I don’t buy the papers everyday, but on the 4th I was in JB and happened to buy both The Star and the New Straits Times. Coincidentally, both English dailies feature commentaries that very same day about the plight of transgenders in Malaysia.
The articles were triggered by the death on Saturday 30th July, of Aleesha Farhana, a 25 year old medical assistant who was born male, and who underwent a sex change in Thailand in 2009. Doctors diagnosed one of the causes as cardiogenic shock. People who knew her said she died from the deep depression caused by the failure to get a court order to have her name and gender officially changed.The articles highlighted the terrible and cruel stigma faced by transgenders in Malaysia.
Here’s a short excerpt from Mr. Pandiya’s article:
Before her death, she and her parents Mak Yah, 50, and Abdul Aziz, 60, were subject to scorn, ridicule and cruel taunts.
On the day she died, the page one headline of one newspaper was: Pondan gagal tukar nama, masuk ICU (Transvestite fails to change name, enters ICU).
Like Aleesha, an estimated 50,000 transgender people in the country are shunned by society and are often abused.
As highlighted in a statement by 17 NGOs and 600 people on Tuesday, they face stigmatisation, violence, mental torture and sexual assault.
The inability of policy makers to understand the transgender community has led to many of them having to leave their families, schools and jobs.
They are also prevented from getting health services, housing, education, employment and other basic rights and are also left without legal recourse to redress injustices and abuses suffered.
I can’t even imagine being in that sort of situation. What a horrible existence. Why must we treat fellow human beings that way? It’s just terrible the vile hatred some people have for others just because they are different.
When it comes to sex change operations, what’s totally unexpected is that in the Muslim world, Iran allows it. Not only that, they even provide subsidies for those who need the financial assistance. Then, the sex change is legally recognised by the state. Official documents like passports are changed accordingly.
Okay, if that wasn’t mind-boggling enough, here’s something that turned my head round and round so fast it almost flew off my neck, so to speak: As of 2008, Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other nation in the world except for Thailand.
Wow, too bad I don’t care for having tits and a vagina. Otherwise I would so go to Iran to do it, instead of Thailand, if only for the novelty factor of having done the sex change in a Muslim country. To try back up the legitimacy of it, maybe? “But, Pa, I got it cut off in Iran!”
“Yet homosexuality is still punishable by death”, said this BBC article. And even though sex change operations are legal there in Iran and comes with official recognition of the new gender, acceptance by society is a different matter altogether.
Back to the story of Aleesha Farhana in Malaysia, an earlier Star article by Farik Zolkepli and Nurhidayah Ramli includes some kind words by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Malaysia’s Women, Family and Community Development’s Minister, who said that she was saddened her ministry did not have the chance to provide counselling:
“In Mohd Ashraf’s case, he knew our doors were open and that we were there if he needed us.
“We were concerned for him but we could not force him to come to us,” she said after chairing the Wanita Umno supreme council meeting yesterday.
The article also included that about 50 people had held a candlelight vigil for Aleesha outside the Malaysian Bar Council Building. It was organised by Seksualiti Merdeka co-founder Pang Khee Teik, who said they wanted to highlight that Aleesha’s rights for justice had been denied.