In report on LGBT, Human Rights Watch urges Malaysia to end state-funded conversion camps

·2-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — Malaysian authorities should stop “conversion” programmes involving the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community including mukhayyam camps, said Human Rights Watch.

In a report on the discrimination against the LGBT in Malaysia, the rights advocacy group said public funds were being used on the camps that even attempt to convert schoolchildren perceived as queer or gender nonconforming, via methods that were psychologically damaging.

Such camps were conducted by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department and state religious authorities.

“LGBT Malaysians report that pressure to change contributes to harms including bullying and suicidal ideation. The officially sanctioned discourse on the need to ‘change’ or return to ‘the right path’ contributes to discrimination, restricted access to justice, vigilante violence and imprisonment.

“The state’s insistence that being LGBT is unacceptable, its funding of conversion practices, and its failure to respond to harmful conversion practices by non-state actors, all harm LGBT people.

“The Malaysian government should immediately stop sponsoring, funding and otherwise supporting conversion practices and should, in consultation with LGBT community groups, educate public officials, including police, judges, and government staff, on gender, diversity, and human rights,” they said in a report titled “I Don’t Want to Change Myself”.

According to the report, Jakim in 2018 noted that 1,450 LGBT people had “recovered” from the “disease” through mukhayyam since the programme was initiated in 2012. By June 2021, the government reported that 1,733 LGBT people had attended these programmes.

The group also asked for more acceptance in the workplace, noting a Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) report where 57 out of 100 people were denied employment at least once because of their gender identity.

Such experiences discouraged the revelation of gender identities for fear of discrimination, the HRW said in the report when noting the lack of access to legal gender recognition in Malaysia.

“No law in Malaysia explicitly prohibits gender recognition for trans people, but almost all transgender people who are known to have approached the National Registration Department to request such changes have been rejected. In Suhakam’s study of 100 trans women in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, 86 said they would like to change their gender marker on their documents, but only 20 had tried, and only four had succeeded in doing so,” the group said.

HRW also urged the government to repeal laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

These included Sections 377A and 377B of the Penal Code, which criminalise “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” and 377D that criminalises gross indecency.

The government should further review Section 377 of the Penal Code pertaining to “unnatural offences,” together with Sections 375 and 376 to develop a comprehensive law against sexual violence,” HRW said.

It also asked that Parliament reject the proposed law increasing allowable Shariah criminal punishments under the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355.