KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — A coalition of advocacy groups and individuals have slammed Islamist party PAS’ opposition against the Malaysian Human Rights Commissions’ (Suhakam) study for a legislation on a third gender.
In a joint statement, the coalition said that Islam should be a faith that serves as a blessing for everyone including transgender persons, and reminded PAS that Islamic jurisprudence should not be static and adjusts itself based on new findings in science and medicine.
“Islam is a religion that should give blessings to all human beings, including the transgender community. But the matter is far from reality,” the groups said.
It explained that discussions on recognising a third gender has already been debated by Islamic scholars around the world, adding transgender persons in this country have existed since time immemorial.
“In 1998, Sheikh Dr Tantawi issued an edict allowing sex reassignment surgery (SRS) to Sally Mursi, a medical student at the University of Al Azhar. In Malaysia, the Deputy Mufti of Johor, Datuk Syed Alwee Abdullah saw over the wedding of Sari Kartina Abdul Karim, a transgender woman, to a cisgender man in 1975.
“In his statement, Datuk Syed Alwee stated, ‘Only those who do not follow the development of science widely, will not believe the things that have happened to Ms Kartina will happen’,” it said.
The group added that in the 1960s to the 1980s, SRS was allowed in the country, and even the cost of it was borne by the government, adding that one could also change their gender identification in their official documents then.
“In the early 80s, the Federal Territory Mak Nyah Association was established under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Welfare, where activities and self-skills programs were held such as sewing and hairdressing courses,” it said.
The group added that it hopes Suhakam will continue its research, and reminded all parties that any hindrance against the research could have negative effects on the community.
“Studies and research should continue to keep pace with the development of time and it is none other than the benefit of the nation, religion and the people most affected by every legislation and policies enacted by the government,” it said.
The statement was co-signed by 42 groups and 88 individuals.
This included University of Malaya’s Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS, Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia, Malaysian AIDS Council, Malaysian AIDS Foundation, and the Youth wing of the Socialist Party of Malaysia.
On June 14, Suhakam had posted on Facebook that it was looking for researchers for a project titled “Research on Feasibility of Having Legislation on The Recognition of a Third Gender in Malaysia”.
The call was however opposed fervently by PAS and others in the Islamist lobby in Malaysia, including the coalition of Muslim groups called Ummah.
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