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Press Release: Stop the Violence and Persecution Towards Us

Press Statement by the Mak Nyah Community of Malaysia
Date: 30 November 2010

We are the Mak Nyah community and we are being persecuted by Section 66 on “Lelaki berlagak seperti perempuan” of the Syariah Criminal Enactment (Negeri Sembilan) 1992 (please refer to this section and similar sections in other states in Malaysia in Appendix 1). We have suffered mental distress, physical violence and even sexual molestation at the hands of the religious officers who enforce these laws. We are stripped of a life of dignity and deprived of our personal liberty, and we fear for our lives. We are unable to step out of our homes without the fear of getting harassed, abused or arrested. We are no longer able to go out or to eat and drink in public without the fear of harassment and abuse from the religious officers who enforce these laws. We demand that the religious authorities of the State of Negeri Sembilan and all its officers stop harassing, victimising and persecuting us for who we are.

In Negeri Sembilan where we live, we are forced to walk around without our brassieres as it is used as evidence against us upon arrest. We are “advised” by the religious officers to just wear t-shirts, track bottoms or men’s shorts. Despite following these instructions, we are still arrested on the basis that we physically look like women. We are sexually molested or our breasts are groped when the religious officers who enforce these laws insist on checking if we are wearing brassieres. We are sometimes made to change our clothes in full view of the religious officers.

We are instructed to plead “Guilty” by the religious officers and even by the state’s Legal Aid Bureau. Without proper legal advice, we plead “guilty” and as a result we are sentenced with heavy fines and sometimes we even face imprisonment. Under such laws, it is impossible for us to live and earn a living. Sometimes, we are also compelled to attend mandatory religious counseling sessions. We are Mak Nyahs. No amount of “counseling” or coercion can ever change that. All we ask is to be left alone and for respect of our personal and private lives. Such mandatory counseling we consider to be an infringement of our personal liberty.

We also suffer hardships in obtaining employment as we are discriminated against by employers on the basis of who we are. We suffer rejection in schools and in some institutions of higher learning. At the latter, we are sometimes required to attend boot camps in order to make us more “manly”.

As Mak Nyahs, we have the right to live with dignity like all citizens in Malaysia. We have the right to our identity, the right to self-expression in our dress and mannerisms, the right to respect for our personal and private life and the right to livelihood as other citizens in Malaysia.

These are our fundamental liberties as enshrined in Articles 5, 8 and 10 of the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land. Any law that violates our rights arbitrarily is no longer good law. These are also violations of our human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Jogjakarta Principles on human rights relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.

We ask the Legislative assemblypersons of Negeri Sembilan, the Negeri Sembilan Religious Department Directors and all other Malaysian elected representatives and leaders to stop the violence and persecution that has been targeted against our Mak Nyah community.

We appeal to all who believe in freedom under the Federal Constitution, human rights, non-discrimination and equality, to stand with us and join us in our call for the stop of the targeted persecution and violence towards our Mak Nyah community in Malaysia.