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Malaysian transgender conversion plan sparks alarm

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A Malaysian state plans to run a conversion therapy course aimed at transgender women, officials said Saturday, sparking alarm among LGBT activists in the conservative Muslim-majority country. The course would run over several days next year after authorities had completed a survey of the transgender population, a Terengganu state official said.

Participation in the course would be voluntary, Ghazali said, adding that the program would include medical, psychological and religious experts, as well as transgender women who have “returned to normal lives”. “Transgender women are part of our society They are our responsibility,” Terengganu executive council member Ghazali Taib said.

“At the end, it is up to them to make a choice. The government’s concept is not (to) force. (We) give them a path to make the best choices for their lives,” he said. A Human Rights Watch report in 2017 wrote that discrimination against LGBT people was “pervasive” in Malaysia, where there are laws against sodomy, with offenders facing jail time and whipping.

LGBT activists condemned the government’s plans. “If you ask someone not to be themselves that will have an adverse impact on the health and-well being of the person,” Thilaga Sulathireh, co-founder of transgender activist group Justice for Sisters, said. Leading transgender activist Nisha Ayub said courses such as these would only deepen the community’s isolation.

“They’re looking more to corrective therapy, which violates everyone’s rights in so many ways,” she said. “If (transgenders) feel that they cannot change themselves, they will feel like outcasts from society,” she added. There are no official figures on transgenders in Malaysia, though a health ministry document estimated that the country was home to about 24,000 transgender sex workers as of 2014.

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