The United Nations Human Rights Office today expressed its concern and regret over last week’s Federal Court decision to reinstate Section 66 of the Negeri Sembilan Syariah Criminal Enactment (1992) that criminalises transgender women and subjects them fines and up to six months’ jail.
In a statement today, it noted that the Federal Court judgment on Thursday overturned an earlier Court of Appeal decision that declared unconstitutional the criminalisation of Muslim transgender women for cross-dressing.
“This law infringes upon the rights of transgender women, including the right to live with dignity, to freedom of movement, the right to work, to equality before the law and to freedom from discrimination and freedom of expression,” the regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office for South East Asia (OHCHR), Matilda Bogner, said.
“The Federal Court does not only have a duty to interpret rules and procedures but must protect the fundamental rights of individuals as guaranteed under the Malaysian Federal Constitution and in line with international human rights standards,” Bogner said.
She said the OHCHR continues to receive reports of arrests and attacks against transgender people in Malaysia.
“In Kelantan, nine transgender women were arrested, imprisoned and fined on the basis of their appearance in June,” Bogner said in a statement.
The Federal Court ruled last Thursday that the legal challenge on the constitutionality of a law has to be made directly with the Federal Court as the matter involved the Federal Constitution and not to the High Court in Seremban or the Court of Appeal.
Section 66, of the Negeri Sembilan Syariah Offences enactment prohibits any male from wearing women’s attire, or posing as a woman, in any public place.
States obliged to repeal discriminatory laws
The UN noted that the secretary-general and 12 UN agencies, including OHCHR, reject laws that criminalise and discriminate against transgenders on the basis of their gender identity or expressions that violate international human rights law.
It added that states have an obligation to repeal such discriminatory laws and to legally recognise the gender identity of transgender persons.
“We call on Malaysian authorities to uphold their international human rights obligations without discrimination, and to address human rights violations against transgender women.
“The Negeri Sembilan government should amend Section 66 of the Negri Sembilan Syariah Criminal Enactment (1992) and similar provisions in other Malaysian states to bring them in line with international human rights standards,” Bogner said.