KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — Queer advocacy group Justice for Sisters (JFS) today criticised the Johor state government’s plans to establish a rehabilitation centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, likening conversion therapy to torture.
JFS co-founder S. Thilaga said that the establishment of such a centre raised concerns about the potential violation of human rights, including the rights to equality and non-discrimination, privacy, and a life of dignity, free from torture.
“Detaining people on the grounds of changing their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (Sogie) undeniably amounts to torture,” she said in a statement.
She added that the Federal Constitution and international human rights laws protect LGBT people against criminalisation and efforts to change a person’s Sogie.
She pointed to Articles 5 and 6 of the Federal Constitution that respectively safeguards the personal liberty, privacy and dignity of all Malaysians as well as the equality before the law while prohibiting gender discrimination.
“In addition, the Federal Court in a constitutional review of Section 28 of the Selangor Shariah Criminal Offences Enactment, which criminalises sex against the order of nature, found the law unconstitutional on the grounds of lack of legislative competency.
“This decision applies to all similar state laws. Therefore, all liwat, sex against the order of nature, and even musahaqah state laws have no legal effect, although they remain in state shariah enactments,” she said.
Liwat refers to anal sex while musahaqah refers to sex between women.
Conversion therapy, which consists of psychological treatment or spiritual counselling to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual, is widely seen by the medical and scientific community as potentially harmful and a form of pseudoscience.
The practice is opposed and has been legally challenged, or even banned, in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Yesterday, Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid said that the Johor government is in the process of creating a centre to “rehabilitate” those who practise same-sex relationships for going against established Islamic teachings.
The rehabilitation centre will be the first of its kind to be established in Malaysia and will be operational by July next year, he said.