The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) sent a letter to the government of Malaysia condemning the November 3rd police ban of all events related to Seksualiti Merdeka, an annual arts and performance showcase dedicated to the rights to identity and self-determination out of alleged concern for public order.
“The police rationalized the shutdown of Seksualiti Merdeka as a preemptive move against possible altercation by conservative groups misusing religion to vilify people who do not conform to their expectations of acceptable sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Grace Poore, Regional Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific Islands at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
Datuk Seri Kahlid Abu Bakar, Deputy Inspector-General of Police, who issued the ban against Seksualiti Merdeka told media during a press conference in Kuala Lampur on November 3, “We are not against the people’s right to freedom of speech or human rights. However, if the event creates uneasiness among the vast majority of the population, it may result in disharmony, enmity and threaten public order.”
Mr. Khalid threatened police action against anyone who defied the ban and announced that festival organizers would be taken in for questioning under Section 298A of the Malaysian Penal Code and Section 27A(1)(c) of the Malaysian Police Act.
As a result of the November 3rd ban, organizers were forced to cancel the annual festival. Ten of the festival’s organizers were questioned by Internal Security and Public Order Police in Kuala Lumpur. In an atmosphere of increasing intimidation and harassment, on November 1, two plainclothes and two uniformed police officers entered a workshop on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and questioning (LGBTQ) human rights.
“The police abused their authority by targeting people already being vilified,” said Poore. “Their conduct encouraged intolerance, hate speech and aggression.”
The 2011 Seksualiti Merdeka, scheduled from November 2 to 13, was themed “Queer Without Fear.” The theme aptly captures the violence, culture of impunity and harassment experienced by LGBT Malaysians. The national Malay media has condemned women who appear masculine and men who appear feminine.1 Terengganu state schools have removed effeminate male students from regular schools and mandate them to “reparative” education.2 Melaka religious authorities have sanctioned the intimidation and beating of transgender people (mak nyah).3 Reports from an unpublished study on violence against LGBT people preliminarily indicate that police have extorted money from LGBT individuals, and families are using physical violence to punish gender and sexual non-conformity of female members.4
Seksualiti Merdeka was launched in 2008 by a network of artists and activists advocating for the social, cultural, civil and political rights of Malaysian citizens who are denied the rights to identity and self-determination. The two-week festival, which is always held on private premises, has featured workshops, poetry, music, dance, interactive installations and film screenings to generate discussion, raise awareness, and promote respect for sexual and gender diversity. According to organizers, festival attendance has been growing: 500 people in 2008 and 1500 in 2010. Previous years saw no disruptions.
Source : International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission