KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 — The local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has defended some of its members’ decision to join the Bersih 5 rally last month, after a group called Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) labelled them “militant” for the act.
In a statement today, the community said LGBT persons and groups stand in solidarity with diverse groups and all people living in Malaysia calling for good, transparent and accountable governance in our country.
“How else could LGBT persons seek justice and create a better Malaysia if not by speaking up and participating in democracy?” it asked in the statement endorsed by 29 civil societies.
“Centhra, however, is suggesting that LGBT persons cannot be seen, be in solidarity, participate and exercise our constitutional rights. For Centhra, LGBT persons should remain hidden, silent and accept the gross discrimination and violence that we experience.
“The fact that there is consistent resistance to LGBT persons whenever we take a visible stance demonstrates deep levels of homophobia and transphobia that need to be addressed through meaningful engagements with LGBT persons and in accordance to international standards of human rights,” it added.
The community said LGBT persons are being denied fundamental human rights and face discrimination and violence just for being who they are, and the views espoused by Centhra only increase risks and challenges they face.
“We remind Centhra that Malaysia is a member of the United Nations and is obligated to uphold international human rights standards. We also call for meaningful dialogue and engagement with the LGBT community to promote understanding instead of misinformed condemnation, moral posturing and fear mongering,” it said.
The statement came following Centhra’s chief executive Azril Mohd Amin’s commentary published in Malay daily Utusan Malaysia a week after Bersih 5, accusing the LGBT community of tarnishing the rally’s image and labelled them “militant homosexuals” for their participation.
Several photos of the banner with the words “Queers United for Equality and Electoral Reform” by the Pelangi Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative were made viral following Bersih 5, fuelling allegations that the rally champions LGBT rights.
Centhra was formed in 2014 as a reaction against the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (Comango) following the latter’s lobbying for Malaysia to ratify human rights conventions in the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Centhra had reportedly said it bases its concept of human rights based on the Islamic framework and the goals of the Shariah.
The local LGBT community remains in the shadows, particularly Muslims, fearing persecution from religious authorities in the predominantly Muslim country that has religious laws prohibiting same-sex relationships and cross-dressing.