Have a heart, stop bullying LGBT, says Suhakam

Members of the LGBT community have the same fundamental rights as eveybody else under the Constitution, says Suhakam. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Criticism continues to mount against Putrajaya’s latest proposal to hand down harsher punishments to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) joining the chorus of those expressing alarm over the matter.

Currently, under Act 355, Syariah courts are empowered to impose maximum sentences of three years’ jail, a fine of RM5,000, and six strokes of the rotan, it said.

However, Suhakam argued that all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment including whipping are absolutely prohibited under international human rights standards, particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

“Suhakam stresses that all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should have the same fundamental rights as enshrined in the Federal Constitution including their right to privacy and to live with dignity,” it said in a statement.

Deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (religious affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary had earlier said the government intended to mete out heavier punishments against the LGBT community by increasing the sentencing limits in the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355).

Rights group, Lawyers for Liberty has urged the authorities to stop using the LGBT community as a “convenient punching bag” and warned that the vilification of the community “serves to help no one and will only harm the very citizens the law is supposed to protect.”

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) also called it a “new low” and urged the government to focus on the pandemic instead.

Suhakam went on to call on the government to reconsider the proposal to amend Act 355 and ensure that it is in line with the international human rights standards.

“Suhakam further recommends that the government adopt a more compassionate approach by respecting human rights for all through continuous dialogues and awareness raising programmes with the relevant stakeholders.”