Joint Action Group For Gender Equality (JAG) is greatly concerned with recent announcement in Star (Dec 29) that the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) intends to take action against Azwan Ismail for posting a video on YouTube entitled “I'm Gay, I'm OK” as part of a video campaign launched in response to accounts of suicides and attempted suicides by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) teenagers and adults.
We are appalled that government authorities have not condemned the threats of murder and violence against Azwan Ismail and other members of Seksualiti Merdeka who were involved in the campaign, but instead have fanned violence and hatred with homophobic and discriminatory statements.
Women have never been strangers to discrimination. That is why women’s groups seek to uphold Article 8 of the Malaysian federal constitution that clearly guarantees that, “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law.”
JAG stands by Seksualiti Merdeka’s attempt to reach out to Malaysians who face overwhelming feelings of loneliness, fear or hopelessness resulting from the stigma and discrimination against them for being LGBT. They should not be persecuted for trying to address a human issue with understanding and compassion.
JAG is deeply concerned with the culture of hatred and intolerance bred in Malaysian society today against those who are different, be it on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. This demonisation of the “other” goes against the true inclusive and tolerant spirit of being Malaysian.
As Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated:
“Neither the existence of national laws, nor the prevalence of custom can ever justify the abuse, attacks, torture and indeed killings that gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender persons are subjected to, because of who they are or are perceived to be.
“Because of the stigma attached to issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, violence against LGBT persons is frequently unreported, undocumented and goes ultimately unreported and unpunished. Rarely does it provoke public debate and outrage. This shameful silence is the ultimate rejection of the fundamental principle of universality of rights.”
Azwan Ismail is not the first gay Muslim man in Malaysia nor will he be the last. Being gay is not a crime, however, hate speech as per Sections 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and making threats to commit acts of violence as stated in Section 503 of the Penal Code are crimes under Malaysian laws.
We urge Malaysians to stand up to such hatred and violence and reach out to all those who are discriminated against in peace and compassion.
Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) comprises Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), All Women's Action Society (Awam), Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower) and Perak Women for Women Society.