Lawyers for Liberty has condemned the government for it floating the idea of amending the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, otherwise known as RUU355, to impose heavier punishments on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
LFL co-ordinator Zaid Malek said that the recognition and protection of the transgender community is not contrary to the precepts of Islam and is in fact mandatory under the federal constitution.
“We strongly advise the authorities to not resort to periodically using the LGBT community as a convenient punching bag to create the illusion of rectitude and false piety in certain political parties that comprise the government.
“The vilification of the LGBT and transgender community serves to help no one and will only harm the very citizens that it is supposed to protect,” he said in a statement today.
Yesterday, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary said the government does not rule out the possibility of amending RUU355 to impose heavier punishments on the LGBT community.
He said the current sentence under the act – three years imprisonment, a fine of RM5,000 and six strokes of the cane – was seen as less affecting the group.
Marzuk said this amendment is seen as necessary to address their misconduct.
According to Marzuk, at this time strict action has been taken against those who dress contrary to their gender.
Zaid said, in a time when the country is in crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is disappointing that the deputy minister chooses to focus on the vilification of the LGBT community.
“This is nothing more than a tired and cheap political ploy to detract from the real issues currently affecting Malaysians.
“This is especially more obvious when we consider the fact that Malaysian Muslims are still in a state of shock and confusion by the 40-year long halal meat scandal that was exposed quite recently; yet the spotlight is again cast on LGBT instead.”
He said that Marzuk was unclear on how heavier punishments would address the supposed “wrongdoings” committed by the LGBT community.
“What is clear is that this is targeted harassment by the government which intends to invade and harass the rights and privacy of alleged LGBT Muslims, causing them undue hardship.
“This would be in clear violation of Article 8 of the federal constitution as LGBT Muslims are entitled to equality before the law and therefore deserve protection from laws that target them solely due to their sexual orientation.”
Zaid also said that they condemn the admission by the deputy minister that religious enforcers take stern action against those who cross-dress.
“This indicates that the enforcers have been instructed to target transgender Muslims specifically.
“Again, the government is wilfully breaching Article 8, that expressly forbids any discrimination on the basis of an individual’s gender.”
Zaid hopes that the government will not take such a restrictive view of Islamic law and follow the footsteps of other Muslim majority countries that have already recognised the legitimate rights of the transgender community.
“Egypt and Iran issued fatwas in the 1980s, allowing gender reassignment surgeries, and even Pakistan has enacted the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in 2018, which is a formal recognition of transgender rights in the country.” – TMI