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SUHAKAM study finds widespread discrimination against transgender people

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A landmark study of 100 transgender people in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor has found they experience violence and discrimination in all areas of life.

A landmark study of 100 transgender people in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor has found they experience serious discrimination across all areas of their life, including in relation to education, work, housing and health services.

The study, conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), found that transgender people also experienced high levels of harassment, abuse and violence because of their gender identity and gender expression.

This included physical violence, verbal violence, emotional violence and sexual violence by authorities, family members, intimate partners and members of the public, the report said.

Bullying and hate speech were common experiences for transgender people in places of education.

In addition, more than half (39) of the trans women interviewed for the study said they had been stopped and arrested because of their gender identity or gender expression.

The study found that the discrimination and violence they experienced had a significant impact on their mental health, with a high number of respondents reporting self-harm or suicide attempts.

In this video from 2017, Yusmar (Mitch) Yusof, a trans man from Malaysia, describes some of the challenges facing his community.

Mitch represented the SEED Foundation at an APF program that encouraged conversations between NHRIs and civil society organisations, with a focus on identifying practical opportunities for joint action to advance the rights of LGBTI people.

In its report, SUHAKAM noted that there were challenges in seeking to "address any issues with regard to the transgender community, owing to the religious and cultural sensitivities in the country".

It added, however, it was "clear that steps must be taken to uphold their rights as human beings and protect them against any discrimination, harm and violence".

The study included recommendations – with roles for government, NGOs and SUHAKAM – to educate the public and advocate for the respect of the rights and dignity of the transgender community.

The recommendations included:

  • Leading education and public awareness initiatives
  • Holding regular dialogue and discourse programs
  • Reviewing laws and policies to identify and address discrimination
  • Reviewing criminal justice processes
  • Conducting capacity building and training programs for authorities
  • Assessing the suitability of health, custodial and other facilities for transgender people.

SUHAKAM's NGO partners, Justice for Sisters and the SEED Foundation, provided assistance in the Study on Discrimination against Transgender Persons Based in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

Date: 19 July 2019

Image credits

  1. Rainbow flag - Peter Hershey on Unsplash