Malaysia: Court case challenges trans “discrimination” law

Mustafa Ali (R), Fadzil Noor (C) and Mahfuz Omar (L). UPALI ATURUGIRI/AFP/Getty Images

Four trans women in Malaysia have begun action to challenge the Islamic law which forbids them from behaving and dressing like women.

The high court in Seremban heard the case, which challenges Sharia law in the state of Negeri Sembilan for contradicting the federal constitution, which protects their human rights.

Juzaili Khamis, 24, Shukor Jani, 25, Wan Fairol Wan Ismail, 27, and Adam Shazrul Yusoff, 25, who are bridal make-up artists, all identify themselves as female.

Currently, Section 66 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment bars Muslim men from dressing or behaving as women. Aston Paiva, the lawyer representing the four, said that they had all been arrested under the act in the past.

Juzaili and Shukor are currently facing charges in court, and if convicted, they could face up to six months in jail, and a maximum fine of RM1 000 ($320).

Today, Paiva made a statement to AFP regarding the case, saying that the four should be allowed: “the right to live in dignity and not be punished for what you are born as, including race and gender.”

“They have a medical condition known as Gender Identity Disorder. They are anatomically male but psychologically female and they cannot change this,”

The constitution states that: “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty”, and protects freedom of expression. Discrimination on the grounds “of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender”, is also banned.

In Malaysia, of which the population is more than 60 per cent Muslim, sodomy and oral sex are both illegal for both gay and straight citizens.

Punishments are also given out to men who practice “gross indecency with another male person”, under Islamic law, which can also apply to Muslim citizens in addition to the secular law.

Sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison in Malaysia.

Earlier in August, a gay couple in Malaysia held what was considered to be the country’s first gay wedding celebration.