WITH reference to news reports on Malaysian transsexual Fatine‘s potential deportation from the United Kingdom, we wish to register our grave concerns at statements by Immigration Department director-general Abdul Rahman Othman and at how the story was reported.
We question why Abdul Rahman singled out Ms Fatine as having “brought great shame upon us”, allegedly for immigration offences, when just over a year ago the Malaysian government took a far more lenient approach to Malaysian overstayers in the UK. We recall that the then-Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar indicated that in addition to cooperating with the British government’s voluntary repatriation scheme, the Malaysian government would not impose further penalties on returnees.
We note that Ms Fatine has done her best to comply with British law. That she was singled out as an alleged “shame” amongst the approximately 20,000 Malaysian overstayers in the UK suggests that the threat of severe penalties is based on the fact that she is a transsexual person. We caution that such threats constitute a violation of her rights to non-discrimination and to security of person.
What is truly shameful about Ms Fatine’s situation is what it reveals about our prejudices. Discrimination against transsexuals in this country runs the gamut from violence to official restriction toward changing their gender identity or photos in their documents. This discrimination is further perpetrated by how they are portrayed in the media.
It’s “she”, not “he”
We are deeply disappointed that some press and the authorities refer to Ms Fatine as a “he”. Ms Fatine clearly identifies as a woman. Whether she is pre-op or post-op is entirely irrelevant to her gender identity. It is disrespectful and hurtful to refer to her by anything other than her chosen gender.
Ms Fatine has a right to be treated with dignity and to equal protection under the law. Unfortunately, these rights are rarely respected by the Malaysian authorities and by society at large in their treatment of transsexual persons.
We remind the authorities that Article 8(2) of the federal constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender. In addition, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Malaysia ratified in 1995, obliges the government to refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women.
The Malaysian government has a responsibility to ensure that all public authorities and institutions act in conformity with this obligation, including the Immigration Department.
We strongly urge the government and public institutions to lead the way in changing societal attitudes, laws and public policy by honouring their human rights obligations.
All Women’s Action Society
Women’s Aid Organisation
4 Dec 2009