“They stripped me completely naked. One of them took a police baton and poked at my genitals. Everyone was looking,” said a woman from Malaysia who was arrested and sexually assaulted in 2011 by Religious Department officials for being transgender.
Adopted in 1948, United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) is seen as the foundation of international human rights law. By becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, which focus on protecting human rights. The obligations require that States must take affirmative action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. Through ratification of international human rights treaties, State Governments undertake to implement domestic legislation furthering their UDHR treaty obligations and duties.
UDHR’s Article 7 states that “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
Human Rights Watch in its recent report said Malaysia is one of the world’s worst countries for transgender people who suffer from ”social ostracism, discrimination, and harassment, sexual abuse and arrest by authorities.”
In fact State Religious Department officials and police are known to regularly arrest transgender women. They abuse them frequently by assaulting them, extorting, and violating their privacy rights. Religious Department officials have physically and sexually assaulted transgender women during arrest or in custody.
60 percent of Malaysia’s population are Muslims who are subject to state-level Sharia, which are Islamic law ordinances, in addition to the federal criminal law. Since the 1980s, every state has passed Sharia criminal laws that discriminate against transgender people. In fact, all 13 Malaysian states prohibit Muslim men from dressing as women, while three states also criminalize women posing as men.
Many transgender women who are arrested are fined and forced into counseling sessions, where the state Islamic Religious Department officials lecture them on “being a man.” The country is known to openly reject transgender women’s applications to legally change their gender. Muslim transgender women are often victims of repeated arrests.
Under UDHR’s article 7, Malaysia is openly discriminating against its transgender population and denying them equal protection under the law. Even though it has not ratified UDHR, Malaysia is still a member of UN. I believe that UN should step in and stop these atrocities. Is it really enough to say that just because Malaysia has not ratified the UDHR, it doesn’t have to treat its citizens with humanity? By not doing anything, is the UN, more specifically US supporting this torture?