Kuala Lumpur, 11 July 2020 — The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri recent Facebook post which declared that he has given “full licence” to the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) for them to take action against the transgender community, should be viewed with concern.
“It is a fact which has been thoroughly documented that transgender persons in Malaysia encounter harassment, discrimination and subject to physical assaults. Despite the injustice and demonisation faced by this community, perpetrators of abuse against them often act with impunity and escape unpunished. In some extreme cases, transgender persons have become seriously injured or lost their lives,” said Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy Chief Executive Azrul Mohd Khalib
“The Minister’s provision of a “full licence” sends a terrible signal which may cause an escalation of harmful and discriminating actions, both institutional and vigilantism, against the transgender community. He should consider withdrawing his statement.”
Mitch Yusof, a senior fellow at the Galen Centre, emphasised that “transgender persons have been and will always be a part of the society, a part of the country and to exclude them based on their identity boils down to discrimination at the highest level. Where then is the compassion in Islam?”
“I am reminded that Dr. Zulkifli during his time as the Mufti of the Federal Territories had in fact promoted a message of compassion, empathy and understanding towards the transgender community with the intention of helping and providing assistance,” said Azrul.
“In 2017, he engaged in dialogue with a group of them at a Chow Kit drop-in centre. In 2018, as Mufti, Dr. Zulkifli hosted a delegation of transgender women at his office for discussions and called for reforms.”
“His main message then was that people should not condemn, judge or punish the community, but rather to find a common ground. Now, he is calling for their “tangkap” or arrest. What happened?” asked Azrul.
“We are also concerned that this message from a Minister will also create obstacles and barriers for transgender people needing health services. Fear and discrimination discourages them from seeking treatment and care; They may have trouble finding alternative healthcare services if they are turned away.”
“Everyone is equally entitled to the rights and protections provided for under Malaysian law and that includes being able to walk about without having to fear of being prosecuted for who we are, being beaten up or subject to physical harm.
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