Dear Suriani Kempe
Special Tasks Officer to the Minister
Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development
I want to bring to your attention the blog [by DAP MP Dr Ramakrishnan Suppiah] that accounted what appears to be the Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development's recent position on the transgender community. I must say it is very disappointing to read that "Kerajaan masih menyediakan perkhidmatan sokongan sosial bagi membantu golongan ini terutamanya kepada yang ingin kembali ke pangkal jalan." This suggests that the state resources and services are discriminatory, and will deliberately ignore those who are in serious need of welfare based on personal and private beliefs.
From our recent dealings with the Ministry, we have come to appreciate that the Minister, Datuk Seri Sharizat Abd Jalil herself takes a progressive, intelligent and inclusive view of the communities she serves. I refer in particular the amazing statements issued by the Minister regarding the boot camp in Besut for effeminate boys. So we hope that in this instance, the Ministry will do its utmost to retract the position highlighted below and be more inclusive and understanding to a marginalised and vulnerable group.
We also view with interest the Minister's statement regarding the late Aleesha Farhana, who failed to get the court to change her name and gender. We would like to ask the Minister to clarify what she meant when she said her Ministry was going to counsel or help Aleesha. In what ways were the Ministry prepared to help?
Meanwhile, I want to propose two actions:
1. We set up an informal meeting between leaders and key members of the trans community with Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development. This is to achieve an understanding to their issues and what steps can be taken.
2. We invite Shahrizat to be part of the forum: Say My Name: Why name and gender means so much to transgender people. This forum is planned for either next week or the week after. And we hope to use the Bar Council's auditorium. We are trying to invite Justice James Foong as well, as he was the judge who in 2005 delivered the verdict to allow a Mak Nyah then to change her name and gender in her IC. So it would be a sweet miracle if both the Minister and the judge are free at the same time. We are also trying to invite an expert in the medical field and a few Mak Nyahs to be on the panel.
Attached please find a very strong statement from the Transgender Community of Malaysia with regards to Aleesha Farhana and the issue of name and gender change, as well as relevant appendices on the issue.
We humbly await your responses.
Pang Khee Teik
co-founder, Seksualiti Merdeka
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Response from Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development
Thank you for your email, and for raising this issue with the us at the Ministry. I would also like to acknowledge the receipt of the statement from the TG Community of Malaysia with regards to Aleesha Farhana’s case.
As you probably know, the Ministry position on TG Malaysians that you are referring to is taken from a parliament answer provided to MP Dr. S. Ramakrishnan, dated April 27, 2011. The way the answer is written lends itself easily to misinterpretation. The Ministry’s senior management has alerted its officers that such statements must be made with caution, given that the Ministry provides its services to the public without fear or favour, and without prejudice.
Moreover, DS Shahrizat’s recent statements to not judge Aleesha or individuals like her, as well as offers to provide assistance and help to Aleesha also negate the suggestion that the Ministry provides services/allocates state resources on a discriminatory basis. The Ministry also funds PKBS (Pusat Bantuan Khidmat Sosial) which is located in Chow Kit and is run by PT Foundation. The services provided through PKBS are open to anyone seeking help, in particular sex workers, PLHIVs, and individuals from the TG community.
To clarify the Minister’s statement, the type of assistance provided to Aleesha would have been determined at the meeting that was supposed to have taken place between Aleesha and the Ministry, depending on Aleesha’s self-identified needs. This would also have included assistance in enabling Aleesha to pursue her studies. On its end, the Ministry does provide counselling and guidance to individuals should these services be requested. Notably however, these services are not provided with the intention of ‘correcting’ behaviour etc in line with socially accepted norms.
With regards to your proposal,
1. Both the Minister and Secretary – General, Dato’ Noorul Ainur, are in favour of the informal meeting between the Ministry’s senior management and leaders as well as key members of the trans community. I am assuming this meeting should happen in the near future. I will propose several suitable dates, and let you know – if that’s okay with you.
2. With regards to the forum ‘Say My Name’, while DS Shahrizat would like to attend, her accepting the invitation depends on her availability. Ramadhan is usually a packed month for the Minister and the invitation does come at short notice. In the event that she will not be able to accept, Dato’ Noorul would be more than happy to attend, although again, this is pending her availability.
Thank you and best regards,
Special Tasks Officer to the Minister
Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development
Level 3, Block E, Bukit Perdana Government Complex
Jalan Dato' Onn,
50515 Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA