KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — Over half of Malaysian respondents agreed that transgender individuals should be able to live their lives as they wished and without interference, according to a study by market research firm Ipsos.

In the report of the 2023 edition of its Global Trends survey released this week, Ipsos said 54 per cent of Malaysian respondents agreed with the statement versus 40 per cent who were against it.

“While it is tempting to think that it is the youngest members of society who care the most about people being able to define their own identity, these beliefs are actually fairly consistent across the age groups,” it noted.

In Muslim-majority Malaysia, conservatives view the rights of transgender persons along with others in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to be part of liberalism, an ideology they treat as immoral or incompatible with the country’s norms.

Regardless of the coalition in power, Malaysian authorities typically take a harsh stance against LGBT elements that attract attention within their spheres of power.

Under state shariah laws, Muslim trans women are usually targeted using offences outlawing “men dressing or acting like women”.

Earlier this month, national news agency Bernama reported that the Ministry of Home Affairs banned three publications deemed harmful to Malaysian morals including two that contained LGBT elements.

Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s government to step up legal reforms to protect minority communities better, including LGBT persons.

At the local launch of HRW’s World Report 2023, which records country-specific human rights abuses from last year, the international watchdog’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the Malaysian government should stop abuses against the LGBT community.

In January, however, Anwar said in a televised interview that his government would never formally recognise the LGBT or secularism in Malaysia.