PETALING JAYA: An NGO representing Muslim medical practitioners and health workers has backed the health ministry’s reported initiative to hold a programme discouraging transgender and homosexual behaviour in Malaysia.
Pertubuhan Ikatan Pengamal Perubatan dan Sains Kesihatan Muslim Malaysia (I-Medik) said the effort was commendable and appropriate in responding to the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in Malaysia.
Citing data from the Global AIDS Response Progress Report 2016 (Global AIDS 2016) prepared by the HIV/STI (sexually transmitted infection) section of the ministry’s disease control division, it said men who have sex with men (MSM) as well as gay and transgender people (TG) are most affected by AIDS, alongside female sexual workers and people who inject drugs.
In a statement today, its vice-president Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar said the HIV infection rate among MSM was 8.9%, and among TG, 5.6%.
She said although a transgender person may deny practising or being involved in unsafe sex practices, research designed to protect privacy and ensure anonymity in gathering clinical data and recording such individual’s social working history told “a different story”.
“The above Global AIDS 2016 Report stated that more than 80% of transgenders are receiving money for sex, and the number has been consistent in surveys done in 2009, 2012 and 2014,” she said.
She disagreed with Nisha Ayub, an activist with the Seed Foundation which works with transgender people, who had allegedly labelled ministry workers as “transphobics”. She said the assertion was irresponsible and was made with malicious intent.
“The claim was not substantiated by any evidence, when these staff have all this while shown nothing but dedication in carrying out their jobs dutifully, managing HIV/AIDS-infected patients from among the LGBT community without any prejudice,” Rafidah said.
It was reported yesterday that the health ministry is organising a contest on how to “prevent” homosexuality and transgender behaviour.
The contest reportedly invites participants to submit video clips for categories including one called “gender identity disorder”, also known as gender dysphoria.
The guidelines said the videos must include elements showing the “consequences” of being LGBT, as well as how to “prevent, control and seek help” for them. Winners of the contest, which will run until Aug 31, will be awarded cash prizes from RM1,000 to RM4,000.
Nisha was reported to have said that the project was encouraging “discrimination, hatred and even violence towards the minorities”.
She echoed concerns by lawyer-activist Siti Kasim that if the government continued with such campaigns, it would lead to a situation like that in Indonesia, where there is an increasing crackdown on transgender and homosexual practices.
Rafidah accused Nisha of disliking the fact that the ministry was working together with the Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
“Addressing health issues from the religious point of view is not something new in medical science,” she said.
“This is due to the fact that societies are heavily influenced by sociocultural and religious factors.”
She said according to the Global AIDS 2016 report, safer sex practices have seen only slight improvement among transgender people, while among homosexuals’ use of condoms was not getting any better.
“The report quoted a bio-behavioural study survey revealing that there is an alarming trend of alcohol consumption and psychotropic drugs used prior to having sex among transgenders and gay people that impede the proper use of condoms during sexual intercourse,” she said.
Rafidah added that homosexuality, transgenderism, and consumption of drugs and alcohol are prohibited in Islam.
“Malaysia has adopted Islam as the religion of the federation, which has rightly addressed all these high-risk behaviours through the constitution, the state laws and enactments to ensure that we are free from AIDS and HIV epidemics as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, as much as possible,” she said.
“Given the fact that 80% of transgender communities are Muslims, it is therefore completely reasonable and acceptable for the health ministry to cooperate with agencies like Jakim in addressing the health menaces befalling the nation.”