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Press Statement: Treat Transgenders with Compassion, Malaysian AIDS Council Urges

Kuala Lumpur, 17 October 2012 – Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) stands in solidarity with the four transgender persons who lost their bid in challenging the ban on Muslim men to dress and pose as women under Section 66 of the Syariah Criminal (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment. The judgment was passed on 11 October 2012.

While MAC respects the decision of the Negeri Sembilan Syariah court, we firmly believe that every Malaysian is entitled to equal protection and dignity under the country’s Constitutional Rights. We fear that this judgment could lead to increased stigma as well as acts of persecution and discrimination by authorities, especially from the enforcement officials of the religious department.

We are deeply concerned about the negative impact of the judgment on the greater transgender community. Much like everyone else, transgenders too are productive members of society. They are capable of contributing positively to the community at large and they have families to support. Denying their gender identity or expression will only cause them to live their lives in constant fear, and limit their opportunities to attain meaningful livelihoods. At MAC, we believe in compassion – the universal value that guides all our actions and responses – and strive to eliminate environments that breed intolerance, persecution and penalisation of marginalised communities.

MAC also strongly objects to the court’s insinuation that being a transgender will increase the person’s vulnerability to HIV infection. Gender identity or sexual orientation does not predispose one to HIV; unsafe sexual practices do.

Therefore, to address misconceptions of HIV and to increase awareness, information and empathy towards transgender people and other sexual minorities, MAC and its Partner Organisation, PT Foundation, welcome the call by Justice Siti Mariah Ahmad to work closely with the religious authorities of Negeri Sembilan. We believe this engagement is a step in the right direction to remove all structural barriers to health equities – particularly gender and sexuality-based discrimination – that have been known to negatively affect access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.