Statement on the Malaysian Federal Court's Decision on the Negeri Sembilan transgender case
ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (ASC) expresses serious concern over the decision of the Federal Court of Malaysia that perpetuates the criminalization of transgender persons. The decision retains the legality of Section 66 of the Syariah Criminal Enactment 1992 of the state of Negeri Sembilan which punishes “[a]ny male person who, in a public place wears a woman attire and poses as a woman”. It poses a serious threat to the life and dignity of transgender persons. Such thereby allows local authorities to continue imposing heavy penalties –fines and imprisonment – to persons who simply express one’s self-determined gender identity.
ASC believes that the denial of the right to freely express one’s gender poses serious risks to other fundamental human rights. We are concerned that the Federal Court’s decision in essence forces the denial of the existence of transgender persons in Negeri Sembilan. Such pushes them further into the margins making them more vulnerable to arrests, detention and extortion. The social stigma against persons who reject binary gender stereotypes reinforces exclusion and denial of basic rights such as access to health, education and livelihood.
ASC believes that every person has the right to freedom of expression that is guaranteed by international law notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe that this fundamental right extends to a guarantee towards freedom of gender expression, as manifested in one’s behavior, outward appearance and performance of one’s self-defined identity. We consider clothing as a medium for self-expression which has been utilized to impart political messages as well as affirm ones cultural identity. Unfortunately, laws banning “cross-dressing”, negative stereotypes against gender non-conforming persons, and restrictions on change of gender in legal and official documents continue to pose serious challenges to transgender persons.
We salute the courageous transgender community in Malaysia for seeking legal recourse to challenge a repressive law. The struggle continues, and we stand in solidarity in transforming our societies to be more inclusive and diverse.