Malaysia’s highest court has dealt a major blow to the trans community in Malaysia.
Malaysia’s Federal Court upheld a ban on cross-dressing, which sees trans women in Malaysia criminalised.
Thilaga Sulathireh, an activist representing the trans appellants, said of the most recent decision: “Of course we are disappointed… After today, we are concerned over the safety and security of the transgender community.”
The newest ruling overturned a decision – taken last year – on a technicality citing ‘procedural non-compliance’.
In November, the Appeals Court ruled that Section 66 of the Sharia code of the state of Negeri Sembilan – that bars Muslim men from dressing or behaving as women – was unconstitutional.
This had been seen as a legal victory and a progressive step forward for trans women as it had been hoped that the decision could be used as legal precedence to extend trans rights across the whole country.
The judge said at the time : “As long as section 66 is in force the appellants will continue to live in uncertainty, misery, and indignity. … Therefore, section 66 is unconstitutional and void.”
In Malaysia, of which the population is more than 60 per cent Muslim, sodomy and oral sex are both illegal for both gay and straight citizens and sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Earlier this year, Malaysia was criticised by Human Rights Watch for jailing two transgender women for ‘cross-dressing’.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia has previously cited Islam in saying that the human rights of LGBT people would not necessarily be protected.