilitation camp. This was further reinforced by the director of Jakim, who was quoted in an article in July 2017 saying that the programme aims to guide and provide spiritual awareness for the LGBT community through a religious approach to return the participants “to the right path†. He noted that participants had changed their appearance, managed their romantic attractions and abandoned their homosexual behaviour. There are also Mukhayyam camps for gay men and lesbian women. The Malaysian Aids Council has also issued a statement denouncing the harmful effects of the Mukhayyam programme;
. Various seminars and programs have been conducted targeting students, school counsellors, parents, volunteers, health staff and representatives of Muslim NGOs, that encourage people to avoid committing “LGBT acts†, and encourage others to identify and curb “LGBT behaviours†within their families, social circles, and workplaces;
. Outreach activities: Jakim claimed they had reached out to over 2,000 LGBT people between 2006 and 2014 to return them “to the right path†through its volunteer and outreach programmes;
. Jakim’s e-book Panduan Hijrah Diri (available on Google Play Store), and other publications, including a compilation of the hadith on “LGBT acts†and a brochure Memahami LGBT dari Perspektif Seorang Muslim (Understanding LGBT from a Muslim’s perspective), which promotes conversion practices.
. A five-year action plan Pelan Tindakan Menangani Gejala Sosial Perlakuan LGBT 2017 - 2021 (Action Plan To Address Social Ills - LGBT Behaviour 2017-2021). Alongside 22 partners, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Women, Development and Community, state Islamic departments and other state agencies, the action plan introduced in July 2016 aims to proactively and efficiently curb “LGBT behaviour†.

These state-sponsored activities are harmful by design as they employ rehabilitation and conversion practices which aim to curb and suppress the actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of LGBT persons. They also encourage others to intervene in the private and public lives of LGBT persons.

Scientific evidence and studies show that rehabilitation and conversion of LGBT persons result in prolonged psychological harm not only in LGBT persons but also their family members and loved ones. These harmful practices have been widely rejected by global scientific bodies, medical institutions, and human rights groups. As a result, more countries are increasingly prohibiting conversion practices.

Based on our documentation and anecdotal evidence, LGBT people participate in these government programmes for a variety of reasons. Transwomen, in particular, participate in these programmes to seek financial assistance to start small businesses, to avoid being arrested, to network and to advance their knowledge of Islam. Therefore, the needs of the participants speak to larger and systemic discriminations faced by trans and LGBT persons in accessing employment, freedom of movement, and inclusive and non-judgemental religious spaces. These are the urgent needs of LGBT people that the government should address.

Macsa and Wafiq argue that the right to participate in these programmes is a religious right of LGBT persons. We maintain that conversion practices cannot be viewed as a religious right. By definition, the assertion of one human rights claim cannot be used to extinguish other rights. Imposing conditions that require LGBT persons to subject themselves to be changed in order to be accepted by their families and Malaysian society is a violent form of discrimination that violates their right to dignity, safety, health, movement, among others.

Moreover, these government-sponsored programmes reinforce misinformation regarding LGBT people, such as the myths that “LGBT behaviours†are caused by hormonal imbalances, psychological disorders, excessive sexual desires, or a lack of parental or spiritual guidance; that LGBT persons deliberately defy cultural, religious, and societal norms; that LGBT persons are the sole vectors of HIV; and that LGBT identities can be corrected. These have all been widely refuted and debunked by major institutions.

When the Malaysian government funds, produces and spreads such negative views about LGBT persons, it is not surprising that the public adopts these myths as facts. These government efforts manifest in increased aggression, discrimination and violence against LGBT people in physical spaces and social media, with impunity for the perpetrators. In the last few years, the government’s position has directly resulted in the proliferation of anti-LGBT groups that promote rehabilitation practices, anti-LGBT campaigns online and in educational institutions, and violent crimes against LGBT persons.

When these violent acts are seen as “corrective†, they become normalised and accepted by the public. As government endorses discrimination, the Malaysian public, too, does not see their rejection of LGBT persons as a form of discrimination. Given the climate of fear and rejection in which LGBT people live in, LGBT people are faced with limited options for survival and acceptance. Their “voluntary†participation in rehabilitation programmes must take into account the fact that they live in an environment that punishes them for their identities and that pressures them to change.

These state-sponsored activities deprive LGBT people of their right to live with dignity, as enshrined in Article 5 of the Federal Constitution. The state has an obligation to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of all persons. We call on the government to immediately end the investigation towards Numan Afifi and other human rights defenders in the course of defending the human rights of LGBT persons. We also call on the government to engage LGBT human rights groups and review its current policies, activities and practices in relation to LGBT persons.


