September 29, 2014 – Reported by the Inquirer.net – SEREMBAN — Aryana had just returned to her home one night in June when Malaysian Islamic-purity enforcers burst in, ransacking her apartment and arresting her for cross-dressing.
Using a pseudonym to protect her identity, Aryana is transgender — born a man but identifying as a woman — and part of a substantial community that complains of rising persecution in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country.
The 30 year-old was detained for several hours, during which she was roughly handled, pressured to confess and charged a fine.
“It’s difficult. When I wore men’s clothing, it felt like a lie,” said Aryana, a sex worker with long hair dyed reddish-brown and a heavily-powdered face.
Transgender people are common in Malaysia, typically men whose gender identity is female, but also vice versa. Some undergo sex-change surgery.
But their lives are far different from the famously tolerant stance in Buddhist neighboring Thailand.
Human Rights Watch said Malaysia is one of the world’s worst countries for transgender people, as it released a report last week detailing social ostracism, discrimination, and harassment, sexual abuse and arrest by authorities.
Homosexuality is effectively banned in Malaysia. Gay sex — considered “against the order of nature” — brings up to 20 years in jail under federal law.
State-level laws on Islamic purity also criminalize dressing as the opposite sex, activists say. Violations can bring three years in prison and a fine…