KUALA LUMPUR: Despite Malaysia’s goal of becoming a developed nation, discussions on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are often met with hesitation or outright rejection.
Malaysian Youth Council (MBM) information chief Mohammad Rizan Hassan said many failed to realise that members of the LGBT community were living without access to basic human rights.
Often, they are denied support for education, job opportunities and access to certain medical treatment, he said, adding that they are discriminated against and treated like “animals” despite being rightful citizens of Malaysia.
“For a country to achieve developed status, it’s not about tall buildings. It’s about a community that is accepting of one another.
“And we have to understand that the equality they’re asking for is different from what politicians and activists are saying, which is equality from the gender aspect.
“What they really want is education and access to medical care, among other things. Because right now, it’s like they are merely ‘resting’ until they are dead.”
Rizan was speaking to FMT after a National Transformation 2050 (TN50) dialogue session here yesterday, organised by MBM in collaboration with the youth and sports ministry.
Rizan said the country’s systems had failed, especially in educating the public on humanitarian matters and providing the LGBT community with a strong support system.
This in turn has pushed some members of the LGBT community to the “darker” side of life, resulting in their involvement in prostitution and drug abuse, among others, he said.
“Our education system, especially, needs to focus more on humanitarian causes.
“And we have to start somewhere, although the beginning process is sometimes bitter and hard to do, as we would have to make some sacrifices.
“On top of that, society today is so comfortable with what they have, that the survival of the Malaysian people has become less important to them. They allow their emotions to overcome their rationality.”
Also present at the dialogue session was an enforcement officer from a state religious department, whose job scope includes arresting those suspected of being members of the LGBT community.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he admitted that most civil servants have a negative impression of such individuals, especially transgenders, which results in their ill-treatment.
“Even I was like that at first. I used to be so angry at them (the LGBTs), wondering why they have to be the way they are. They said they can’t change, and I didn’t get this until later on.
“We can’t force them to become someone they are not. The truth is, we have to understand why they became the way they are. Some didn’t have a place to turn to for help.
“So we have to listen to their voices and work with them. They too will determine the future of this country because their community is not small.”
The officer added that after he learned to be more accepting of the LGBT community, he found it difficult to arrest and punish them despite orders from his superiors.
“Sometimes I have no choice but to arrest, because there are enactments that make their activities a crime.
“But other times we tell them it’s okay and let them go,” he said, adding that there are others in the religious departments who, like him, understand the plight of the LGBT community.
Under TN50, first mooted by Prime Minister Najib Razak in his Budget 2017 speech last October, several townhall-style dialogue sessions have been held to record Malaysians’ hopes and aspirations for the country by 2050.
More than 33,000 aspirations have been recorded so far, from university students, young professionals, government servants, celebrities and even those from overlooked communities.
Next week, MBM will hold another session, this time with street youths.