Charles Santiago: Stop hunting down transgenders like criminals

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Harassment against a marginalised community.

Incumbent Klang MP Charles Santiago today called for a reassessment of Malaysia’s priorities in the run-up to the 15th general election after Islamic law enforcers raided a Halloween party in the national capital and arrested 20 transgenders for alleged indecency.

Kuala Lumpur police and a prominent LGBTQ+ activist had earlier separately confirmed that 20 people were picked up by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) for offences related to indecency during a Halloween event held at REXKL, a popular arts venue on Jalan Sultan near Chinatown, last night.

“This is harassment against a marginalised community. When will we learn to respect and accept people for who they are?

Sayuti Zainudin

“We have people who are still reeling from job losses; the ringgit is weak; the economy needs resuscitation. But you use resources to go after people who were at a Halloween party?” Charles said in a series of tweets.

Charles also asked if the LGBTQ+ community would always be endangered under the law.

He warned that targeted persecution has the potential to trigger hate crimes.

“So, I urge authorities to cease hunting them down as if they are criminals,” he added.

Activist Numan Afifi confirmed that the 20 people were arrested during the staging of Shagrilla, a private show in conjunction with Halloween, at REXKL.

The community organiser who was also present at the event and had gone to Jawi’s office with several other activists, said those arrested were released on bail last night and none will be remanded.

Separately, Dang Wangi police chief Assistant Commissioner Noor Dellhan Yahaya said the 10pm raid on REXKL was a tri-agency joint operation with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and Jawi.

He said a total of 62 people were searched during the operation.

“Two locals aged 27 and 29 were found to be positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and investigations have commenced under Section 15(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

THC is the main psychoactive component derived from cannabis.

“Separately, 20 locals aged between 22 and 34 were detained by Jawi enforcers for investigations under Section 28 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act,” Noor Dellhan said in a statement today.

Section 28 states that any male person who in any public place wears women’s attire and poses as a woman for immoral purposes, can be charged with an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine up to RM1,000, or to imprisonment for a term not more than a year, or both.

The Islamic penal code is only applicable to Muslims in the country due to Malaysia’s dual-track justice system.

Noor Delhan said the police will ramp up law enforcement at various entertainment centres. – MMO