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Malaysian transgenders sexually abused, violated by religious authorities, report finds

Zurairi Ar reports for The Malay Mail Online:

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Stripped naked. Sexually molested. Beaten. Extorted for money and sexual favours. Publicly humiliated on national television.

These are some of the atrocities allegedly committed by Malaysian state religious authorities on Muslim transgendered women, according to an exhaustive report on human rights abuses against the minority group released today.

The report by international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW), which included interviews with 42 transwomen and three transmen, documents the tales of Muslims from the transgendered community who were allegedly persecuted under state Shariah laws, which prohibit cross-dressing.

“The laws against cross-dressing, in themselves, invite sexual abuse, as they may require religious officials to verify the sex of the individuals they arrest,” said the report, which was made available to Malay Mail Online yesterday.

In several cases, this resulted in religious department officials reportedly molesting the transwomen by touching their breasts, in order to ascertain their “realness”.

“They were rough. One of them squeezed my breasts. I was completely humiliated. … They stripped me completely naked.

“One of them took a police baton and poked at my genitals,” said a transwoman called Victoria in Seremban, who was arrested in 2011.

“They put me in the back seat of the car, between them. While [two of them] were touching my breasts and holding them, they asked, ‘How did you get this done?’,” said another who called herself Adik and was arrested in 2012, also in Seremban.

Besides sexual abuse, it was claimed that some transwomen were also physically hurt during raids by religious department officers, especially during their arrests.

“They chased me into a hotel and grabbed me. They hit me, punched me in the face, choked me, and told me I was guilty.

“I felt dizzy and collapsed. One of them tried to stomp on my chest, but I was saved by someone who pulled me away,” a transwoman called Serafina said when recounting her arrest in Seremban in 2010.

The report also claimed some transwomen were refused treatment for their injuries, except for one case in Malacca where a transwoman was admitted to surgery after religious officers allegedly beat her up.

The report also found that religious officers have also extorted money from transgenders, as they are vulnerable and cannot easily seek recourse. Some transwomen were also allegedly extorted for sexual favours.

“For transgender people, the religious law on cross-dressing is a big risk. Some give a bribe or sexual services when they are arrested — so the risk of HIV increases,” an official with Family Health Development Association (FHDA), a Penang-based sexual and reproductive health NGO told HRW.

The report also said that religious authorities publicly humiliate transwomen by calling television news crews to tag along during their raids, as confirmed by a broadcast journalist.

Besides the transgenders, HRW also interviewed, among others, lawyers, outreach workers, human rights activist, medical professionals, and a representative of the Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) for the report.

The Court of Appeal is expected to deliver its decision this November 7 on the application by three transwomen for a judicial review of a Negri Sembilan Shariah enactment that criminalises cross-dressing. In their application, the women contended that the law violates constitutional articles and does not apply to those diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID).

Despite the judicial review, 17 transgender women were arrested and charged under Section 66 of Negri Sembilan’s Shariah Criminal Enactment in June, barely a month after the review started.

The 16 transwomen opted to serve their jail time in a men’s prison, after being fined RM950 each. One of them, a minor, was sentenced to attend one-year counselling by the Negri Sembilan Islamic Religious Affairs Department.

Laws such as Section 66 are allegedly used by state religious authorities to repeatedly arrest and harass transgenders solely because they don clothes deemed as “feminine”.

Besides Negri Sembilan’s Section 66, other states’ Shariah criminal enactments also have provisions that give religious authorities the right to prosecute the transgender community for “cross-dressing”.

Penalties differ for those found guilty, with fines ranging from RM1,000 to RM5,000, and imprisonment from six months to three years.

Muslim-majority Malaysia continues to reject the perceived rise in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activities, which they deem to be an assault against Islam together with growing calls for greater civil liberties.

The issue is compounded by the intermingling of politics and religion in a country where the latter has become a major platform from which to appeal for support.

“Transwomen” or “transgender” are terms used to refer to those who were born male but associate themselves with the female identity, and has nothing to do with sexual preferences.

From Business Insider:

Banda Aceh (Indonesia) (AFP) - Gay sex could be punishable by 100 lashes of the cane in Indonesia’s staunchly conservative Aceh province if parliament passes a draft law that critics say violates basic human rights.

Aceh is the only part of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation to enforce Islamic sharia law and has been slowly implementing it since 2001, when it gained some powers of autonomy.

A draft bylaw sent to AFP on Saturday outlaws anal sex between men and “the rubbing of body parts between women for stimulation”, and for the first time applies Islamic laws and punishments to non-Muslims.


The Five Genders of the Bugis
South Sulawesi’s Calalai, Calabai, & Bissu
The Bugis of South Sulawesi have a detailed system of gender identification which has been described by one young Bugis as “one of those puzzles that doesn’t mean anything until you put all the pieces together” (Graham, 2004, p. 109). Indeed there are five distinct gender identities specified in Bugis society, which include: makkunrai (woman), calalai (transgendered female) bissu (androgynous priest), calabai (transgendered male), and oroané (man). The determination of individual gender is composed of many elements and is conveyed by Graham (2004) as a holistic consideration of physical, spiritual, social, and sexual attributes.


