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Fears over safety of Malaysian trans businesswoman detained in Thailand

Nur Sajat faces charges in Malaysia for dressing in feminine clothes at a religious event.

2021-09-21

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Thai Inquirer

The human rights advocacy organisation, The Human Rights Watch, has called for a transgender businesswoman not to be deported from Thailand to Malaysia, for fear over her safety.

Nur Sajat, 36, who is said to have left Malaysia after being charged with insulting Islam by dressing feminine at a religious event in 2018, was detained by Thai authorities on 8 September for having an invalid passport.

It comes after Sajat received death threats for appearing to renounce Islam in a video on her now-deleted Instagram in March.

"She needs to be sent to a country that will offer rights protections"

The Daily Mail reports that Ms. Sajat, a cosmetics businesswoman, was charged with immigration offenses and released on bail. Thai police claim she’s wanted in Malaysia for offences including obstructing authorities in their work. 

She also failed to appear at a court hearing in Malaysia in February relating to charges of wearing feminine clothing at an event. The Independent reported in March that she had gone into hiding. She could face three years in jail for the offence.

The Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director, Phil Robertson, has said that she should be protected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and should not be sent back to Malaysia.

He added: “She needs to be sent to a country that will offer rights protections, not persecuted for being #LGBT which is what will happen if she is sent to Malaysia”

LGBTQ activists in Malaysia have called for the persecution and harassment of Sajat to stop and fear it’s part of a growing anti-LGBTQ climate in Malaysia.

In Malaysia, there is a dual court system with Islamic Sharia Law applying to Muslims and the rest of the population being charged under civil laws. There are more than 32 million people in Malaysia, with more than 60 percent being ethnic Malay Muslims.

In June, the Malaysian government proposed changes to Sharia law that would allow action to be taken against those insulting Islam and “promoting the LGBT lifestyle,” in a country where same-sex acts and sodomy are illegal. However, convictions are rare.

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