Discrimination against Mak Nyah

By Rosita Maja


Ani said, at an interview with a group of trans-sexuals or Mak Nyah, I was stopped by two policemen while crossing the road. A body search was done on me.

A condom was found and the police suspected that I am a sex worker. I am not a sex worker. I am operating a nasi lemak stall and work hard to earn a living and support my aged parents at home”.

The group of Mak Nyah at the interview asked: is it against the law to carry a condom? Do the police need a crash course in the law to know that possessing a condom is not a criminal offence?

Pin went on to say, “One afternoon, I was having an afternoon nap in my own house. A few men appeared at my gate, in plain-clothes. I was questioned on my identity, and who I was staying with, in the house. (They said) that there were complaints that I am providing sex services in the house! But I am not involved in any sex trade. Maybe it’s the way I look, being a Mak Nyah!”

Pin said the men in plain clothes refused to identify themselves when asked to do so, and left after asking questions.

Mona recounted, “Once, a few of my friends and I, most of whom are Mak Nyah, were having a birthday party. Suddenly there was a loud banging at the door. A few men in plain clothes were outside. They insisted on checking the premises, on the grounds of suspicion of an immoral gathering.”

Again, Mona recalled, the men in plain clothes ignored demands that they identify themselves. They left after asking several questions.

Asha said, “I was told to strip by this man in plain clothes, who said he was ‘on duty’. This man fondled my body and private parts. The man left immediately after doing that and did not identify himself. He just said he was on official duty. I was in fear and shock and did not retaliate. I kept thinking that he was a policeman or an officer from JAIS (Jabatan Agama Islam Sarawak) because I was cross-dressed at that moment”.

They are Mak Nyah, the logic goes, so people can treat them differently, and discriminate against them. They are being taken advantage of, because they are vulnerable and keep quiet.

These examples of unwarranted interferences with their lives cause mental stress, suffering and humiliation. They amount to a blatant, wrongful intrusion of privacy and human rights.