Harsher punishment proposed in Act 355 amendments will lead to further discrimination against LGBTQ community, says group

PETALING JAYA: Amendments to Act 355 will lead to “heavier criminal punishments” for the Muslim lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, says the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).

“It is also of concern that prevailing sentiments of transphobia and homophobia may overshadow the far-reaching implications of the amendment on all persons, ” the movement said in a statement on Wednesday (April 7).

The group said that there has been an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments in recent years, citing the religious authorities’ continued pursuit of cosmetic entrepreneur Nur Sajat as an example.

It also pointed to the 2018 assault of a transgender woman in Negri Sembilan by a group of men, adding that amendments to Act 355 could have severe consequences to the safety of LGBTQ+ people.

“Earlier attempts to amend the Act in 2016 sought to increase the Shariah court’s maximum sentence to 30 years of jail, RM100,000 fine, and 100 strokes of the cane.

“This is a drastic shift from the current maximum of three years’ jail, RM5,000 fine and six lashes.

“It is a worrisome glimpse of what is to come - a criminal punishment more than that for committing rape which is a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment, ” it said.

JAG also said a harsher sentence against Muslim LGBTQ+ individuals would stand at odds with the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

“As such, JAG requests the Cabinet of Ministers to prevent the proposal from being tabled at the next parliamentary session and to refrain from the persecution of the LGBTQ+ community, ” it said.

The statement was endorsed by the Women’s Aid Organisation, All Women’s Action Society, Sisters in Islam, Justice for Sisters, KRYSS Network, Empower, Perak Women for Women, Sarawak Women for Women Society, Association of Women Lawyers, and Women’s Centre for Change.

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