PETALING JAYA: Malaysian transgender rights advocate Nisha Ayub has dedicated the United States Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award which she received to all transwomen.
"This award is not just for me but for all transwomen as it shows that we are recognised and accepted as being apart of this international award that is for women.
"It's an honour to be here today to receive this award on behalf of the community. It’s an award for our voice and recognition and acceptance for our gender identity as women,” said Nisha who received the award from State Secretary John Kerry at the US State Department in Washington on Tuesday.
Nisha, 36, is the first transgender woman to win the prestigious award, which was also won previously by former Bersih 2.0 chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
Nisha became an outspoken voice for Malaysian transgender rights after she experienced first hand the horrors of being sexually abused by a warden and other prisoners when she was jailed in a male prison for cross-dressing in 2005.
She is the founder of non-governmental organisation, Justice For Sisters, which helps fund defence cases for transgenders in the Syariah court.
She also heads Seed Foundation which aids transwomen, sex workers and HIV patients.
Her advocacy work saw a landmark 2014 ruling by the Court of Appeal that decided that state laws against cross dressing was unconstitutional and discriminatory. That decision was overturned a year later by the Federal Court.
Kerry hailed Nisha's commitment in protecting Malaysia’s transgenders.
"Nisha Ayub has been the target of discrimination and violence in Malaysia for many years, even being imprisoned for three months in which she endured sexual abuse and humiliation.
"She continues to face threats but remains committed to her work because it’s what she cares about and because she knows its the right thing to do.
"Nisha Ayub for your extraordinary work to promote societies that are more just, fair and tolerant, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, we honour you,” Kerry said in his speech.