Malaysia PM’s statement disregarding the universality of human rights as potentially dangerous to LGBTIQ persons
The ASEAN Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression (SOGIE) Caucus expresses serious concern over the recent statement of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak challenging the universality of human rights. Such statement reflects a reality that the ghost of “Asian values”, which limits the application of human rights, continue to haunt the region.
In his statement last 18 August 2015, the Malaysian PM said that the government cannot defend the extreme aspects of human rights including the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) persons. Such statement is a clear, blatant and gross disregard of its duty under international law.
Malaysia has the duty to respect the rights of all people. It is important to note that Malaysia, being a member of the United Nations, has pledged to promote and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons as further elaborated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
We view PM Najib’s statement as dangerous to LGBTIQ persons in ASEAN by further legitimizing and affirming the on-going discrimination and violence, directly or indirectly. By denying human rights for LGBTIQ persons, he is indirectly inciting acts of hatred in the name of culture and religion.
The statement was issued based on a domestic context where serious discrimination and violence have been undertaken against LGBT persons. The Malaysian government continues to enforce Sha’riah laws that criminalize transgender persons for cross-dressing. Meanwhile, in addition to Malaysia, several countries in ASEAN, including Brunei, Myanmar and Singapore, criminalize acts of consensual same-sex relations.
We also view PM Najib’s statement as reflective of problematic human rights discourse promoted by ASEAN. The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, considered as a regional human rights standard, by subjecting the interpretation of human rights to a country’s specific social, cultural and religious backgrounds.
We affirm the universality of human rights. Such is an important principle to ensure that the rights of marginalized persons, including LGBTIs, are guaranteed.
We believe that any interpretation of and application of human rights principles should be done with a view of promoting the dignity of all persons and not legitimizing any form of violence and discrimination against them.