Malaysian police given ‘full license’ to arrest transgender people and force them to undergo ‘Islamic education’


Human rights activists in Malaysia have condemned an order by the religious affairs minister that gives “full license” for police to arrest and detain trans people.

On 10 July, minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri announced on social media that he had given the religious police (Jawi) “full licence to carry out its enforcement actions” against transgender people in Malaysia.

He elaborated that his order goes beyond arrests, but also allows police to subject trans people to “religious education” so that they will “return to the right path”.

Trans people in Malaysia are already heavily persecuted under Sharia law, but activists fear Al-Bakri’s order takes this criminalisation a step further by sanctioning enforced conversion therapy.

“This unacceptable transphobic and homophobic attack from a government official highlights the societal prejudices and the lack of legal protections against discrimination faced by transgender persons in Malaysia,” said Ambiga Sreenavasan, a prominent Malaysian lawyer from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

“Instead of ensuring that the human rights and dignity of all persons are respected and protected, the minister, through his statement, is going the complete opposite direction by advocating state action against persons belonging to sexual orientation and gender identity minorities.

“The minister is legitimising harassment, discrimination and violence against transgender people, and increasing violations of their human rights.”

The ICJ has called on the government of Malaysia to abide by its obligations under international law and follow through with its commitment to human rights.

Their condemnation was joined by the Muslim human rights group Sisters in Islam (SIS). In a statement they urged Al-Bakri to drop his calls to “rehabilitate” trans people and remember Islamic teachings of kindness, compassion and not to discriminate, shame or act violently, regardless of people’s backgrounds, gender or identities.

Further rebukes came from the trans advocacy group Justice for Sisters, which said it was “deeply concerned and disappointed” with the minister’s message.

“His statement will increase discrimination, violence and mistreatment of transgender women with impunity by enforcement officers of the Islamic Departments as well as members of the public.

“We are already observing questions and concerns over personal security, safety and well-being by transgender persons across the country since the release of the statement.”
The Malaysian government has not yet responded to the criticism, and seems unlikely to do so given that in recent years it has consistently ignored abuses against the country’s LGBT+ community.