Malaysia's LGBT community is under unprecedented attack according to transgender rights activist, Thilaga Sulathireh, after police raided a known pride venue and arrested 20 men for “illicit behavior.”
For the first time in 30 years, Malaysia's gay club, the Blue Boy, was targeted by Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department of Malaysia (JAKIM) where they detained nearly two dozen people before a court ordered them into counseling, authorities reported.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Minister Khalid Samad defended the raid, saying: “The government is very serious in dealing with this radical belief. Hopefully, this initiative can mitigate the LGBT culture from spreading into our society.”
Though homosexuality is prohibited in the mostly Muslim Asian country, crimes against members of the LGBT community went relatively unreported until an increase following the nation’s general elections in May, when Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, was re-elected for the second time.
Sulathireh, the co-founder of the transgender rights group Justice for Sisters, denounced the “state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia” which she says has increased the number of hate crimes and discrimination over the last three months.
“We are also seeing a lot of shrinking spaces for LGBT people – offline, online, everywhere. This level of aggression is new, and the situation is becoming really alarming,” said Sulathireh.
“We are hearing a lot of cases of people in the community feeling depressed and suicidal and not feeling safe using public facilities or even going out in public spaces,” the activist said.
LGBT rights activist and former press secretary for the Minister of Youth and Sports, Numan Afifi, was forced to step down due to his political standings and described the nation’s aversion to gender rights as “fierce.”
“Trans women are now reporting to us they are being harassed by their employers, some were forced to cut their hair suddenly or dress differently,” Afifi said.
Other incidents of violence, arbitrary arrest, and discrimination have also been reported and left in impunity.
Politician Charles Santiago said, “These are citizens of our country, they are part of the Malaysian family, and they cannot be discriminated against.”