In an article by the Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN, opposing the inclusion of “public morality” as a justification to limit human rights in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, I comment on how moral policing laws discriminate against women in Malaysia:
Yu Ren Chung, Program Officer of Women’s Aid Organization in Malaysia cited how “public morality” under Syariah laws was used by the state in policing Muslims in his country, citing indecency, liwat (sodomy), musahaqah (lesbianism), drinking alcohol, khalwat (intimate acts of unmarried couples), zina (sex out of wedlock), and not observing fasting during the fasting month as acts violating these laws.
“These laws discriminate on the basis of gender identity as the Syariah Criminal offences include any male person who, in any public place, wears a woman’s attire and poses as a woman for immoral purposes and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both,” Yu said.
Malaysia’s civil laws are also used to police non-Muslims. Yu shared an incident in March 2012 when three women were charged for indecent behavior for doing pole dancing in a nightclub in Seremban. The women were fined RM25 each and charged for allegedly being “dressed scantily”.
Update: Unfortunately, the term “public morality” was retained in the final Declaration. In fact, the entire Declaration was largely disappointing, as I describe in this Loyarburok post.
Read the full article published on the Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN blog on 20 September 2012.