NGO calls for release of transgender nabbed over ‘beauty pageant’

SEED Malaysia executive director Yusmar Yusof said the Malaysian government was duty bound to protect citizens irrespective of race, religion, sexual preference and gender identity. ― file picture
SEED Malaysia executive director Yusmar Yusof said the Malaysian government was duty bound to protect citizens irrespective of race, religion, sexual preference and gender identity. ― file picture

KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — A transgender rights group demanded today that religious authorities free a trans woman who was detained for organising a purported beauty contest that allegedly breached a fatwa.

SEED Malaysia executive director Yusmar Yusof said the Malaysian government was duty bound to protect citizens irrespective of race, religion, sexual preference and gender identity.

“We hope it will honour its commitment to the people, abolish laws that violate the rights of the transgender community and order JAWI to release the organiser who is still in its custody,” Yusmar said in a statement, referring to the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI).

“We need to band together to oppose the bully boy tactics by JAWI, other religious authorities and enforcement officers to hunt down, harass and abuse trans people,” he added.

Malay Mail Online reported earlier today that JAWI raided a private dinner function by trans women at an upscale hotel here last night that hosted a beauty pageant as entertainment, as religious authorities deemed it a breach of a 1996 fatwa that prohibits Muslim women from joining beauty contests. The religious edict by the National Fatwa Council has been gazetted as law.

Lawyer and activist Siti Kasim, who was a guest at the dinner, said she and the transgender event organiser were taken to a police station, but she was released while the latter remained under JAWI’s detention.

“The religious police had no warrant but bulldozed their way through the close-door fundraising event. This is a clear violation of the rights of the transgender people and blatant abuse of power by JAWI officers,” said Yusmar.

“It has happened one too many times where the personal choice of gender identity has led to the transgender community being targeted, bullied, discriminated, abused and tortured. And it’s sad that often these transgressions are by the state and people in authority,” he added.