G25 challenges deputy minister's authority to instruct states on LGBT enforcement

·5-min read
G25 challenges deputy minister's authority to instruct states on LGBT enforcement
G25 challenges deputy minister's authority to instruct states on LGBT enforcement

The G25 group has spoken out against the proposal by a PAS deputy minister to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Revised 1988) (Act 355) in Parliament to impose heavier sentences on the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community if they engage in 'sinful behaviour'.

"The G25 joins the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and other civil society groups in opposing the proposal," it said in a statement that opposed the proposal on both legal and compassionate grounds.

G25 challenged Deputy Minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary over reports that he said that "all state religious agencies and enforcers have been instructed to take action against those (LGBT) who do not behave accordingly".

"In this regard, with due respect to the deputy minister, under the Federal Constitution, except for the Federal Territories, matters pertaining to the administration of Islam is a state matter and within the jurisdiction of the respective States.

"Therefore, it was a contravention of the Federal Constitution for the federal deputy minister to have issued such instruction.

The G25 is a group of influential and accomplished Malay leaders who recognise that Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country with Islam as the official religion and that its administration should ensure justice to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Deputy Minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary
Deputy Minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary

The G25 also highlighted that according to the deputy minister, cross-dressing is also "sinful" and must be punished with heavier sentences so as to act as a deterrent to others."

"As Muslims, we do not condone the commission of any sin by any Muslim.

"Nevertheless, we would like to point out here that with regard to transgender and cross-dressing, in the Court of Appeal case of Mohammad Juzaili v State of Negeri Sembilan [2015] 1 CLJ 954 there was clear and unrebutted evidence by both the government and private psychiatrists, which the Court accepts, that transgenders are persons with a medical condition called Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and this condition is inherent from birth and is incurable and for life.

"Today the syariah enactments of the majority of the states in Malaysia (including that of the state of Negeri Sembilan) no longer make cross-dressing per se a Syarie offence. Cross-dressing is a syariah offence only if the person cross-dresses for immoral purposes (for example, with a view to soliciting)," it said.

The G25 added that there is a big question mark as to whether from the constitutional law point of view, it is right for the State to criminalise personal sins.

"Under the Federal Constitution, criminal law is a federal matter, and the criminal offences are defined under federal law, namely, the Penal Code.

"These are punishable by fines, or imprisonment or death. Going by the principles of criminal law, personal sins are not state crimes as they do not constitute threats to life, property or the security of the country," said the group.

PAS pushing for anti-LGBT Muslims task force

Yesterday, PAS vice-president Idris Ahmad accelerated the push for public support of an anti-LGBT task force for the Muslim community.

This comes a day after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urged Asean to take a tougher stance against hate speech, including on religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

The task force, as revealed by Ahmad Marzuk, will handle issues related to LGBT Muslims.

The task force, comprising 20 members from various organisations, first met last December, Marzuk was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

Among the details of the planned amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355) include making gender change a specific offence for Muslims.

"Social media content related to all acts contrary to gender deemed indecent and obscene will also be placed as one of the types of syariah online offences," he said.

The G25 said it opposed the deputy minister's proposal because it will send a signal that it may be a first step towards implementing hudud law in the country.

"Although the deputy minister may give the assurances that the government has no such intention, the public will find it difficult to believe.

"All the efforts being made by the government to rally the public and the business community into believing that we have a bright future, once we have successfully overcome the pandemic, will come to nothing.

"In a multiracial society like Malaysia, the prospect of Islamisation in the administration of law is bound to strike fear among the population and potential foreign investors," said the G25.

G25 said it believes that the best approach in dealing with the LGBT community is to help integrate them into the mainstream of society by not discriminating them or treating them as criminals but by respecting their constitutional right to equality like other citizens of this country and their constitutional right to privacy.

"If they are threatened with harsh laws and punishments, they will hide from society and refuse to seek health services, including effective prevention and treatment for diseases such as HIV for fear of being caught.

"Evidence has shown that criminalisation, stigmatisation and discrimination are currently some of the key drivers of infection in an era when HIV infection is completely preventable and treatable," said the G25.

It added that if Malaysia aspires to become a model developed country for the Muslim world, it must practise a humanitarian approach in dealing with those members of society who are likely to be marginalised or stigmatised and subjected to social censures, such as the LGBT.

"The deputy minister's proposal must be rejected because it does not fit into the definition of a caring society," it said.