Biweekly Human Rights Roundup

Human Rights Round-up (29/11/19) “The China Cables”, IPCMC Bill, sex education, LGBT rights, and the death penalty

In global news

Leaks reveal China’s systemic brainwashing of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities

'China Cables'
Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has worked with 17 media partners including the BBC and The Guardian, has revealed documents (“the China Cables”) that provide extensive detail as to China’s vast prison network for the mass detention and “re-education” of Uighur Muslims and other minorities.

The China Cables have provided further evidence of China’s systemic campaign against the Uighurs, an ethnic-religious minority. A leading researcher into these internment camps, Adrian Zenz, has said that “[t]he purpose [of the camp network] was to try to indoctrinate and change an entire population by channelling them through this dedicated system”.

Despite growing international pressure on China to halt its oppressive treatment of the Uighurs, China remains steadfast in their denial of such evidence. China’s embassy in London released a statement which said that “the so-called leaked documents are pure fabrication and fake news” and that “[t]here are no such documents or orders for the so-called ‘detention camps’. Vocational education and training centres have been established for the prevention of terrorism.”

In local news

#LGBT  #SexEducation  #PolicePower  #ChildMarriage  #DrugsLaw

1. Lawyer: Five men convicted over unnatural sex wins stay, pending appeal

Five men were convicted under Sections 52 and 28 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1995 for attempting same-sex relations in an apartment on 9th November 2018. The sentences include fines, imprisonments and caning.

A group of 28 civil rights organisations and political parties including Tenaganita, AWAM, and Parti Socialis Malaysia collectively condemned the sentencing. They reminded the Court that private and consensual sexual acts between adults must not be anyone’s concern. They also condemned the act of tajassus, or spying by the religious authorities.

The group noted that the case’s presiding Shariah judge Mohamad Asri Mohamad Tahir made numerous prejudiced remarks unrelated to the facts in issue. One of them included stating people “like them” are difficult to control and must be segregated.

In September 2018, two women were also publicly caned on the orders of the Terengganu Syriah Court for ‘attempted sexual relations between women’, sparking international outcry.

Now, the five are appealing the convictions with the support of NGOs such as Pelangi Campaign and Justice for Sisters.

2. Reproductive health and sex education 

A panel titled “Abortion: Malaysia’s Legal Taboo” was recently held as part of Merdeka Menstrual, an event that aims to spark dialogue on issues such as periods, reproductive health and sex education.

Abortion – During the session, public health specialist Dr Rosvinder Singh, Sisters in Islam representative Sharifatul Adibah, and Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia honorary secretary Dr Subatra Jayaraj discussed 3 pertinent reasons that currently block access to abortion in the country: (i) social stigma and judgement; (ii) flaws in public and private healthcare; and (iii) lack of sex education.

Pink Tax – The National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) head of reproductive health unit Dr Hamizah Mohd Hassan said that women from the B40 group still struggle to afford proper sanitary products during their period, resorting coconut husks, newspaper sheets, and banana leaves.

Malaysia has removed the Pink Tax on products like pantyliners and pads last year. This relieved millions of women of having to pay an extra 6 % of GST for an essential item. Nonetheless, corporate companies should play a greater role in figuring out ways to lower their production costs and prices for sanitary products and give some leeway to support B40 communities.

3. Suspicious death and enforced disappearance 

Suspicious death – The police has set up a special task force involving the Criminal Investigation Department of the Selangor and Bukit Aman Contingent offices to investigate the Teoh Beng Hock’s death. This is following the orders of the Attorney General on July 16 that the sudden death case be investigated under Section 342 of the Penal Code (Wrongful Detention). Hence,

Enforced disappearance – Norhayati Mohd Ariffin, the wife of social activist Amri Che Mat, recently filed a civil suit against the Malaysian government which she accused of being responsible for his enforced disappearance three years ago.

“PDRM’s continued failure to conduct proper investigations over the next following months arguably reinforced the conspiracy of silence that protected his abductors and concealed Amri’s fate and whereabouts. It is why my daughters and I have suffered and continue to suffer serious anguish and distress since Amri’s abduction,” she said.

Her solicitor, Larissa, said Norhayati is seeking to claim aggravated and exemplary damages for the loss she has suffered as a result of the acts and omissions of the police, among other reliefs.

4. DPM: Seven States won’t ban child marriage 

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail revealed in Parliament that the federal government cannot enforce a ban on child marriages nationwide as seven states are not cooperating – Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu, Perlis, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Kelantan.

Nevertheless, she said her ministry is finalising the National Strategic Plan to Overcome the Reason of Underage Marriage.

When asked what steps Putrajaya has taken against those who groom children under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act, she said criminal elements are difficult to prove in this issue. No evidence of communication can be traced and it is also protected by the Personal Data Protection Act, whilst their relationship has obtained the approval of the child and the child’s parents. Another problem is after grooming, they marry the child and many parents feel that it is good for the child to be married off. It is very difficult to determine the sexual crime.

5. Students to learn about statutory rape in 2021

Students will learn about statutory rape and related issues such as child grooming and sexual harassment beginning 2021, says Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.

Teo said these topics will be covered in the syllabus for Year Six and Form Five students.

6. Malaysian hanged in Singapore for drug trafficking

Abd Helmi Ab Halim was hanged in Singapore for drug trafficking despite pleas made by the Malaysian government. According to Datuk Liew Vui Keong,  “[i]t was unjust and disproportionate for drug mules to be sent to the gallows”.

Back in July, the Singapore government rejected Ab Halim’s plea for clemency.

Singapore’s Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Home Affairs have said in a joint statement that “[t]he amount of diamorphine trafficked was equivalent to about 1,380 straws of heroin, sufficient to feed the addiction of close to 200 abusers for a week.” and added that “Singapore’s laws apply equally to all, regardless whether the offender is Singaporean or a foreigner.”

7. MPs briefed on IPCMC Bill, and Opposition rejects the Bill before tabling

All Parliamentarians have been briefed on the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill. Pending cabinet approval, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department YB Datuk Liew Vui Keong has said that the IPCMC Bill may be tabled in Parliament as soon as next week. 

The day after the brief, the Opposition bloc voiced their rejection of the IPCMC Bill. Opposition leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that “[b]efore the IPCMC is introduced, the welfare of the police must be prioritised,”.

Without dismissing the importance of the welfare of the police, it is questionable why it is believed that the IPCMC Bill presents an obstacle against the improvement of police welfare. Rather than rejecting the IPCMC Bill, improving the conditions of police stations and their housing could be pursued alongside the IPCMC Bill.

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