PETALING JAYA: An activist for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBT) has joined the chorus telling Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to walk the talk in calling for stronger laws against hate speech.
Trans woman activist Nisha Ayub said as much she supports what Muhyiddin said at the 1st Asean Digital Ministers Meeting, she also hoped his actions would reflect his statement given the situation the community is enduring in the country.
She said hate speech is continuously spread on social media where minorities are constantly attacked, including death threats and slurs.
While existing laws not only criminalise one’s gender identity or sexuality, it also amplifies discrimination and hatred towards the community, she said.
“He (the prime minister) could start by ending all the arrests or ongoing cases towards one’s gender identity and sexuality,” she told FMT.
Earlier today, Muhyiddin said Asean countries could consider enacting stronger laws against hate speech, including harassment over one’s sexual orientation.
Trans man activist Dorian Wilde said while the prime minister’s call for Asean countries to enact stronger laws against hate speech is a step in the right direction, it must also be followed up by the implementation and enforcement of such laws in Malaysia.
And it should be based on the Rabat Plan of Action and recommendations by civil society.
The Rabat Plan of Action was launched by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2013, and touches on discrimination, hostility and violence on national racial and religious grounds,
He said hate speech of all kinds is rampantly used in Malaysia all over social media and even in the mainstream media.
“The fact that a deputy minister in the prime minister’s department issued a statement about creating harsher laws against diverse sexual orientations and gender identities shows a clear disconnect,” he said, referring to Ahmad Marzuk Shaary.
Marzuk had recently said that Putrajaya was looking into providing shariah courts with power to mete out heavier punishments against LGBT people.
Dorian said the prime minister and his Cabinet need to get on the same page, and “if they want to do right by Malaysians, then they should do it based on human rights principles and best practices from other countries.”
Thilaga, a founder for Justice for Sisters, an NGO that advocates transgender rights, said there were many good practices in Asean that Malaysia can learn from.
This included Singapore’s Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA), which following an amendment in 2019 explicitly protects LGBT persons, atheists, persons of diverse nationalities, including foreign workers or new citizens from violence incited by religious groups or movements.
Most importantly, however, it was urgent to review and repeal existing laws that criminalise LGBT persons as these laws allow discrimination, violence and persecution of the community to continue with impunity.
“These laws also empower ministers and state agencies to make statements that cause alarm and fear not only among LGBT people, but also their loved ones.
“There must be a moratorium on these laws and the government must stop prosecution and investigation of persons based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Numan Afifi, the founder of Pelangi Campaign, an NGO which seeks to raise awareness and advocates for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia, said while he welcomed Muhyiddin’s remarks, Putrajaya needs to prove their commitment to human rights first.
He said, when Muhyiddin’s own deputy minister said they are considering harsher laws against LGBT people, then what the prime minister said “remains a lip service”.
Numan also called for discriminatory laws to be repealed. “But start with meaningful engagement with LGBT groups,” he said.