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11 men charged for attempting sex: what you need to know

Illustrations by Nadhir Nor. Last updated: 14/1/2020.

  • 11 men are facing trial after being arrested at a private event in 2018
  • They suffered horrific abuses throughout
  • Volunteers and donations required

In November 2019, the news of five men being charged for attempting ‘unnatural sex’ and being charged by the Selangor Syariah High Court went viral in Malaysia. However, Not many know that there are actually 11 men in total who were charged. 

The men suffered many struggles throughout their ordeal. A number of them were outed to their families, lost their jobs, faced high financial costs and long-term psychological trauma. 

For the Malaysian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community, this was worrying news. With the caning of the Terengganu women in September 2018, it seems that prosecution against LGBTQ people is becoming more frequent. This affects all of us regardless of race or religion. A charge against one LGBTQ person is, in fact, a charge against all of us. No one is free when others are oppressed.

If nothing is done then the policing and persecution of LGBTQ people and transgressions of our spaces will persist. Here is everything you need to know and how you can get involved.

The charges against them

The 11 men are being charged in both the high and low courts under multiple laws, which reveals an excessive level of legal persecution.

Note: Queer Lapis will be publishing an in-depth discussion of all the anti-LGBTQ laws in Malaysia soon in a separate article.

Chronology

A TIMELINE OF EVENTS (click to expand)

  • 9 November 2018 
    • The 11 men were arrested at a private house party in a raid by JAIS officers and National Anti-Drugs Agency. 
    • The men were allegedly degraded and abused by JAIS.
  • 21 August 2019
    • Charges were read out to 5 of the 11 men in the Syariah High Court, and dates for mention for the rest were set in batches. They were only informed of their charges on the day of mention at court. They were unduly advised to plead guilty for a lesser punishment and five pleaded guilty without having legal representation and received no prior legal counsel. 
    • The 5 pleaded guilty. 
    • All 11 are informed that they also have another charge in the Syariah Lower Court in 2020. 
  • August – October 2019
    • Mentions happened in three batches at the Syariah High Court. All 5 who pleaded guilty were from the first batch.
    • Six pleaded not guilty through the advice of activists.
  • 7 November 2019
    • Conviction of the five men who pleaded guilty by the Syariah High Court. Four individuals charged with RM4,800, six months imprisonment and six strokes of the cane; they filed four appeals against imprisonment. One was fined RM 4,900, seven months imprisonment and six strokes of the cane. 
    • All 5 attempted to file a stay (suspend the sentence) and appeal on the same day. One individual filed for appeal against caning and imprisonment. Meanwhile, 4 others only filed an appeal for the prison sentence.  
    • Their lawyers failed to file stay on the same day.
  • 8 November 2019
    • Stay applied and rejected due to technical issues. Court allows their lawyer to refile the stay and appeal.
  • 15 November 2019 
    • Stay granted with RM4,000 bond and 2 bailors living in Selangor or 1 bailor who is a government staff working in Selangor. 
  • 18 November 2019
    • Five individuals who pleaded guilty were produced in court. All 5 are released that same evening after 4 were caned Date for the appeal have not been set.
  • 19 November 2019 
    • Hearing begins for 6 other men pleading not guilty at the Syariah high court. Court sets a date in March 2020 for the next hearing. 
  • March 2020 
    • Trial of 6 the pleading not guilty in Syariah High Court.  

Abuses the men faced

During the raid: 

The 11 men allegedly experienced extremely degrading and inhumane treatment during the 2018 raid conducted by 50 officers from the Islamic Religious Department of Selangor (JAIS) and the National Anti-Drugs Agency:

  1. They allegedly forced all of the men to pose full-frontal nude and took photos of them.
  2. They allegedly forced the men to remain nude throughout the entire raid (over 2 hours).
  3. JAIS allegedly tried to force a confession out of the men while they were naked.
  4. The 11 men had their social media accounts stalked in order to ambush them.
  5. JAIS did not have an arrest warrant nor the police present during the raids. Instead, news reporters and crew were called, adding to the humiliation and trauma.
What to do if you're being raided (click to expand)

In summary:

  1. Remain calm. Read the vibe and remember your safety is the most important thing.
  2. You can and should stay silent.
  3. Your statement will be taken, but this is not a confession. Only provide necessary details like your name as per IC, IC number, address, and phone number.
  4. Note down any abusive treatment and report it to an LGBTQ human rights NGOs or Suhakam, the national human rights institution.

