Bigotry, harassment of greater concern to M’sian LGBT than same sex marriage: Activist

26-Sep-2018 Intellasia | New Straits Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The ongoing heated discussion on the issue of same sex marriage should not overshadow more serious and immediate concerns over bigotry and violence suffered by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Malaysia.

Activist S Thilaga, member of the LGBT rights group Justice for Sisters, said that the government and other stakeholders must not lose sight of the larger problem of pervasive societal attitudes which encourage discrimination and abuse against the marginalised minority.

“In Malaysia, the conversation on the issue of same sex marriage threatens to become a stumbling block to advancing the (fundamental) human rights of LGBT people.

“This ‘panic’ on the same sex marriage issue is overwhelming more urgent issues that need to be addressed, such as homophobia and transphobia.

“It prevents us from talking (and focussing) on the related issue of rising violence, crime, bullying and sexual (assault) against members of the LGBT community,” Thilaga said today.

She was responding to a statement issued by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chair Tan Sri Razali Ismail two days ago declaring that it does not support the legalisation of same sex marriage in the country.

Suhakam’s statement was a response to reports by certain media outlets which painted the commission as being supportive of same sex unions, in the wake of prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s assertion that Malaysia does not recognise every right considered fundamental by the West, including same sex marriage.

Despite these latest developments, Thilaga expressed hope that a shift in societal attitudes will occur, and greater respect will be accorded the LGBT community, especially following the recent call by incoming PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for the decriminalisation of sodomy (among consenting adults).

She said that the law which criminalises sodomy Section 377 of the Penal Code coupled with existing state Syariah laws that target the LGBT community, creates legal, social, cultural, religious and political stigmatisation that imposes various hardships on the community.

Thilaga said an amendment to the Section will merely be one step in several needed to address the issue of homophobia which is rife in certain sections of Malaysian society.

In a September 21 interview on Al-Jazeera English’s programme Upfront, Anwar, who received Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) endorsement to eventually take over the mantle of prime minister from Dr Mahathir, had described the anti-sodomy law as archaic and unjust.

Thilaga urged the government to play a more pro-active role in protecting the rights of all Malaysians regardless of gender and sexual orientation, so that greater public awareness can be created on the importance of equal treatment for all members of society, including the LGBT community.

“There is an uptrend in Malaysians supporting the cause of LGBT (rights), as many people were taken aback by recent (discriminatory) events affecting LGBT people,” she added.


Category: Malaysia

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