Human Rights in MalaysiaWhen thinking about Malaysia, it is very clear that human rights is an extremely relevant topic. While old ideals are being held in place, thousands of people are being affected, stripped of their rights by the government. The human rights crisis in Malaysia is a continuous issue, with the rights of Malaysian people being unjust and inconsistent. Some of the most prevalent are LGBT rights, underage marriage and the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. People are being mistreated and any action the people take is shut down because of old morals and beliefs.
But how has Malaysia’s past shaped its present? Malaysian history is full of growth, adaptations and changes for the better or the worse. But although the past of of this country has had an enormous impact on the present, and of course Malaysia wouldn’t be what it is without its history, it is also important to consider the present state of Malaysia and how the events of today will affect the future. LGBT+ rights(or the lack thereof)A penalty of up to 20 years in prison and whipping. That’s what is written in the Malaysian penal code for same sex activity between men. This has been a constant issue in Malaysia, with acceptance not being found as a solution.
This situation greatly worsened in 2012 when Prime Minister Najib stated in front of 11,000 various muslim leaders that “it is compulsory for us to fight” the actions of the LGBT community. Earlier that year he had said that LGBT actions do not “have a place in this country.” These words and discriminations made by the prime minister in 2012 were likely crushing, and they still have effects today. The Human Rights Watch report issued in 2015 tells how transgender people are likely to face imprisonment, arbitrary arrest, discriminatory denial of healthcare & employment as well as physical and sexual assault, combined with many other abuses.
The history of this discrimination in law can be most directly traced back to 1936, when the penal code was written, including articles 377 A which are the primary discriminatory laws. The Human Rights Watch report from 2017 continued to report on the issue, showing that it is still a major problem. Underage Marriage A statistic found in 2010 showed that the country contained 82,000 married women between the ages of 15-19 and 16,000 married under the age of 15. Underage marriage, especially for young girls, is a long held cultural practice that continues to drive even against new laws. The legal age for marriage in Malaysia is currently 18, but this law is riddled with loopholes. Girls can marry at the age of 16 with the permission of their state’s chief minister.
Also, if the girl is Muslim they can marry at 16, as that is the legal age set for Islam. Not to mention that girls can marry at what seems to be no minimum age with the blessing of a Syariah court. But the major problem with underage marriage isn’t the concept of it, it is the effects that the marriage has on the girls. According to “Time to ban child marriage in Malaysia” an article issued by Human Rights Watch in 2016 there are an abundance of deficits for girls who marry prematurely. They are more apt to be the victims of domestic violence than women who marry later, also girls who are married early aren’t likely to stay in school, and sadly a common result is that they will end up living in poverty. As well as all of that, child marriages often result in early pregnancies. This has lots of potential risks for both the baby and the young mother. As stated in this article ‘Girls ages 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die during delivery than women ages 20 to 24″.
In low- middle income countries babies of mothers under the age of 20 have a 50% larger chance of being stillborn or dying within the first few weeks of their birth(in comparison to mothers 20-29). Marriage is also forced onto the youth population because there is a law prohibiting premarital sex which restrict unmarried people from reproductive and sexual health services, making many youth turn to marriage out of fear of persecution. Additionally, marriage is used to cover up crimes.
There are many different ways that this happens, but the most standout is a girl being raped and then forced to marry the rapist or another man to hide the crime. Although there has been worldwide drive and strategy to rid child marriage from society, Malaysia has refused to make any sort of change. This kind of treatment is old fashioned and misogynistic, preventing these girls from living to their full extent. Although this practice is driven by tradition, if Malaysia’s past beliefs persist and hold true, numbers of youth will continue to suffer from it. Refugees and Asylum SeekersThe situation of refugees, trafficking victims and asylum seekers in Malaysia is known worldwide. The 2017 World Report states that Malaysia contains over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from Burma(Myanmar).These refugees, primarily Rohingya, are labeled “illegal migrants”.
All of these people are registered with UNHCR(the UN refugee agency) and there are likely many more who are not registered. They are still not permitted to travel, work or enroll in government schools, which renders them fairly trapped. While being treated as “illegal migrants” these people are being shoved into and locked up in unsanitary, overcrowded detention centers. One of the larger issues is the refugee crisis surrounding the Rohingya. They have been forced out of Myanmar and are now seeking a place to live and believe it or not Malaysia is a good option even with the terrible treatment. A lot of the problems here can be traced back to the 1951 refugee convention, and the fact that Malaysia wasn’t part of it. This document outlines the rights of refugees and displaced people and shows that the states will protect them.
Without being under this contract, the Malaysian government is able to give refugees no rights in this country, which they have done.In SummaryThroughout exploring the human rights crisis in Malaysia it can clearly be seen that although there are lots of current efforts to improve the situation, more can be done. The rights of the LGBT community, young girls forced into marriages and refugees & asylum seekers are all in a place where improvement is greatly needed. In the future of Malaysia hopefully, the government will follow the drive of the rest of the world and see acceptance, ban child marriage and take care of the thousands of displaced human beings fleeing to their country. On a global outlook, this would bring Malaysia on to the same page as many countries in the world.