Queer Lapis is preparing a comprehensive guide on this topic. Stay tuned for updates.

During arrests:

After the raid, the 11 men were brought to the JAIS for further questioning, where the intimidation continued:

  1. The JAIS officers allegedly asked inappropriate questions like “why are you gay?” and insisted on their HIV status.
  2. A JAIS officer allegedly added the 11 men into a WhatsApp group and sent threats and homophobic messages, and even accused the men of breeding HIV.

At court:

1. Advised to plead guilty. The first 5 men were not given adequate legal counsel. Instead, they were allegedly advised by the JAIS officers to plead guilty, which they did.

2. Biased judgement. In delivering his sentence for the 5 men who pleaded guilty, the judge made several statements that showed bias and prejudice.

  • A near-maximum sentence of fines, jail time and caning were handed down even though the men pleaded guilty and asked for leniency. Their punishment was made heavy intentionally to be a “lesson” to deter people like them. 
  • The judge said people like them should be locked away from other LGBT people so that they cannot be influenced.
  • The punishments differ with one of the men receiving the heaviest punishment and was called a “traitor” to his family.

3. Inefficient Syariah system. The men attempted to file a stay to suspend their punishment in order to file an appeal but this took numerous attempts and they ended up staying in prison for over 12 days when they could have been released on day 1.

1 year in between arrest and court dates:

The 11 men were instructed by JAIS to attend numerous religious counselling sessions and sermons. They were allegedly informed that if they attended these sessions, they wouldn’t be sentenced, which was misleading information. 

The cost of Justice (click to expand)

The total legal fees for the 11 men is estimated to be RM200,000 as they need to hire lawyers for both their charges in the upper and lower Syariah courts. This is an eye-popping amount just to seek justice.

This makes it hard for many people to seek a fair trial in court as it just doesn’t make financial sense to even hire a lawyer. It also consumes a chunk of a person’s time to go through the entire court process. It can take years for a court case to finish, and this is made worse by the inefficient justice system.

Besides the laws themselves, the justice system victimises LGBTQ people and people of low socioeconomic status who are forced to plead guilty and not appeal the verdicts or sentences as the maximum fine costs many times less than that of the legal fees.

At prison

During the 12 days that the 5 men were in prison waiting for news on their stay application, life-saving medication was denied to one of them. When concerned individuals went to deliver some medication through the guards, the medicine was thrown away.

How you can support the 11 men

The court cases of the 11 men are still ongoing, and now is a crucial time for all us to work together, organise and mobilise to assert our human rights and make our voices heard. 

Besides supporting the people charged under these anti-LGBT laws, we want to see these laws repealed completely. If these laws continue to remain, every single one of us is under threat, which is why they need to be repealed. Here’s how you make a difference.

1. Donate

Pelangi Campaign estimates that our community needs to raise at least RM200,000 for the entire duration of this legal battle. The money is needed for legal fees, financial support for the 11 men and mental health support.

Please PayPal or bank in donations to Pelangi Campaign at 8603744100 (CIMB) and email the slip to ask@pelangicampaign.org.

2. Get involved

A movement has begun, and we need you to be a part of it. No matter how much you can commit or contribute, there is space for you. These are important roles you can volunteer for:

  1. Campaigns, video, writing, design and social media
  2. Legal advice and other kinds of consultation
  3. Mental health support
  4. Community organising and events
  5. Fundraising

Fill up this form and we will contact you promptly on how you can help. We will also share with you activities organised by local LGBTQ community organisations.

3. Share your experiences with us 

We are collecting stories of LGBTQ experiences for research on how these laws affect us and to raise a case against discrimination. Fill up this form to share them with us confidentially.

4. Educate

Share this article to raise awareness of this case and the campaign among your friends and communities.

Stay tuned for further updates on this case.