WATCH: Malaysia's Battle for Transgender Rights

By Parker Marie Molloy

Originally published on Advocate.com May 13 2014 2:10 PM ET

A number of transgender women in Malaysia have filed a lawsuit against their home country, asking the state to strike down laws that outlaw their existence and expression by declaring them unconstitutional. 

In Malaysia, Muslim citizens are required to follow state-sanctioned Sharia law. Each of Malaysia's 13 states has a specific Islamic Religious Department charged with enforcing Sharia. One of these laws specifically forbids Muslim men from "posing as a woman," though there is no explicit definition for what constitutes men or women. 

Now Malaysian trans women are pushing back against the oppressive laws, arguing that they run contrast to Malaysia's federal constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, equal protection, and freedom of movement, according to a report published by Human Rights Watch.

Typically, Malaysia's trans population is unable to access transition-related medical care, and are often refused the opportunity to legally update their names and gender markers on identification documents. This has led to many trans individuals to source hormones, surgery, and other transition-related care from nearby countries like Thailand, according to HRW. 

Watch HRW's new video highlighting Malaysia's struggle for trans rights below.

Contributor: 
Parker Marie Molloy