From left: Ms Chinta, ASP Riza, YB Lee Khai Loon, YB Teh Yee Cheu, Zulfakri, Ustaz Khairol
TG Symposium: Arrest and Detention
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 prisoners.
“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).