Transgender at ‘beauty pageant’ to be charged with encouraging vice, group says

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — The Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) is planning to charge a trans woman with encouraging vice and with defying religious authorities after she allegedly organised a purported beauty pageant, a group said.

Lalita Abdullah, exco member of transgender rights group SEED Malaysia, said the religious authorities had informed Ira Sophia, after detaining her for almost 24 hours, that she would be charged next month under Section 9 and Section 35 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.

“She has to appear in court on 5th of May,” Lalita told Malay Mail Online after Ira was released late last night.

The activist said JAWI officers did not specify Ira’s alleged actions that prompted the prosecution, but merely stated the sections of the law they planned to charge her under.

Section 9 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act states that “any person who acts in contempt of religious authority or defies, disobeys or disputes the orders or directions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Head of the religion of Islam, the Majlis or the Mufti, expressed or given by way of fatwa, shall be guilty of an offence”, punishable by a fine of not more than RM3,000, or imprisonment of not more than two years, or both.

Section 35 prohibits anyone from promoting, inducing, or encouraging another person to indulge in “any vice”, an offence punishable with a fine of not more than RM5,000, or imprisonment of not more than three years, or both.

Lalita said Ira was “okay physically” and that JAWI officers did not mistreat the transgender.

JAWI raided a private fundraising event by trans people Sunday night at an upscale hotel here that hosted a beauty contest for entertainment, according to lawyer Siti Kasim who had attended the dinner function allegedly organised by Ira.

Siti told Malay Mail Online yesterday that the religious authorities said the raid was on grounds that the so-called beauty contest involving trans women violated a 1996 fatwa that prohibits Muslim women from joining beauty pageants.

The religious edict by the National Fatwa Council has been gazetted as law.

The transgender community in Malaysia has long complained about the violation of their rights, including violence and arrests for cross-dressing. – MMO.