Malaysia transgender community loses rights case


malaysia_court_says_pro_trans_ruling_invalidIn a disappointing move, the Federal Court in Malaysia has thrown out a previous lower court ruling that ended a state ban on cross-dressing.

In November 2014, the Putrajaya Court of Appeal ruled that a state Sharia-law ban on cross-dressing was unconstitutional, “degrading, oppressive and inhuman.”

The case was filed by three transgender women who challenged section 66 of the Sharia law in Negeri Sembilan state, which prohibits “any male person who in any public place wears a woman’s attire or poses as a woman.”

Last week, however, the human rights victory was overturned by the Federal Court, which said that the earlier ruling was invalid because the correct procedure was not followed when the lawsuit was filed.

The justices explained that the matter should have gone directly to the Federal Court as the lower courts did not have the jurisdiction to address the matter.

Aston Paivah, the lawyer representing the women, told Malay Mail Online that they have the option to re-file the case directly with the Federal Court, and that he will consulate with his clients on the matter.

“All the Federal Court has said is, instead of going and arguing at the High Court, come straight to us,” he said.

The Religious Department in the state of Negeri Sembilan has used the law repeatedly to arrest transgender women; for example, in a mass arrest of 16 transgender women at a wedding party in June 2014.

In addition to the Sharia ban on cross-dressing, gay sex is illegal in Malaysia under colonial era legislation, with penalties including 20 years in prison – with or without fines and whippings.

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