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We refer to the Malaysiakini report On Protest against anti-tomboy fatwa .

On Oct 23, 2008, the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia issued a fatwa saying that tomboy-ism, where a girl behaves or dresses in what is seen as a boyish manner, is forbidden by Islam.

According to the council’s chairperson, Dr Abdul Shukor Husin, this decision was made because – in their reasoning – young women who behave like men will engage in lesbian sex.

We, as rakyat Malaysia, reject these views and wish to express our solidarity and sympathy with those affected by such declarations. This letter is a statement of our principled stand as the people of this nation, regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, or political belief.

1. My Body My Choice - This is simply another attempt to control women's bodies and how women express themselves. Each and every woman has the right to express herself freely, as does everyone else, as guaranteed under human rights standards our country is bound to fulfil.

2. Regressive and Impractical Policies - Telling a woman that she cannot wear certain types of clothing because she will look 'masculine' is an archaic notion. Furthermore, who decides what is 'masculine' or 'acceptable' in society?

3. Discriminatory Stereotypes - Do we still tell women that they have to be 'feminine', quiet, demure and modest? We may as well tell women not to vote, that their sole responsibility is to take care of the home and raise their children!

The fatwa is an example of how women continue to be subjected to discriminatory stereotypes of how they should look and behave. The state should not regulate the private lives of individuals.

By continuing to perpetuate discriminatory stereotypes, the government is not promoting, fulfilling or respecting the commitment of equality between women and men.

4. Appearance is not an indicator of sexual orientation - A person's outward appearance and his or her sexual orientation are distinct and separate. The council's views are misinformed and based on outdated stereotypes.

A woman who has short hair and 'masculine' may be a married mother of two and a feminine woman may be a lesbian.

5. Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual persons - The views expressed by the council reflect a deeper discrimination against anyone who does not conform with what is considered 'mainstream' and also anyone who does not fit into a stereotypical heterosexual relationship.

Everyone has the right to form loving relationships with the person of their choice, regardless of their sex and the sex of their partner.

This letter is signed by Katagender, Food Not Bombs as well as the following 19 individuals: Cheneille Neo Ming Yi, Dahlia Martin, Eugene Ch'ng, Lainie Yeoh, Lee Wei San, Lee Jia Hui, Leow Mei Chern, Mohd Rizman, Nurul Amani Faizal Poodien, Puan llli Farhana, Puan Azreen Madzlan, Shikeen Arif, Thilaga Sulathireh, Wan Azhar Bin Wan Ahmad Wong Chai Yi, Yusmar Mohd Yusof and Zedeck Siew.

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