Action against transgenders will do more harm than good, says group

Sisters in Islam says authorities such as Jawi should engage with the transgender community. (JAWI Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: A women’s rights group today voiced concern that Putrajaya’s decision to allow the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) to act against transgenders would only endanger the community.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) said the transgender community in Malaysia already faced discrimination, stigma, harassment and systemic inequality.

It said this had resulted in many experiencing sexual harassment and “assault” from religious authorities during detention and when they were not working.

Calling for compassion, SIS said the community had limited resources to defend themselves, limited support from their families or friends which can cause them to be shunned by society, and limited access to justice and legal protection.

This was why it disagreed with the decision to give Jawi “full licence” to act against them.

“It will inflict more harm than good,” it said in a statement today.

“Enforcement to educate the transgender community back to the right path would only heighten the stigmatisation and aggravate the aggression towards them by the public, making them more vulnerable to violence and threats to their lives.”

On Friday, minister in charge of religious affairs Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri gave Jawi the green light to take action against the transgender community.

In a Facebook post, Zulkifli said apart from arrests, the department would provide religious education aimed at getting the community to return to “the correct path”.

He also said that religious authorities must comply with the SOPs.

But SIS said this raised several questions, including what the SOPs were and their effectiveness in protecting the community from being harmed.

“Will their dignity be preserved during raids? What kinds of mechanisms are in place to ensure that these SOPs are properly adhered to?” it asked.

It urged religious authorities to instead engage with the community, noting that it was something Zulkifli had done in the past as Federal Territories mufti.

Such engagement, SIS said, would allow authorities to understand the situation and challenges faced by the community.

“Islam teaches us to be kind and compassionate to everyone and not to discriminate, shame or act violently, regardless of their backgrounds, gender or identities,” it said.

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