Transgender People in Malaysia's Capital Face Widespread Discrimination

23 August, 2019

A study conducted by Malaysia’s National Human Rights Institution, SUHAKAM, has found that transgender people living in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor face widespread discrimination that impacts every aspect of their lives including access to education, employment, housing and healthcare.

The study of 100 transgender people found that in addition to lack of access to services and employment, high levels of harassment and physical, verbal, sexual, and emotional violence were experienced. Perpetrators of this abuse ranged from family members and intimate partners to members of the public and state authorities.  The report highlighted the emotional and psychological impact of this violence and discrimination on transgender individuals, showing that a number of participants had self-harmed or considered suicide.

In the workplace, the study found that over a third of respondents were not allowed to express their authentic gender identity, and over half stated that their colleagues asked inappropriate or intrusive questions. Additionally, many of the respondents said they had taken up sex work as a source of earnings because of denial of mainstream jobs.

Civil society organisations Justice for Sister and the SEED Foundation assisted the study which was conducted in order to more accurately identify the challenges faced by the transgender community, develop better methods for data collection and monitoring of rights abuses to improve access to remedy, and to support future advocacy and awareness training and campaigning.

SUHAKAM acknowledged that cultural and religious sensitivities are one of the biggest challenges to ‘address any issues with regard to the transgender community’, however, it added that 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 report made a number of recommendations to government, civil society organisations, and SUHAKAM to undertake in order to protect the transgender community and promote and advocate for the respect of their human rights and dignity. These include:

  • Adopting human rights issues into school curricula and work with the Ministry of Education, Civil Society Organisations, and school administrators to fulfill obligations to the Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC) to end bullying and discrimination against those with different gender identities/expressions.
  • Continuous multi-stakeholder dialogues involving government, civil society, media, and businesses to highlight discriminatory practices and promote inclusive hiring policies in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • Review and reform of criminal justice processes and training for law enforcement agencies to discourage stereotyping, profiling and abuse.

Download the full report here.



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