Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Malaysia

No place for LGBT Malaysians? Why is LGBT rights in Malaysia such a hot topic? Why is the government opposing any activity related to LGBT? As we all know, currently, the LGBT Malaysians are facing legal challenges and discrimination by the society ang government too. But, why are LGBT’s in Malaysia facing such problems? In this article, I will be explaining on the sexual orientation and gender identity in Malaysia and what rights are the LGBT Malaysians facing and fighting for?

What is sexual orientation?

LGBT Malaysians
Photo: @ Unsplash

Sexual orientation is about with whom you are attracted physically, emotionally and sexually and want to have a relationship with. Sexual orientation includes gays, lesbians, bisexual, asexual and straight. 

How is sexual orientation different from gender identity?

Sexual orientation is very different from gender identity. Sexual orientation means you are attracted to the person physically, emotionally and sexually and want to commit a relationship with them while gender identity is who you are such as a male, female or queer gender. 

LGBT Malaysians
Photo: @ Unsplash

Sexual orientation is concerned with who you are sensually, emotionally, and sexually attracted to. This is not the same as gender identity. Gender identity is not about who you are attracted to, but rather about who you are, such as male, female, genderqueer, and so on. This means that being transgender (feeling as if your assigned sex is very different from the gender with which you identify) is not the same as being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Sexual orientation is determined by who you want to be with. Gender identity is about being yourself. 

There are several identities associated with sexual orientation:

  1. People who are attracted to the opposite gender often call themselves straight.
  2. People who are attracted to the same gender often call themselves gays or lesbians.
  3. People who are attracted to both the gender often call themselves as bisexual.
  4. People who do not experience any form of sexual orienatation towards anyone often call themselves asexual.

What is asexuality?

LGBT Malaysians
Photo: @ Unsplash

Individuals who label as asexual have no sexual attraction to anyone. They may find other people physically attractive, or they may wish to be in romantic relationships with others, but they are not interested in having sex or engaging in sexual activities with others. In short, asexual people use the term “ace.” Asexuality is unrelated to romantic attraction. Many asexual people have romantic feelings for other people, so they may identify as asexual as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight. They simply lack the desire to perform on their sexual desires.  Asexual people, like everyone else, have emotional needs. Some asexual people have intimate relationships, while others do not. They form attachments or experience intimacy in ways other than sex. 

LGBT Rights in the USA

LGBT Malaysians
Photo: @ Unsplash

The fight for equal rights for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people has taken centre stage. LGBT people are fighting for civil rights in Congress, courts, and on the streets. Well-known people are openly discussing their sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian people are portrayed in films and on television as full members of society, not as novelty characters. However, the LGBT people are still labelled as bad and are badly discriminated against by the public. Therefore, certain actions had to be taken and gay rights advocates have acheived significant progress such as:

  • Employment discrimination is now prohibited in ten states, the District of Columbia, numerous municipalities, and hundreds of companies and universities.
  • Domestic Partnership programmes can be found in dozens of municipalities as well as hundreds of private organisations, including many of the country’s biggest corporations and universities.
  • Sodomy laws, which are commonly used to justify discrimination against gay people, were once widespread; they now exist in only 18 states and Puerto Rico.

LGBT Problems in South East Asia 

LGBT Malaysians
Photo: @ Unsplash

Recently, same-sex relations have been legalised in countries like Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand and many others either nationwide or just some parts of the country. Despite increased accessibility of the pride movement, LGBTQ+ people continue to face persecution and discrimination, which can lead to violence. Same-sex relationships and cross-dressing are illegal and even punishable by law in some countries, including a few ASEAN member states. 

Homosexuality is still frowned in some conservative Southeast Asian countries. Last year, the Singapore High Court dismissed an attempt to overturn a law that criminalizes gay sex, stating that the law was “important in representing public sentiment and beliefs” in Singapore. Whereas in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, traditional religious norms are opposed to homosexuality and cross-dressing. Although homosexuality is not a crime under Indonesian law, it is still frowned upon. Furthermore, under provincial laws against homosexuality and cross-dressing, homosexual or transgender Muslims can be fined or punished at the local level. For example, the Indonesian region of Aceh has a shariah-based anti-homosexuality law that penalizes anyone caught having gay sex with a 100-year prison sentence.

LGBT Issue in Malaysia

LGBT Malaysians
Photo: @ Unsplash

In Malaysia, where sodomy is a crime with strict penalties, the government is reportedly considering adjusting the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act which is also known as Act 355 to allow for harsh penalties to be imposed on the LGBT community. The LGBT people face three years in prison, an RM5,000 (US$1,236) fine, and six strokes of the cane under the Act. 

Nur Sajat Issue

Although the LGBT issue has long been a source of contention in Malaysia, it has recently resurfaced as celebrity entrepreneur Nur Sajat Kamaruzzaman – whose gender has been a source of contention for years – is being reviewed by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) for allegedly insulting Islam or causing Islam to be offended by mocking or blaspheming the faith and its associated practises and rituals.

Nur Sajat is accused of wearing clothes as a female at a religious event, an act that is said to have brought Islam into disrepute. On the 6th of January, a video of Nur Sajat crying while being handcuffed went viral on social media. She claimed that during the investigation, she was assaulted by state religious officers, resulting in bruises all over her body. 

Nur Sajat is still being pursued by law enforcement agencies and some members of the public because of her gender identity. Nur Sajat was embroiled in yet another controversy last year when she performed the “umrah,” or minor pilgrimage, in Saudi Arabia while dressed as a woman. Nur Sajat was widely chastised on social media after photos and videos of her participating in the pilgrimage went viral.

Till today, LGBT rights is still an issue and hot debate in Malaysia.

Kaveljeet Kaur
Kaveljeet Kaur
A TehTalk author, an introvert mix extrovert, loves coffee and dogs!

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