Malaysiakini Letter

LGBT Malaysians uphold democracy because we are citizens

The Malaysian LGBT community  |  Published:  |  Modified:

We are appalled by the absurd, irresponsible and inaccurate claims made by the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) chief executive Azril Mohd Amin regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in two news articles here and here dated Nov 27, 2016.

In both articles, Centhra irresponsibly labeled LGBT persons and groups as ‘militant’ simply for participating in Bersih 5 and supporting the urging for clean and fair elections. LGBT persons and groups stand in solidarity with diverse groups and all people living in Malaysia urging good, transparent and accountable governance in our country.

In the articles, Centhra also criticised Bersih for allowing LGBT persons to participate in the rallies. We find the urging to isolate and police LGBT groups and persons deeply troubling.

The fact is, LGBT persons are often denied some, if not all, of fundamental human rights because of our sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Many LGBT persons face gross discrimination and violence within homes, schools, workplace, hospitals, and public sectors simply for being who we are. Centhra’s views increase risks and challenges for LGBT persons to seek assistance and access justice when violence occurs.

While more and more family members now accept their LGBT children, they find it difficult to come out in support of their children or family members due to the kind of discrimination and stigma that individuals and groups like Centhra espouse. Anecdotal evidence and global trends show that LGBT persons are more vulnerable to depression, stress, suicidal ideation and attempts than their heterosexual and cisgender peers.

How else could LGBT persons seek justice and create a better Malaysia if not by speaking up and participating in democracy? Centhra, however, is suggesting that LGBT persons cannot be seen, be in solidarity, participate and exercise our constitutional rights. For Centhra, LGBT persons should remain hidden, silent and accept the gross discrimination and violence that we experience.

The fact that there is consistent resistance to LGBT persons whenever we take a visible stance demonstrates deep levels of homophobia and transphobia that need to be addressed through meaningful engagements with LGBT persons and in accordance to international standards of human rights.

Centhra’s views on human rights are selective and do not fully promote the principles of universality, non-discrimination and equality of human rights. We remind Centhra that Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings (without exception) are born free and equal. Article 5 of the Federal Constitution guarantees fundamental liberties to all persons. It is important for Centhra to understand that their skewed views on human rights misinform the public and reinforce the harmful notion that LGBT persons are a threat.

We are extremely concerned that these claims will increase the vulnerability and risks of LGBT persons and human rights defenders to discrimination and violence.

We remind Centhra that Malaysia is a member of the United Nations and is obligated to uphold international human rights standards. We also urge meaningful dialogue and engagement with the LGBT community to promote understanding instead of misinformed condemnation, moral posturing and fear-mongering.

Endorsed by: (in alphabetical order)

1. Aliran
2. All Women’s Action Society (Awam)
3. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
4. Campaign for Equality and Human Rights Initiative (Pelangi)
5. Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
6. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
7. Diversity
8. Friends of Malaysia - Civil Liberties
9. Justice for Sisters
10. Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
11. Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU)
12. Lawyers for Liberty (LFL)
13. Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic Movement (Dema)
14. Malaysian Atheists
15. Malaysian Humanist and Rationalist Movement (myHaram)
16. Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
17. National Human Rights Society (Hakam)
18. North South Initiative (NSI)
19. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
20. Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
21. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
22. Projek Dialog
23. Pusat Komas
24. Seksualiti Merdeka
25. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
26. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
27. The G Blog
28. The Malaysian Feminist
29. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)

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