The joy of the transgender community, following the first International Women of Courage award by US secretary of state John Kerry to a Malaysian transwoman, was quickly drained as a raid by the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) reminded the community of their continued persecution.
Transgender rights group Seed in a statement today noted the raid on a transgender community event by Jawi yesterday came just a few days after the organisation's program director Nisha Ayub was given the award .
"We were thrilled because she is Malaysian and the first transgender to clinch the award.
"Many of us celebrated her courage and determination to continue being the voice for the community and to promote peace and equality, often at a personal risk.
"But a few days later, the transgender community was once again targeted, persecuted and humiliated," it said in a statement today.
Jawi yesterday barged into the closed door function hosted at five star hotel and arrested the organiser as well as human rights lawyer Siti Kasim.
"The religious police had no warrant but bulldozed their way through the close-door fundraising event.
"This is a clear violation of the rights of the transgender people and blatant abuse of power by Jawi officers.
"And it’s sad that often these transgressions are by the state and people in authority," it said.
Oppose bully-boy tactics
Seed stressed that the continued bullying, discrimination, abuse and torture against the transgender community, which is merely exercising their personal choice of gender identity, must stop.
"We need to band together to oppose the bully-boy tactics by Jawi, other religious authorities and enforcement officers to hunt down, harass and abuse transpeople.
"The Malaysian government is duty bound to protect its citizens, irrespective of race, religion, sexual preference and gender identity," it said.
Meanwhile, human rights group Suaram also condemned the raid, calling it "highly unprofessional and borderline illegal".
It also slammed the arrest of Siti Kasim, purportedly for obstructing the duty of religious authorities.
"Public authorities cannot claim that lawyers discharging their duties in professional capacity as obstructing a public official or holding a religious authority in contempt.
"Any attempt to do so can be and will be interpreted as an illegal attempt to subvert Malaysian’s rights to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner under Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution," said Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy in a statement today.
Suaram noted that Jawi had erroneously believed that the transgender beauty pageant was taking place but the event turned out to be a charity fundraising dinner.
It called for the immediate release of the organiser of the function and also demanded that Jawi issue a public apology over the "wrongful arrest" of Siti Kasim.