The physical body is very important in determining gender. A person’s sex determines their potential to procreate and as males can never be women or calalai and females can never be men or calabai the matter is not taken lightly (Davies, 2006). As for the other factors, in many ways an individual’s spirituality, sexuality, and preference for typical male or female social roles, will first clearly determine what they are not, since the categories of ‘man’ and ‘women’ are extremely strict. As Davies (2006) describes: A woman is female-bodied, heterosexual, married, a mother, and dressed modestly and appropriately (e.g. her sarong is tucked-in rather than rolled down like a man’s). A woman acts demurely, speaks politely, is refined and reserved, and identifies and is identified as, a woman … A man is male-bodied, heterosexual, married, and a father. A man is assertive and aggressive and controlled (p. 4-5). Those unable or unwilling to conform to these rigid categories are thus excluded and necessarily relocated in another gender category - quite likely calabai or calalai depending of course upon your physiology.


An agreed upon understanding of Bugis gender conceptualization and the role of multiple genders in South Sulawesi is difficult to convey, as many scholars have conflicting view points on the matter. While some seem mainly focused on the potential for diversity and self-expression in a society that recognizes the gender variation of its members as legitimate, others point out that forcing people into additional gender categories simply reinforces dichotomy and binary gender ideals (Davies, 2006; Graham, 2004; Idrus, 2005; Murray, 2002).


Transgender Model Geena Rocero Tells Glamour Why She Had to Share Her True Story

Today the model spends most of her time on Gender Proud, an organization she cofounded to make sure people around the world can change their gender on legal documents, and to address the violence and discrimination that still affects them. “I want everyone to understand that transgender women are women,” she says.

From Mumbrella:

An episode of the popular family drama Dr Who had to be edited for Asian audiences by BBC Worldwide because it featured two people of the same sex touching lips.

The series, which is broadcast in this region in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand and Singapore had to be cut because of regulations in Singapore.

Had the scene been transmitted, BBC would have faced a fine.

The Dr Who episode Deep Breath featured a scene in which Silurian Madame Vastra locking lips with her human wife Jenny Flint in an attempt to save her life.

Singapore’s broadcast code stipulates that “information, themes or subplots on lifestyles such as homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexualism, transsexualism, transvestism, pedophilia and incest” are not allowed by Singapore’s Media Development Authority.

Technically, it’s between a non-human intelligent species and a human. But they’re both gendered as female, so…

(Do note that the hullabaloo isn’t over the fact that one of them is a lizard-person. That’s okay, apparently…)

"In a suburban part of Jakarta, we’re walking down a dirt road up to a very small pink house at the end of an alley. There are chickens running around, and children playing. It’s here that Indonesia’s first retirement home for transsexual and transgender people — known as waria in Indonesia — is being built"

Read the full article: Indonesia’s First Retirement Home For Transgenders 

By Rebecca Henschke of WorldCrunch

The Asia Pacific Transgender Network says:

Think you have what you takes to join the first regional #transgender network, Asia Pacific Transgender Network team in the Asia Pacific Region? 

We’re now seeking a Consultant to map organizations and advocates in our region. Send your CV, cover letter and expected salary to and, no later than 14 september 2014.

Trans persons are strongly encouraged to apply.

Malaysia lesbian couple arrested by religious officers in hotel raid

This is awful. Via Gay Star News. Report by Darren Wee.

A lesbian couple was arrested by religious officers yesterday during a raid of a budget hotel in Malaysia.

Nine officers from the Johor Islamic Religious Department raided their room in Johor Bahru at around 12.45am, the Sinar Harian newspaper reported.

One of the women answered the door while the other was naked in the bathroom. 

The women, both students aged 20 and 21, were not initially suspected of breaching ‘close proximity’ laws but officers became wary when the women remained silent as they searched the room.

When a sex toy was found, one of the women admitted they were a lesbian couple. On further questioning, she said they had not yet used the toy, which had just been removed from its packaging after recently being bought online.

The women were arrested for lesbian sex under section 26 of the state’s Shariah law and taken to a police station for booking, then to the religious department’s office for further action.

They could face up to three months in jail, six cane strokes and a fine of RM5,000.

Sisters In Islam (SIS) has urged the religious department to conduct a thorough investigation of the women.

SIS legal officer Rashidi Abd Rahim told the Raykat Post that the news report failed to show any criminal element and prosecutors had to prove that a sex act had taken place.

“Otherwise we will open the flood gates with people prosecuted based on an accusation,” he said.

He added that he hoped the women would be given adequate legal representation.

A Minor Contradiction 2014

Wanted to reblog this review of IndigNation’s closing event - by a 16 year-old queer Singaporean poet!


this is a blog post with a point

I think I was expecting more kids. But turns out the people performing and attending weren’t ///actually minors, so I was probably the only one in the room still with acne problems.

Last night was the closing event for Indignation 2014, which, if you didn’t…

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