LGBTIQs and Seksualiti Merdeka

Bamboo River, Selangor – Although the hype on Seksualiti Merdeka has ceased, Tun Mahathir has just posted his opinion on Seksualiti Merdeka about five days ago. Coming across his article has reminded me to post thoughts of my own which I have abandoned for quite some time now.

Before we castigate Seksualiti Merdeka and its organisers, it is vital that we try to understand what Seksualiti Merdeka actually is and what its objectives are. According to its website, Seksualiti Merdeka is described as the following,

...a sexuality rights festival held in Kuala Lumpur, and represents a coalition of Malaysian NGOs (incl. Malaysian Bar Council, SUARAM, Empower, PT Foundation, United Nations, Amnesty International) and individuals. Apart from the annual festival, we also organise workshops, talks, film screenings, letter writings. Merdeka is Malaysia’s Independence Day, so Seksualiti Merdeka means “Sexuality Independence

This sexuality rights festival was first organized in 2008 at the Central Market Annexe building in Kuala Lumpur. The festival was not held in a form of a public parade like something you would see in Thailand. Instead, the festival was consisted of “film screenings, talks, workshops and the closing event Malaysian Artistes for Diversity”. Since that year, the festival has been an annual event which was usually held in conjunction of the Malaysian independence day. Hence, the name Seksualiti Merdeka (SM).

Besides during the SM festival, the organizers have also continuously organized workshops, forums, talks, film screenings, letter writings and even book writings to achieve their main aim which is to create awareness on the rights of the LGBTIQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Intersex and Queer) in the Malaysian society.

What the LGBTIQs Want

The SM movement has made a list of “29 ways towards an LGBTIQ-friendly Malaysia” that generally tells us their objectives. Some repetitions in the list depicts the emphasis on rights that LGBTIQ community are demanding for. From the list, following points could be concluded;

1- The LGBTIQs do not want to be oppressed anymore

Members of the community face problems where they are often subjected to insults, abuse and discrimination in society. The SM movement is a channel where they can express the troubles they have gone through and stand up for their pains. They hope that people around them would befriend them and family members love them despite of their differences.

2- The LGBTIQs want to be respected

Due to the degrading treatments they receive by the public, the LGBTIQ’s demand that they are treated with respect like any group of people in the society. For example, they want any LGBTIQ be addressed as they wish whether it is a “he” or a “she” or use  gender-neutral references.

As for their choice of relationship with another person, they are adamant that it is their own affairs and that their privacy on this matter must be respected. They have called for the government to “respect, protect and promote sexuality rights”. Whereas the media have also been criticized for negative portrayal on this group.

3-The LGBTIQs want to be recognized

The members of the LGBTIQ are struggling for their community to be openly accepted as an independent category like any other group in the society.In order to be recognized, members of the group are encouraged to express themselves and share their unique stories through arts. Supporters are also urged to organize sessions for educating the public on the history, theory and laws on the LGBTIQs. Such efforts will familiarise the public with the LGBTIQs, cultivate empathy and promote their acceptance.

4-The LGBTIQs want the freedom of being

Freedom is their dream. They believe that the rights to sexual orientation and bodily autonomy are a part of other set of rights such as “freedom of expression, freedom of association, free judiciary system” and others.

They want to have the freedom to be whatever they choose to be and able to express their being without any fears of ridicule. It is deemed that both emotional and bodily rights are their prerogative and nobody should interfere.

What the LGBTIQs Must Understand

A society is consisted of different groups of people. Each group are striving to attain their own interests and needs through the country’s political system. Sometimes there are interests of one group that might compromise the interests of another group. These clashes of interest must be handled with diplomacy to avoid friction in society. The LGBTIQs must understand that it is impossible for all of their demands to be fulfilled in Malaysia.

As for this case, on the bases of humanity, the LGBTIQs do deserve to be granted certain personal rights. Nevertheless, these rights are limited due to not only morality and religious laws of the country but also due to health related concerns.

In most societies, same-sex relationship is against their social norms. Not every person will be able to accept the existence of LGBTIQs. Some feel that they do not want their family members to be influenced by their contradicting behaviors. In extreme cases like in South Africa, lesbians are victims of sexual violence known as “corrective rape”. People there find homosexuality totally unacceptable in their patriarchal society. Some are also appalled by the view of a man behaving like a woman and vice versa. Sometimes, disrespectful responses by other people are even triggered by their own behaviors. Not only because of their appearance or social stigma.

Homosexuality is forbidden by religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and many more. In Islam, any prohibition by Allah is for the good of mankind. Logically, same sex relationship will disrupt the growth of the human race since human reproduction will require a union of both man and woman. Even the incurable disease like AIDS is potentially spread through same-sex relationships.

LGBTIQs From the Islamic Perspective

The LGBTIQs must not be oppressed and be treated with hostility. Any form of oppression such as insulting, abusing and discriminating is wrong in Islam.They deserve to be treated with respect just like any other people in the society. It is important for the public to be educated on the right way of dealing with a members of the LGBTIQ.

For a simple understanding, we must know that there are two types of LGBTIQ;

1) By nature: There are people who behave in an opposite gender disposition due to biological factors such as an intersex. They did not choose to be as they are but they are born that way.

2) By lust: Those who are actually born normal but homosexually inclined due to psychological factors.

From the Islamic perspective, both types of LGBTIQ need guidance and support. There are different ways of guiding these two different groups of people. Even though the LGBTIQs deserve respect on their rights despite of who they are, they must also respect the rights of other people on their rights of religion, social norms and health. For a Muslim LGBTIQ, they must respect the religion they hold on to and the fact that Islam does not allow same sex relationships. However, other Muslims MUST help their brother and sister Muslims who are in such sexual orientation either by nature or by desire.

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