Malaysian gov’t not ruling out amending Syariah Law to impose harsher punishments for LGBT, says deputy religious affairs minister

The Malaysian government has not ruled out the possibility of strengthening the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 to provide for harsher punishments against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, says Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary.

Mr Marzuk said that the current punishment doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on LGBT people. Act 355 currently provides for imprisonment of three years, a fine of RM5,000 and six strokes of the cane.

Speaking to reporters after the Food Bank Donation Handover at by the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (JAWI) in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday (19 January), the Deputy Minister said that the amendment should be seen as necessary to address “wrongdoings” by LGBT people.

He added that strong action is already being taken against those who do not conform to dressing according to their biological sex — an issue that is once again in the spotlight with allegations of the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS)’s violent treatment against cosmetics entrepreneur Nur Sajat, a transgender woman.

“All state religious agencies and enforcers have been instructed to take action against those (LGBT) who do not behave accordingly,” he said.

He also urged the public to report to the authorities any “unhealthy activities” carried out by LGBT people in order to help authorities take action against them.

Time and time again over the years, the issue of state treatment and laws against the LGBT community has circled back into the public sphere.

One example in recent times was the public caning in Terengganu of two women for attempting to have sex.

Rights activists told The Guardian that this was the first time two women have been caned for that reason.

Thilaga Sulathireh from Justice for Sisters — a group advocating for transgender women’s rights –who was present during the caning was quoted as saying: “The punishment was shocking and it was a spectacle.”

“This case shows a regression for human rights,” she added, “Not only for LGBT people but all persons because corporal punishment affects all people.”

Ms Thilaga went on to say that the group is concerned that this case would set a dangerous precedent for more policing of sexual identities and morality in the country.

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