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‘Aleesha must not die in vain’

 | August 1, 2011

The trans community says that Aleesha's death should mark the end of abuse and discrimination in Malaysia.

PETALING JAYA: The passing of Aleesha Farhana over the weekend has sparked off a call from Malaysia’s trans community for the government and media to end all forms of discrimination against them.

Aleesha’s application to officially change her name and gender after undergoing a sex operation in Thailand was rejected by High Court judge, Yazid Mustafa, on July 18. She was previously known as Mohd Ashraf Hafiz Abdul Aziz.

In a statement signed by 17 NGOs and 600 individuals, the trans community condemned Yazid’s decision as inconsistent with a precedent set in 2005 when a similar application was granted to a mak nyah.

The community said they believe that Aleesha died from severe depression after her application was rejected and urged the court to give her the justice she sought.

“It is still not too late for the court to allow Aleesha to change her name and gender,” they said.

“Her rights and the court’s duty must not be held hostage by the sensitivites of those who are ignorant about trangenderism.

“By denying her right, the court is perpetuating an environment of discrimination within which she will never find the justice due her,” she added.

The trans community also said that they held both the government and media responsible for the extreme levels of stigma and discrimination against them.

Among the abuses they faced include being barred from accessing health services, housing, education and employment opportunities.

“The discrimination is often perpetuated by biased, negative reporting from the media and endorsed by state mouthpieces,” they said.

“Unwillingness of the government to recognise trans people as equal before the law facilitate this ugly persistence in violating us,” the statement read.

‘Others have accepted us’

The trans community pointed out that other Asian and Islamic countries – like Singapore, India, Nepal, Iran and Egypt – have already granted them official recognition.

They then pressed the government to hold a nationwide consultation exercise with them to better understand their issues.

“We urge the relevant authorities to take necessary measures and immediately act to create an enabling and safer environment for us including repealing laws that criminalise us for our identity, dressing and mannerisms,” they stated.

“We also demand that the media address us by the gender pronoun with which we identify. It is about time we have policies, programmes, services and legal remedies that meet our needs as defined by us,” they added.

Once again, the government was reminded of the pledge it made to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) and its obligation to uphold the human rights of all equally and unconditionally.

“The international community stands with all of us in Malaysia whose rights have been violated for our gender identity.

“We will continue the fight for justice, equality and legal recognition of all trans people in Malaysia. Aleesha’s life and struggle must not be in vain,” they said.


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