Deputy minister for religious affairs Ahmad Marzuk Shaary
The Malaysian government has suggested that it may accept the proposed amendment by the deputy minister for religious affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department, Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, to allow state Sharia courts to give more severe sentences to Muslims in same-sex relationships and transgender Muslims convicted of gender reassignment.
Section 377 of the Malaysian Penal Code punishes same-sex relationships with up to 20 years in prison and mandatory caning.
It’s complicated, but Act 355 somehow restrains section 377. It represents 40% of the non-Muslim Malaysian population.
In short, in 1965, Act 355 thus restrained the Sharia courts, allowing them to impose on LGBTQ people a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of up to $250.
In 1984, an amendment to the law increased the penalties. The maximum penalty increased to three years in prison, a fine of up to $1,240, and torture as beatings of up to six blows was added.
According to Malaysian human rights activists, physical torture was not inflicted on convicted prisoners, but torture became a reality in 2018. A lesbian couple was tortured in Terengganu State in September 2018.
And now the government is announcing its intention to further strengthen the law. Even though we don’t have all the details of the new sentences yet, it’s terrifying.
Driven by the government, anti-LGBTQ hatred continues to grow and fosters a climate of violence against the LGBTQ community.
“Malaysia’s state and federal statutes that criminalize LGBT people are already out of bounds with regard to international law, and the government seems to be sinking even deeper in its disregard for human rights,” said Neela Ghoshal, associate LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Rather than enhancing penalties for actions that harm no one, the government should repeal such penalties.”