(Washington, DC) – In overturning a landmark ruling, Malaysia’s highest court has undermined the rights of transgender people in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. On October 8, 2015, the Federal Court reversed a lower court ruling that a state’s prohibition on “cross-dressing” was unconstitutional. On wholly procedural grounds, the Federal Court upheld Sharia laws prohibiting “a male person posing as a woman.”
The judicial decision is a serious setback in a four-year struggle by transgender activists to end arbitrary arrests of transgender women on the basis of discriminatory laws, Human Rights Watch said.
“This Federal Court ruling is a major setback for transgender rights,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Trans women in Malaysia, who were buoyed by the landmark lower court decision recognizing their rights to be themselves, have been let down once again.”
“The Federal Court has abdicated its responsibility to ensure that transgender people have equal rights with all other Malaysians,” said Aston Paiva, the lawyer representing the three transgender women. “By rejecting this case, the court has thrust trans people back into a legal limbo in which their very existence may be considered illegal.”
On September 10, 2015, two men wielding iron bars brutally beat one of Malaysia’s most prominent transgender activists, Nisha Ayub, outside her apartment building, requiring her hospitalization. She reported the apparent hate crime to the police, but the police have not identified any suspects.
“Trans women in Malaysia face horrific abuses every day, and laws that criminalize their very identity constitute a barrier to justice,” Ghoshal said. “The Malaysian government should take immediate action to revoke these discriminatory laws and end the climate where ugly abuses against trans people are tolerated.”
- Trio’s bid on anti-cross dressing law unravels [9 Oct 2015]
- Court of Appeal wrong to declare religious law unconstitutional, rules Federal Court [8 Oct 2015]
- Ruling on transgender may be overturned on technicality [14 Aug 2015]
- Transgenders’ bid to challenge cross-dressing law improper and premature, apex court told [13 Aug 2015]
- Two lawsuits today spotlight supremacy of constitutional guarantees vs Islamic law [13 Aug 2015]
- Correcting an injustice towards the transgender community – Azrul Mohd Khalib [12 Aug 2015]
- Transgenders and Constitutional Rights – Gurdial Singh Nijar [1 May 2015]