IGLHRC Urges Malaysian Authorities to Stop Camps that Violate Rights of LGBT Youth

For Immediate Release


Grace Poore, Regional Program Coordinator for Asia & Pacific Islands
IGLHRC (Washington DC, USA)
Tel +1-301-589-4462; Email: gpoore@iglhrc.org

Ging Cristobal, Project Coordinator for Asia & Pacific Islands
IGLHRC (Quezon City, Phillippines)
Tel +63-92-668-43831; Email: gcristobal@iglhrc.org

(New York, May 3, 2011) ) In a letter to Malaysian authorities, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) urged them to put a stop to the practice in certain schools of forcing male students – some reported to be as young as 12 – into “curative” programs for allegedly failing to conform to stereotypical expectations of masculinity.

In a recent case addressed in the letter, sixty-six male children, said to be of secondary school age or approximately ages 12 to 17, were rounded up by their teachers and sent to a camp for "curative" purposes in Besut, Trengganu on the northeast coast of Malaysia. The order came from the Terengganu Education Department.

IGLHRC criticized statements by Razali Daud, Director of Education for Terengganu, which served to shed light on the camp’s punitive and discriminatory intent. In statements to Malaysian press, he said, "We understand that some people end up as mak nyah (transvestite) or a homosexual, but we will do our best to limit the number." He explained that the camp was meant for "character-building as part of the department's new Patriotism Integration Programme aimed at improving students' awareness of their duties to the nation," and added, that those students singled out for the Besut Camp, "happen to display some feminine tendencies." Mr. Daud publicly urged parents and teachers to look for signs of "the slightest effeminate tendency in their male children from an early age."

"Mr. Daud must recant these damaging statements. He is creating an environment that can lead to bullying, family rejection, and violence." said Grace Poore, IGLHRC’s Program Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific. "He is also advancing so-called curative therapies that have been completely discredited by medical experts and which are known to be damaging to the mental wellbeing of anyone subjected to these practices."

The Besut Camp is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. IGLHRC noted that it has received credible reports of at least three other "curative" camps. According to Seksualiti Merdeka — a coalition of sexual rights activists and artists – Universiti Putra Malaysia and University Teknologi MARA, both in Selangor, forced their students into similar programs designed to "cure" gender and/or sexual non-conformity. IGLHRC is also aware of plans made in 2007 for the development of a rehabilitation center for mak nyah (transvestites) in Kuala Terengganu.

In November 2010, Malaysia's mak nyah community issued a statement to local press, condemning the increased harassment, arrests, sexual molestation and public humiliation of the transgender community by religious officers. "The Besut Camp and others of its kind are part of a dangerous trend of increasing human rights violations in Malaysia," said Ging Cristobal — IGLHRC Project Coordinator for Asia and Pacific Islands.

The very existence of the Besut Camp breaches Malaysian law which, in The Child Act of 2001, states, "Every child is entitled to protection and assistance in all circumstances without regard to distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, social origin or physical, mental or emotional disabilities or any other status."

IGLHRC has written to Malaysia’s Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Dato Sri Sharizat Abdul Jalil to commend her for her for publicly demanding the abolishment of the Besut Camp. As of May 1, no other government leaders had joined in the public outcry. IGLHRC will continue to monitor the situation.

Read IGLHRC’s Letter to Dato Sri Sharizat Abdul Jalil »

Read the Statement Against Besut Camp by Joint Action for Gender Equality »