Statement from the Malaysian Trans community on Aleesha Farhana’s application to change her name and gender
We, the members of the transgender community, are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Aleesha Farhana’s passing. We believe the severe depression she suffered after the court’s dismissal of her application to change her name and gender resulted in her death. We would like to express our condolences to her friends and family and want them to know they are not alone.
We strongly condemn the decision of the High court judge, Datuk Yazid Mustafa, in dismissing Aleesha Farhana Abdul Aziz’s application to have her name and gender altered in her identity card. The ruling is inconsistent with the precedence established in 2005 when a mak nyah from Kuala Lumpur made the same application. Justice James Foong, in the case of JG v Pengarah Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara 2005, had then held in favour of the mak nyah in question. (appendix 1)
Aleesha had expressed desires to further her studies and it is for this reason she wished to change her name and gender on her official documents. Just like everyone else, Aleesha and many like us are striving to better ourselves and contribute to society. Aleesha and all Malaysian trans people deserve the same opportunities as others to improve the quality of our lives and pursue our dreams.
The court should have allowed Aleesha to change her name and gender. And it is still not too late to change it. Her rights and the court’s duty must not be held hostage by the sensitivities of those who are ignorant about transgenderism. By denying her her right, the court is perpetuating an environment of discrimination within which she will never find the justice due her.
Trans people like Aleesha face extreme levels of stigma and discrimination in Malaysia. The discrimination is often perpetuated by biased, negative reporting from the media and endorsed by state mouthpieces, fueling the public to further hate, marginalise and abuse an already vulnerable group of people. These abuses, ranging from physical violence to mental torture to sexual assault, happen from when we are still children right into our adulthood. Lack of attempts to understand us have resulted in many being kicked out of families, schools and work. We are often prevented from accessing health services, housing, education, employment, and other basic rights enjoyed by all Malaysians. Without the law on our side, we are left without legal recourse to redress any injustice and abuse we suffered.
The unwillingness of the Malaysian government to recognise trans people as equal before the law facilitates this ugly persistence in violating us. Official recognition has in fact been granted by both Asian and Islamic nations. These include Singapore which recognises male-to-female transpeople and female-to-male transpeople; Nepal and Pakistan which recognise trans people as “third gender”; Iran, Egypt, Thailand, India and Pakistan, where sex reassignment surgeries are allowed and conducted.
These policies are justified by many scientific studies that have documented transgenderism as a condition resulting from many varied biological causes. Forcing trans people to behave in accordance to external sexual organs have been counterproductive to mental and physical health. However, through a variety of remedies now available, including hormonal therapy and sex reassignment surgeries, many trans people have been able to live happily and productively according to the gender identity with which we identify.
We urge the relevant authorities to take necessary measures and immediately act to create an enabling and safer environment for Malaysian trans people. This includes the repeal of laws that criminalise trans people for our identity, dressing and mannerisms. The government must set up a nationwide consultation with the trans community as soon as possible in order to better understand our issues. We also demand that the Malaysian media address us by the gender pronoun with which we identify. It is about time we have policies, programmes, services and legal remedies that meet trans people’s needs as defined by us.
We request that all concerned work to realising the spirit and intent of Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution which clearly states that no person shall be deprived of his/her life or personal liberty save in accordance with the law. This article is strongly aligned to Principle 17 of the Yogjakarta Principles, which emphasises that:
Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental aspect of this right.
In June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to study how to end human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The international community stands with all of us in Malaysia whose rights have been violated for our gender identity. We therefore remind the Malaysian government of the pledges it made to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Malaysia is obliged to respect and uphold the human rights of all, equally and unconditionally.
We will continue the fight for justice, equality and legal recognition of all trans people in Malaysia. Malaysia is our home too. Aleesha’s life and struggle must not be in vain.
This statement is endorsed by
Amnesty International (Malaysia)
Association of Women’s Lawyers ( AWL)
Centre For Independent Journalism
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns
Coalition of Sexual Bodily Rights
Community Action Network (CAN)
DEMA (Malaysia Youth and Student’s Democratic Movement)
WAMI (Writer Alliance for Media Independence)
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
And 600 individuals.
Nisha, [email protected]
Pang, [email protected]
Thilaga, [email protected]
Please find enclosed 4 appendices:
1. JG v Pengarah Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara 2005
2. PRINCIPLE 17. The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, YOGYAKARTA PRINCIPLES
3. Studies on Transsexualism
4. Al Azhar Approves Sex Reassignment Surgery