Notes on the transgender community in Malaysia.
Between 1985 and 2012, every Malaysian state and federal territory introduced Sharia criminal enactments that included provisions criminalizing “a man posing as a woman,” and three states criminalized “a woman posing as a man.
Transwomen in Malaysia
Federal code prohibiting public indecency used to police transwomen of all religions
when sent to prison, usually placed with male inmates
Government efforts have recognized transgendered women and provided support in HIV prevention. However, the policies are implemented in ways that continue to stigmatize rather than alleviate the community of hostile receptions. (JAKIM)
2010 Negeri Sembilan Court Case
Involved four transgender women, out of which three had been subject to abuse by State Religious Department officials. All have been repeatedly arrested under the law.
Case was initially struck down but was then appealed and underwent a hearing in 2014.
A More Tolerant Past
Pre-independence Malaysia was more tolerant towards a wider definition of gender constructions.
According to Maalysian academic Joseph Goh, there have been trans* persons in the 19th century who led Iban and manang bali communities. In the 1960s, the Sultan of Kelantan favourabily treated transwoman village performers. Since then, transpeople in Malaysia have been subject to widespread forms of violence. Rather than being accepted as a part of civil society, non-binaric gender identities have been charged with non-conformity and subject to marginalization. What precipitated such discrimination against certain morphological traits appearing on the same body?
Need to prove trans community's economic worth as human capital and push back against sub-human treatment
What justifies differential treatment of people who dress differently than expected?
Do we work through bodies to ensure society is the way it should be?
Why were shariah laws implemented in the first place?
What is the homophobic and transphobic rhetoric the malaysian government uses to prevent violence against perceived gender bending?
How is a fatwa or a sharia enactment repealed?
Brief Overview of Increased Policing towards Transgenders in Malaysia
1980s Legislative initiatives in sharia court increased policing ability (only applies to muslim population).
In addition to being policed under sharia law, the Malaysian transgender community is subject to fatwas or Islamic decrees under the National Fatwa Council. According to the decrees, no muslim is allowed to undergo sex change operations or sex reassignment surgery (SRS). Additionally, the National Registration Department refuses any applications to change sex markers on the identity cards to match the applicant's gender identity.
Despite widespread challenges faced, transgendered people are not victims of their circumstances. A vibrant transgender movement has emerged with educational and outreach campaigns enabling the public to embrace trans people while providing platforms for trans identities to be shared. Civil society organizations such as the Malaysian Bar and Sisters in Islam have voiced public support for the transgender community.