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Malaysian Judge Strikes Antitrans Ban on Gender Expression

Malaysian Judge Strikes Antitrans Ban on Gender Expression


A Malaysian appeals court overturned a ban on men and trans women wearing women's clothing.


A Malaysian appeals court has handed a trio of transgender women a victory by overturning a law that banned them from wearing women's clothes. Delivering his decision, Judge Mohamad Yunus called the law "degrading, oppressive, and inhumane," reports the BBC.

Malaysia's population is 61 percent Muslim, and men there are subject to a form of Sharia Law that has been categorized as "moderate." Yet the law had prohibited cisgender men and transgender women from wearing anything remotely resembling women's attire -- even hair clips -- until now.

"This is a win for all Malaysians, as the constitution protects us all, irrespective of ethnicity, gender and class," Ivy Josiah of the Women's Aid Organization told Reuters. "Surely no court, civil or Sharia, can refute the fact that human dignity is paramount."

The law had provided jail time for the offense of "cross dressing."

"Now the transgender community knows they have their rights to challenge the law and not just plead guilty to charges," Nisha Ayub of Justice for Sisters, an LGBT-advocacy organization, told Reuters.

The three women involved in the case were arrested by so-called Islamic officers four years ago for "cross-dressing."

While Malaysia's Constitution officially guarantees the right to express both religion and gender without discrimination, challenges to the strict enforcement of Sharia Law contrary to those guarantees have, until Friday's decision, been unsuccessful.

The court's finding that the ban on transgender women or men wearing women's clothing is likely to spur other challenges to Sharia, reports the BBC. However, the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan is expected to appeal the judge's decision. For now, the decision to overturn the law stands -- but only in that state.

Human Rights Watch, which recently labeled Malaysia one of the worst places to be transgender in a 100-page report, called the appeals court's decision a "strong" one.

"The court's rejection of the ban on cross-dressing was a strong affirmation of the rights of transgender people in Malaysia," said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "By upholding the constitution over a discriminatory state law, the court is saying all Malaysians can express themselves as the people they want to be."

According to Reuters, the case may provide encouragement to an appellant in another case. Political aspirant Anwar Ibraham is currently challenging a five-year sentence he received for a sodomy conviction.

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