Malaysia: 17 transwomen arrested, seek $ to avoid prison

Published: June 10, 2014

Seventeen transgender women were arrested in Malaysia on June 8 for allegedly violating the law against “men posing as women,” reports Justice for Sisters, an organization supporting LGBT rights in Malaysia.

The arrests took place at a wedding celebration in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan.

The transwomen were arrested under Section 66 of the NS Syariah Criminal Enactment (the religious law that applies to Muslims in Muslim-majority Malaysia). At the Lower Syariah Court in Bahau on June 9, sixteen of them were fined 950 Malaysian Ringgit (about US $300) and sentenced to Sungai Udang prison for seven days.

If they fail to pay the fine within seven days, they will be imprisoned for six months. The seventeenth arrestee is a minor, so she was released, but must report to the Jabatan Agama (Islamic Religious Department) every month for the next year.

Justice for Sisters said that, because none of them had previously been arrested under this law, the arrestees panicked and pleaded guilty. Most of them are wedding planners (mak andam) who now are worried that a criminal record will affect their reputation and income.

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