KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — Putrajaya representatives claimed yesterday that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is being treated “equally”, when queried by a United Nations (UN) committee on women’s rights in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) committee in its 39th session had asked the Malaysian delegate about how its laws can protect the LGBT when it is criminalised, and many resources are spent on anti-LGBT measures.
The committee was also concerned about attacks on women’s and LGBT human rights defenders.
“The LGBT are treated equally as per other genders, and we are open to dialogue and suggestions,” replied Datuk Suriani Ahmad, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, who leads Malaysia’s 24-member delegation.
The dialogue was broadcasted live through internet streaming on UN’s website.
Later, the committee also expressed concern over protection of LGBT students in schools, especially against rape, stalking, harassment, and intimidation, since Malaysia does not recognise their existence.
The Malaysian delegate could not answer the question, and when pressed claimed that LGBT students have “equal rights and protection”.
Malaysian schools and education institutions have been involved in anti-LGBT guidelines and campaigns, some spearheaded by government agencies.
Countries party to CEDAW are obliged to send regular status reports on the implementation of the treaty, to be reviewed by a committee of experts which will engage in dialogue with government representatives.
Malaysia’s progress in women’s rights was reviewed only for the second time today, despite acceding to CEDAW in 1995. The last review was 12 years ago for its 2004 report.
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.
In its oral presentation to the CEDAW committee on Monday, a coalition of 37 Malaysian civil societies said there is a grave lack of political will in investigating cases of violence, death and murder of trans women and gender-diverse persons.