KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — A coalition of local civil societies has today slammed religious affairs minister Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad’s insistence to table a law amendment that would provide for harsher punishments against Shariah offences to target the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) also criticised him for trying to “rehabilitate” sexual and gender minorities, pointing out that such conversion therapy is inhumane and detrimental towards one’s mental health and self-esteem.
“It is ironic that these proposed discriminatory measures — a clear violation of human rights — coincide with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein’s bid for Malaysia’s membership on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.
“The government’s decision to move forward with a harsher sentence against Muslim LGBTQ+ persons would stand at odds with the UN Declaration of Human Rights,” it said.
“As such, JAG requests the cabinet of Ministers to prevent the proposal from being tabled at the next parliamentary session and to refrain from persecution of the LGBTQ+ community,” it added.
JAG said it is also concerned that Zulkifli has openly endorsed government-run programmes of conversion therapy by masking it as a softer approach.
“Those that primarily target transgender women, lesbians and gays enforce prolonged and state-sanctioned violence against women, which is contradictory to the government’s commitment to CEDAW as well as the non-discriminatory protection extended to all Malaysians through Article 8(1) of the Federal Constitution,” it said.
CEDAW refers to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which Malaysia ratified in 1995 but still continues to hold reservations over certain clauses.
Meanwhile, Article 8 states that all persons in the country are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
The statement is co-signed by 10 organisations including the Women’s Aid Organisation, All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Sisters in Islam (SIS), and Justice for Sisters.
Yesterday, Putrajaya said it is set to move forward with imposing heavier punishments against Muslim lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, despite objections from many including the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
Free Malaysia Today reported that the minister in charge of religious affairs Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad saying that this will be done by increasing the limits of punishments against Shariah offences in the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355 or RUU355 in Malay.
Act 355 currently provides for a maximum of three year imprisonment, a fine of RM5,000, and six strokes of the cane for Shariah offences, but proponents of its amendment such as Zukifli’s deputy Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary from Islamist party PAS argued they are “ineffective”.
Formed in 1995, the JAG is a coalition of 14 women’s rights organisations advocating for gender equality and social justice in Malaysia within a feminist framework.