No, LGBT People Aren't Harming Malaysia, But Child Marriage Is
When the news broke last week that a 41-year-old manâ¯from Kelantanâ¯hadâ¯married an 11-year-old girl, alarm bells went off in Malaysiaâs newly electedâ¯governmentâ¯as well asâ¯among nongovernmental groups. The Kelantan state police started an investigation, andâ¯activistsâ¯stepped upâ¯callsâ¯to legislate a minimumâ¯marriageâ¯age of 18, with no exceptions.â¯
But some politicians saw the issue differently.â¯Mohdâ¯Amar Nik Abdullah, the deputyâ¯head of government in Kelantan state, which is ruled byâ¯theâ¯oppositionâ¯Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), said child marriage should not be âsensationalizedââ¯and does not violate religious principles.â¯âThe issue ofâ¯zinaâ¯[sex outside marriage], children born out of wedlock, gays and lesbians, are bigger issues for the country,â he said.â¯
Bigger issues for whom? Human Rights Watchâ¯has thoroughly documentedâ¯the impacts of child marriage on girls around the world:â¯marriedâ¯girls are more likely to drop out of school,â¯live in poverty, and to be victims of domestic violence, compared to women who marry after age 18. Child marriages often result in early pregnancy, which carries serious health risks - including death - for both girls and their babies.â¯Report
"Iâm Scared to Be a Woman"
Human Rights Abuses Against Transgender People in Malaysia
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Not onlyâ¯doâ¯Mohdâ¯Amarâs commentsâ¯belittleâ¯girlsâ rights, they also reinforce homophobic views. Theâ¯recently oustedâ¯Barisanâ¯Nasional governmentâ¯enforced discriminatory laws and promoted hostility towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.â¯Former Pri me Ministerâ¯Najibâ¯Razakâ¯describedâ¯LGBTâ¯people as âagainst Islamâ;â¯hisâ¯deputy prime ministerâ¯equatedâ¯LGBT peopleâ¯withâ¯ânegative valuesâ;â¯and the Healthâ¯Ministryâ¯organized a competition according to whichâ¯adolescentsâ¯were to submit videos on how toâ¯âpreventââ¯LGBTâ¯identities.
Law enforcement officials from state religious departmentsâ¯regularly arrest transgender women, subjecting many to degrading treatment. During a visit toâ¯Malaysiaâ¯in April I interviewed LGBT peopleâ¯whoâ¯describedâ¯experiencing depression and even attempting suicide because of feeling that they donât belong in their country.â¯â¯
Theâ¯newly elected government, under Mahathirâ¯Mohamed, has an opportunity â" and a responsibility â" toâ¯remedyâ¯the entrenchment ofâ¯state-sponsored homophobia and transphobiaâ¯that startedâ¯duringâ¯Mahathirâsâ¯previous stint as prime minister. It can do soâ¯byâ¯publicly condemning discriminatory comments likeâ¯Mohdâ¯Amarâsâ¯andâ¯making clearâ¯thatâ¯LGBT people areâ¯notâ¯an âissueââ¯to contend with,â¯butâ¯a group of peopleâ¯whose rights are entitled toâ¯be respected.â¯The governmentâ¯shouldâ¯rejectâ¯theâ¯Najibâ¯governmentâs practice of demonizing LGBT people to distract attention fromâ¯governance failures,â¯begin discussion ofâ¯overturning federal and stateâ¯anti-LGBT laws,â¯andâ¯focus onâ¯fighting the real scourges in Malaysian society, such as child marriage.â¯Source: Google News Malaysia | Netizen 24 Malaysia