Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, and non-binary people, or in short, LGBTIQ and gender diverse people, are part of the sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics diversity or spectrum.
However, in Malaysia, LGBTIQ and gender diverse people are criminalised under various laws, stigmatised and misconstrued as, among others, deviants and abnormal sinners who need to be rehabilitated or returned to the right path.
In the last 10 years, the federal and state governments have allocated significant funds to JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) and state Islamic departments to support its LGBT “rehabilitation” programmes. According to JAKIM, over 1,700 LGBT people have been reached through its programmes.
According to a paper presented at the 16th Asia-Oceania Federation for Sexology (AOFS) Congress held from August 19 to 21 this year, since 2012, at least 40 transgender persons have ‘changed’ or suppressed their gender expression or gender identity and a few have gotten married.
In addition, about 20 trans people have reportedly undergone medical intervention to de-transition or remove their breasts. These medical interventions have been sponsored by Sultan Ahmad Shah Medical Centre in Pahang.
They are also provided financial aid to ensure that they do not “relapse” and revert back to their gender identity. Similarly, financial aid is provided in Selangor through the zakat programme to support LGBT people to change or suppress their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE) change efforts or LGBT conversion practices have been widely discredited due to its lack of scientific basis and harmful long-term effects.
Many research, historical and medical evidence show diversity in relation to SOGIE are normal occurrences in life.
In the last few years, more countries have introduced laws prohibiting SOGIE change efforts or conversion practices given its long-term harm, including increased mental health issues, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, and school dropouts, among others.
Justice for Sisters’ research and documentation also shows similar trends among LGBTQ persons in Malaysia. The pressure to return to the right path results in deep conflicts about their identities, suicidal ideation, and low self-esteem, among others.
Our research and documentation also shows that the context of criminalisation, discrimination and marginalisation of LGBT persons make them vulnerable to SOGIE change efforts or conversion practices.
Justice for Sisters’ upcoming study shows 103 out of 156 (66 per cent) respondents stated they have faced pressure to change their SOGIE in their lifetime. While 16 of 156 respondents (10.3 per cent) or one out of 10 LGBT people have reportedly been forcibly sent to medical, religious, and other institutions to be “changed”.
Additionally, the notion of sinners is weaponized through HIV, as HIV is deemed as a form of retribution because of LGBT persons’ SOGIE.
A CERiA (Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS) study with 26 muslim queer men shows a causal link between fear due to criminalisation, and pressure to get married or change their SOGIE, with low health seeking behaviour and knowledge.
The Ministry of Health Malaysia in its 2020 Global AIDS Monitoring report acknowledges that access to HIV prevention services for GBQ men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) “have been poor probably because they are the most hard-to-reach and difficult to identify due to stigma and discrimination”.
In its 2019 country progress report on HIV/AIDS, the ministry projects GBQ and other MSM to become the main key population in Malaysia affected by HIV in 2030, the year SDGs (sustainable development goals) are slated to be realised.
In this context, availability and accessibility to healthcare services is limited, while the quality of health and well-being of LGBTIQ persons is poor.
A recent survey shows, between 48 to 56 per cent of its 222 LGBTQ respondents felt increased stress due to various forms of anti-LGBT narratives. Meanwhile, 33 to 43 per cent experienced one or more forms of discrimination.
A CERiA study with over 400 physicians in Malaysia found a causal link between personal views held by medical professionals and the quality of services received by trans people.
Justice for Sisters is a local group that champions transgender rights in Malaysia.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Ova.