Malaysia to offer conversion therapy for transgender women

Activist Nisha Ayub

A state in Malaysia will attempt to “cure” transgender women in 2018 so that they can live a so-called “normal life”.

According to AFP, officials in Terengganu will offer the controversial conversion therapy course once a survey of the transgender population in the state is completed.

Participants will reportedly receive ‘treatment’ from medical, psychological and religious experts over a number of days.

They will also interact with transgender women who have “returned to normal lives”, said Terengganu executive council member, Ghazali Taib.

Ghazali continued: “At the end, it is up to them to make a choice. The government’s concept is not (to) force. (We) give them a path to make the best choices for their lives,” he said.

Local activists say that while the programme may be voluntary, it will only serve to deepen stigma around being transgender and further isolate the community.

“Stop assuming that you can change a person into the mould of your own beliefs or understanding. This is not about a puppet but about a human being,” commented transgender activist Nisha Ayub in a statement on Facebook.

She said that anti-transgender groups and officials “need to see that actually we the community are not the problem but it’s the system that they created that causes the problems to the community.”

Leading medical and psychological bodies around the world have condemned conversion therapy as being ineffective and dangerous.

Transgender woman can be persecuted and charged with “public indecency” and those who are Muslim may also fall foul of Islamic Sharia laws banning cross-dressing. Homosexuality is outlawed, with penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

In June, 2017, the country’s Ministry of Health came under fire for holding a video competition for young people to suggest ways to “prevent, control and seek help” for people who are LGBT.

In 2014, Human Rights Watch found that state Religious Department officials and police regularly arrest transgender women and subject them to various abuses, including assault, extortion, and violations of their privacy rights.

That same year, the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia revealed that more than 1,000 people had gone through its programmes to “educate gender-confused individuals” since 2010.

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