KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has stopped funding a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that assists transwomen, sex workers and people with HIV, amid a brouhaha over transgender rights.
Mitch Yusmar Yusof, senior manager of the Pusat Bantuan Khidmat Sosial (PBKS) that is managed by the NGO Seed Foundation, said the ministry informed them earlier this month that it will not fund PBKS next year, marking an abrupt halt to the RM700,000 funding that PBKS has received from Putrajaya annually for the past seven years and which it relies on completely.
“What will happen to the community?” Mitch told Malay Mail Online today.
Malay Mail Online sighted a letter by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to the Malaysian AIDS Council dated December 4 that said the ministry has considered and decided not to approve the allocation of funds for PBKS in 2015.
“In line with that, KPWKM wishes to express our deepest appreciation and thanks for the Malaysian AIDS Council’s (MAM) cooperation in helping the ministry operate PBKS for 2014. The ministry hopes that the good working relationship between MAM and the ministry will continue in future,” said the letter written by the secretary of the ministry’s national social policy division, Che Samsuzuki Che Noh, who used the ministry’s Malay initials.
No reasons were given for the government’s decision to stop funding PBKS.
The ministry’s corporate communications head has yet to respond to Malay Mail Online’s calls and text messages for comment at press time.
Mitch said the ministry funded PBKS directly from 2007 to 2013, but gave them the money this year through the Malaysian AIDS Council.
Trans activists with transgender rights group Justice for Sisters (JFS) Nisha Ayub and Sulastri Ariffin are among PBKS’ programme managers.
Besides providing counselling and a place to rest at its drop-in centre in Chow Kit, PBKS also gets its clients job placements and refers them to hospitals, drug rehabilitation centres, shelters, and social welfare as needed. Their clients include the homeless.
Nisha heads PBKS’ Mak Nyah programme that provides capacity-building like grooming, makeup, hairdo and public speaking for transwomen, who mostly work as bridal makeup artists.
PBKS also runs a programme that teaches sex workers living skills like beading, tailoring and cooking.
PBKS’ positive living programme targets those with HIV and also provides information on cancer, mental illnesses and alcohol and drug addiction.
The Negri Sembilan state government has hired Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to obtain leave to appeal a landmark decision by the Court of Appeal that struck down the state’s cross-dressing ban as unconstitutional.
Section 66 of the Negri Sembilan Shariah Criminal Enactment 1992 punishes any Muslim man who “wears a woman’s attire and poses as a woman” with a fine not exceeding RM1,000 or jail of not more than six months or both.
But in the watershed decision on November 7, a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Datuk Hishamudin Mohd Yunus, ruled that the state Shariah law contravened constitutional provisions that guarantee personal liberty, equality, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression.
The appellate court also said the law was discriminatory as it failed to recognise men diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, or transgenderism.
Muslim-majority Malaysia continues to reject the perceived rise in gay activities, which it deems to be an assault against Islam together with growing calls for greater civil liberties.
Transgender activists estimated that there are around 60,000 Malaysians who identify as transgenders, with Malays making up 70 per cent of them.