Justice for Sisters
Queer Lapis
Seksualiti Merdeka
L-INC Foundation
Beyond Borders
Pluho, People Like Us Hang Out
Plusos (People Like Us Support Ourselves)
Pelangi Campaign
Our Journey, Malaysia
KL Queer Women Discussion Group
Malaysian Atheists and Secular Humanists
The Malaysian Feminist
Transmen of Malaysia
All Women Action Society (Awam)
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
North-South Initiative (NSI)
Foreign Spouses Support Group (FSSG)
Community Development Centre (CDC)
Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
Center of Excellence for Research in Aids (Ceria)
Queer Academics, Students and Supporters Alliance (Quassa)
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
Projek Ilmu Seks
Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC)
Malaysia Muda
PT Foundation
Seed Malaysia
Pertubuhuan Kebajikan dan Kesihatan Umum (PPKUM)
Bikar Alam
Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (Kryss)|
Gerak (Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia)
Women Center for Change (WCC)
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Asean Sogie Caucus



Malaysia: Is hate against LGBT so strong that gov’t will not defend them?

Thursday 4 July 2019,


Lawyers for Liberty has weighed in on Malaysia’s vote against the International Labour Organization Convention on Violence and Harassment, saying that Putrajaya and workers’ bodies are shirking their responsibilities in defending those under their care.

“It was a very disappointing move by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) to vote against the convention, and for the government to abstain from voting,†LFL executive director Melissa Sasidaran told Malaysiakini.

“The main mandate of these bodies is to protect the rights and welfare of all workers, regardless of their background, and that should include sexual orientation.â€

Sasidaran criticised the initial explanations given by the MTUC and the MEF on not backing the ILO convention due to the insertion of the LGBT community as a vulnerable group in the original draft.

“The overreaction to the original wording, which included LGBT as a vulnerable group, is irrational,†she said.

“What it means is that the hate against LGBT persons is so strong that the government, MTUC and MEF would deny the international recognition and protection against violence and harassment to all workers, just so that they would not be seen to be connected to anything related to LGBT.†In other words, they are implying that the issue at hand does not matter, and that they would even condone violence and harassment in the workplace against the LGBT community and would rather deny protection to all."

U-turn not official

Malaysia’s stand on the issue has become murkier, following MTUC president Abdul Halim Mansor saying that the vote on the ILO convention in Geneva was due to “certain misconceptions.â€

Halim also said that the MTUC will be “pushing for the government to ratify it with full vigour and without any qualms.â€

Nothing has changed officially, however, despite Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran saying on June 27 that the government took a neutral stand on the ILO convention because it did not wish to be in conflict with its stakeholders.

Kulasegaran is believed to be willing to change the government’s position now that the MTUC has retracted its objections.

“While the government at present is, at minimum, responding to any constructive criticisms against their policies, we need to step up the pressure to ensure the government adopts this convention without discrimination against any group of workers,†Sasidaran said.

“They must take a hard look into their policies on where they stand in terms of workers protection for all, no exceptions.â€

Initial vote roundly criticised

The vote in Geneva on June 21 saw ILO member governments, employers’ federations and workers’ representatives deliver a strong mandate to adopt the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment.

The vote was overwhelming, with 439 delegates voting for the convention’s adoption and only seven voting against, with 30 abstentions.

Both the MTUC and MEF were among the seven who voted against the resolution. Of the seven votes, MTUC was the only trade union umbrella body.

Although Indonesian and Middle Eastern delegations also objected to the initial usage of the term ’LGBT’, all later voted in support of the treaty.

The Malaysian delegation, however, did not change its vote despite the amended wording. It is believed that this is the part of the misconception that Abdul Halim was referring to when he changed his stance.

Former MTUC president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud, who was part of the delegation but did not cast a vote, said political realities must have played a part.

“It’s one thing if you want to look like a progressive nation, to go abroad and sign a convention.†But it’s another thing to be able to ratify it," he said, citing the case of the United States, which in the past has gone to international conferences to sign conventions, only to have problems ratifying them at home.

The votes delivered by the MTUC and MEF and the abstentions by the government courted flak from the All Women’s Action Society (Awam), which was left “extremely disappointed.â€

Former MTUC secretary-general Gopal Kisham claimed that leaders of the congress had created a deficit of trust and confidence with the move.

Society for the Protection of Human Rights (Proham) secretary-general Ivy Josiah also expressed shock, since “the MTUC has a long history of defending women’s rights.â€