As at 3 July, this letter was signed by the All Women’s Action Society (Awam), the PT Foundation and 141 other individuals.
This letter inside was written by Alina Rastam, writer and activist and Shanon Shah bin Mohd. Sidik, writer, performer and activist. I received it in the mail last night.
Both have written this letter because they felt that Malaysia “really need a non-institutional, non-partisan response from concerned citizens to the issue at hand”
What they saw here was “gay-baiting being used to discredit a politician. In effect, this reinforces the
legal, institutional and social mechanisms that encourage human rights violations against sexual minorities in Malaysia”.
So, Alina and Shanon have developed a response to one of the big issues at hand, which is not about supporting, promoting or critiquing Anwar Ibrahim the politician/individual.
Please put your name to this letter if you agree with it, and spread it wide and urgently to all who are concerned about this matter.
Please return all signatures to Shanon by today, Tuesday, 1st July 2008, 3pm, so that he can send the letter off to the press ASAP. Please return all signatures to email@example.com. Thank you.
We, the undersigned, are deeply disturbed that Anwar Ibrahim has been accused of ‘sodomy’, yet again, in what looks like another attempt to destroy his political career. We are not promoting or supporting Anwar as a leader or an individual in any way, but we are addressing the issues that have been raised by this latest allegation against him.
We believe simply that Anwar’s human rights are being violated once again. In effect, we are seeing a virtual repeat of the incidents of 1998, when sodomy allegations against Anwar became a tool to urge the Malaysian public to refuse his potential leadership. The underlying assumption here now, as it was then, is that due to Anwar’s alleged sexual practices, he is not fit to become a national leader.
We, the undersigned, do not care what Anwar’s, or any other politician’s, sexuality is. As far as we are concerned, an individual’s sexual practices and orientation is a personal matter. Furthermore, the privacy of every individual must be respected. For public leaders, sexual conduct should only become an issue when it can be proved to have led to the abuses of power such as the misappropriation of public funds or resources.
What is more disturbing is that Sections 377a and 377b of the Penal Code have been used by the State to silence political dissent, upon interpretation of the phrase ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. In effect, these laws, and the State’s repeated use of them, demonize an entire sector of society – lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBTs), and even non-conformist heterosexuals. They create an environment that not only allows for, but encourages, discrimination and violence against LGBTs.
But LGBTs are part of our society, whether we like it or not. They are tax payers, they are productive workers, they are students, and some of them are pious people who contribute positively towards their mosques, churches and temples. And yes, some enter politics in the hope of exercising political leadership. Yet in all of these areas, they are discriminated against and are seen to be deviants by the State. This is in direct contravention to international instruments and conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that no one should be discriminated against on any grounds.
However, not all Malaysians share the State’s view. In August 2003, a group of concerned citizens and NGOs – from a variety of backgrounds – submitted a memorandum to the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), calling for an end to discrimination and violence against LGBTs. We, the undersigned, wish to resurrect the spirit of that memorandum, and we hereby reiterate its call to:
·Demand that the State respects the human rights of all citizens, including LGBTs, as enshrined in our Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
· Demand that the State repeals all laws that criminalize sexual behavior among mutually consenting adults
· Abolish policies and regulations which prohibit the media from portraying LGBTs and their issues in a fair and balanced manner, and to urge the media to be fair and non-discriminatory in handling of sexuality issues.
We believe that this is an issue that should be of concern not just to the LGBT community, but to anyone who supports justice and democracy. Any violation of an individual’s or a group’s human rights should be of concern to us all. It is also important to note that apart from the Penal Code, there are a whole host of laws regulating sexual practices and behaviours in Malaysia, such as the Syariah enactments in various states which in many cases proscribe whipping for various sexual acts between consenting adults, some of which, like sodomy, can be practiced by heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. Thus this is not just a matter affecting LGBTs, but all Malaysians.