KUALA LUMPUR: Human rights activist Marina Mahathir says there is nothing wrong with championing for the basic rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
She said there was a need for more public policies and education so that there would be a better understanding of LGBTs.
“You don’t have to approve of their lifestyle. There is no compulsion for this, but you cannot deny the fact that they are humans entitled to the same dignity stipulated in every religion, Islam included. They are human beings.
“Mindsets take time to change but this (Pakatan Harapan) government said they are committed to human rights, so this should be part of it. You can’t just divide human rights for some humans and take it away for others. LGBTs are citizens and voters.
“It will take time, but what we need now is strong leadership. Someone who can make a clear stance on this so that everyone will follow. Malaysians anyway are kind and compassionate and not discriminatory, unless provoked,” Marina said after the opening of a transgender shelter.
Marina said although there were people counting on PH to make good on its word to be more inclusive, some feel they need to ridicule PH on a regular basis when it comes to LGBT issues.
“If you read about LGBT issues on social media, you see how this is still being politicised, especially by the new opposition.
“Perhaps they feel they have to find new bullets every day to use against PH now that they are in the opposition.
“Now, I’m not from the government, but I feel with the change of government on May 9, a lot of hope is riding now on PH.
“But the government is being run by new people, many of whom are inexperienced in running the country. For 61 years, we only had one group in power anyway.
“The culture in Malaysia has not changed yet, even with PH’s good intentions. So we can’t be slack and stop our efforts to bring up issues from the marginalised communities.
“We have to continue fighting for our rights as humans since we all have the right to dignity,” she said.
Asked to comment on Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Rawa’s recent comments that LGBTs should not be discriminated against but had to toe the line and not flaunt their sexuality, Marina said the minister in charge of religious affairs should speak to the community first, despite his best intentions.
“I think what he needs to understand is that in Malaysia the LGBT community is quite different from what you see in the west. LGBTs in Malaysia are not asking for extra rights… just the same rights as everyone else.
“I have a long history with the community, and I know they’re not particularly aggressive in demanding their rights. Most of them are marginalised and disempowered. But they are discriminated against in this passive state they have taken.
“It’s a matter of expanding your knowledge on the issue, maybe through hearing from the most affected in this, from the community itself.”