“It is disgraceful and shocking that during this event whose international theme this year is “Equalise”, a speaker who is supposed to be learned and representing a religious studies department of an institution of higher learning sought instead to demonise and disparage these communities, illustrating the very inequalities and attitudes faced in daily life which are blocking the end of the AIDS pandemic,” said Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive Officer of the Galen Centre.
“He might think it is harmless, but his words have real world consequences. These communities which include transgender persons and people living with HIV in Malaysia, encounter harassment, discrimination and physical and emotional violence. In some extreme cases, transgender persons have become seriously injured or lost their lives. Perpetrators of abuse against them often act with impunity and escape unpunished.”
“Dr. Izhar sends a terrible signal which may cause an escalation of harmful and discriminating actions, both institutional and vigilantism, against these communities. Where is his compassion and generosity of spirit?”
Mitch Yusmar Yusof, a senior fellow of the Galen Centre and Executive Director of SEED Foundation, emphasised that “the communities highlighted by Dr. Izhar have been and will always be a valuable and essential part of Malaysia’s diverse society, a part of the country and her people. To degrade them is discrimination at its worse and is demonstrative of how much work we still have to do.”
“Dr. Izhar should have instead promoted a message of compassion, empathy and understanding towards these communities with the intention of helping and providing assistance,” said Mitch.
“We are concerned that this message at an important health event will also create obstacles and barriers for people from these communities, including transgender persons, seeking 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.”