KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 ― Women’s rights groups called today for a review of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997 after religious authorities raided a charity dinner by the transgender community.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), which now includes transgender rights group Justice for Sisters (JFS), also questioned the ethical standards of the Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) that is purportedly planning to charge a trans woman under the Shariah law with encouraging vice and with defying religious authorities.
“JAWI’s actions are clearly un-Islamic as it was aimed to intimidate and humiliate the transgender community in Malaysia,” said JAG in a statement.
“JAG once again, calls on the state to review the SCOA as the catch-all provisions in the Act have allowed for wide interpretation and abuse by enforcement officers.
“JAWI or other state religious authorities cannot be allowed to continuously undermine the Federal Constitution because of the misguided perception that they are guardians of Islam and morality in Malaysia,” the group added.
Transgender rights group SEED Malaysia told Malay Mail Online that trans woman Ira Sophia -- who allegedly organised a private fundraising event at an upscale hotel here Sunday featuring a beauty contest for entertainment ― would be charged next month under Section 9 and Section 35 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act.
Section 9 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act states that “any person who acts in contempt of religious authority or defies, disobeys or disputes the orders or directions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Head of the religion of Islam, the Majlis or the Mufti, expressed or given by way of fatwa, shall be guilty of an offence”, punishable by a fine of not more than RM3,000, or imprisonment of not more than two years, or both.
Section 35 prohibits anyone from promoting, inducing, or encouraging another person to indulge in “any vice”, an offence punishable with a fine of not more than RM5,000, or imprisonment of not more than three years, or both.
Lawyer Siti Kasim, who had attended the dinner function, said JAWI officers had told her that the raid was on grounds that the so-called beauty contest involving trans women violated a 1996 fatwa, which has been gazetted into law, that prohibits Muslim women from joining beauty pageants.