From left: Ms Chinta, ASP Riza, YB Lee Khai Loon, YB Teh Yee Cheu, Zulfakri, Ustaz Khairol
TG Symposium: Arrest
Transgenders fear harassment during arrest and detention, and
a symposium organised by the Transgender Committee set up by the State Assembly
of Penang brought both transgenders and the authorities together to discuss the
situation. Also involved in the organising of this event was Justice for
Sisters, SUARAM Penang and PACA.
Documented stories of how transgenders are being mistreated
and ostracised by the authorities are plenty, and there should be policies and
guidelines to resolve this issue. State Assemblyman for Tanjong Bunga, YB Teh
Yee Cheu requested that the authorities invite a transgender to be present
during body checks, to which the police replied that the suggestion will be
forwarded to her superiors.
According to the Assistant Superintendant Rizatulmi Haizaran
Binti Samat from the police forces’ sexual harassment department, five
transgenders were detained so far this year, of which, 3 were foreigners and 2
were Malaysians. Detainees are separated in lock-ups according to their
assigned gender registered on their identification cards. Presently,
transgender women who are detained by the police are listed under the category
known as ‘Mak Nyah’.
“Problems arise when the police need to make body checks,”
she said. “Men are frisked by men officers, and women by the women officers.
“However, when a transgender is involved, and especially
when sexual reassignment procedures are not complete… for instance, when the top
resembles a woman, and the bottom remains a man, then the woman officer will be
traumatised,” Riza explained.
The Department of Islamic Affairs in Penang (JAIPP) also
gave an overview of the procedures during arrests. Ustaz Khairol Azman revealed
that 10 transgenders were arrested this year by JAIPP.
“Our department arrests transgenders based on three criteria
of the Syariah Law enacted in 1996. Usually, we act upon receiving complaints, prior
observations and investigations.
“Transgenders are arrested if these conditions are fulfilled
– that these men are cross-dressing, that they are in a public area, and that
they are doing something immoral,” Ustaz Khairol Azman said.
When pressed for a definition of what immoral meant, Ustaz
Khairol clarified that carrying condoms was considered as proof. He did mention
however, that in Penang, unlike in other states, cross-dressing was not a major
offence and that transgenders who are simply going about their daily routine
should have nothing to fear.
ASP Riza also gave assured the transgenders that reports
made against police officers who ill-treated the community would be taken
seriously by the police force.
Both the religious department and police force may only
detain their prisoners for up to 24 hours before producing them to the
magistrate for further action. The statistics for the number of transgenders
detained in 2016 differs from the statistics produced by Ms. Chinta Ardieyana,
the president of PACA, an NGO actively involved in transgender rights.
Deputy Enforcer for the Prison Department of Penang,
Zulfakri bin Ahmad was also present to brief the audience on the conditions of
the Penang Prison. Presently, transgenders are placed separately from the men
“This is to ensure the transgenders’ safety,” he said.
This symposium was attended by Penang State Assemblymen YB
Teh Yee Cheu and YB Lee Khai Loon, Polis DiRaja Malaysia, Jabatan Hal Ehwal
Agama Islam Pulau Pinang, UNAIDS (United Nations), MAC, ATPN and Penang Legal
Aid Council (LAC).