MALAYSIA: END THE TARGETING OF THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY
On April 3, 2016, Malaysia's Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) carried out a raid on a private transgender event. Siti Kasim, a lawyer and women’s human rights defender, was arrested in connection with the event. A year later Siti has now been charged with “obstructing a public servant” for demanding to know if officers had a warrant to conduct the raid. She could now face up to two years in prison and a fine. Amnesty International is concerned that the charges against Siti are yet another attempt by the Malaysian authorities to silence and undermine the work of peaceful human rights defenders in the country.
Please contact the authorities immediately, urging them to:
Ask the Malaysian authorities to drop all charges against Siti Kasim immediately and unconditionally;
Insist that they end the targeting of the transgender community in Malaysia through discriminatory laws, policies and practices.; and
Urge the authorities to repeal all discriminatory laws and policies and bring laws and policies into line with international human rights law and standards.
On 3 April 2016, the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) carried out a raid on a private transgender beauty pageant. While pageants are generally prohibited for Muslim women under religious laws, the state officials specifically targeted members of the transgender community.
Siti Kasim, a lawyer and human rights defender who was present at the event, questioned the legitimacy of the raid given the religious authorities conducted the raid without a warrant and were not accompanied by the police, as required under Malaysian law. On 7 April 2016, Siti Kasim was arrested and investigated for “criminal intimidation” and for allegedly “obstructing a public servant” after she demanded to know if JAWI officers had a warrant to conduct the raid. She was subsequently released. Over a year later, on 13 June 2017, she was informed that she was going to be charged at the Kuala Lumpur Magistrates’ Court for “obstructing a public servant” under the Penal Code.
On 23 June 2017, Siti Kasim pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on bail. The next court hearing is scheduled for 22 August. If convicted, she faces up to two years in prison, a maximum fine of RM10,000 (USD 2,331) or both.
Amnesty International is concerned that the charges against Siti Kasim are yet another attempt by the Malaysian authorities to silence and undermine the work of peaceful human rights defenders in the country.
+ Additional information
Siti Kasim is a prominent human rights lawyer, a woman human rights defender, indigenous rights activist and a defender of LGBT rights. She has been subjected to harassment, intimidation and death threats for carrying out her work and speaking out against discrimination in Malaysia.
The transgender community in Malaysia faces steep challenges in the form of discriminatory laws and policies, targeted raids in private places, arrests, and abusive treatment by the authorities. This is not the first raid carried out on private premises against the transgender community. In June 2014, officials from the Negeri Sembilan State Islamic Department carried out a raid on a wedding party held in a private home. Those arrested were subsequently charged in a Shariah Court for violating the Sharia Law on ‘cross dressing’. In Malaysia, Sharia legislation comes under the state, and in all states, sharia law criminalizes the act of cross-dressing.
Siti Kasim has filed an application against JAWI to release the names of the religious officers involved in last year’s raid at the beauty pageant. She plans to file a civil suit against JAWI for her wrongful arrest.
The Federal Territories Islamic Department, JAWI, is the religious department in the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. It has previously carried out raids on transgender persons, along with other state religious departments in Malaysia.
Other news: Earlier this year a transgender woman was murdered in Malaysia.
Your letter will be sent to:
The Attorney General of Malaysia
Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali
Attorney General’s Office
No. 45 Persiaran Perdana Precinct 4,
62100 Putrajaya, Wilayah Putrajaya,
Fax: 011 603 8890 5670
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
A copy will be sent to:
Department of Federal Territory Islamic Affairs
Kompleks Pusat Islam,
50676 Kuala Lumpur,
Fax: 011 603 2273 1575
Salutation: Dear Sir/ Madam
Her Excellency Aminahtun Binti Hj. A. Karim
High Commissioner for Malaysia
60 Boteler Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 8Y7
Fax: 1 (613) 241-5214